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Glossary of Jewish Terms
This is a list of Jewish or Yiddish words, or terms used in Jewish cooking.
To find a cooking term, click on the first letter of the word, then look for it in the Glossary list.
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A B C D E F G H I J K L M
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Afikoman (lit, "dessert")
from the Aramaic fiku man, "bring out the food" the portion of matzah eaten at the close of the Seder meal in commemoration of the Passover offering.
Amidah (lit. "standing")
the Shemoneh Esreh prayer, recited while standing.
Used to describe Jews of Eastern and Central European origin.
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Babaghanouj (Alternate spelling: Bhaba ganoush, babaganoush)
Mediterranean dip made of roasted, pureed eggplant.
Yeasted coffee cake from Poland. May be flavored with cinnamon, chocolate, or lemon, and filled with cheese or fruit.
Circular bread with a hole in the center that originated in Poland. Dough is first boiled and then baked for a chewy interior and crispy exterior.
Beirach (lit. "bless")
the thirteenth activity of the Seder--recitation of Grace After Meals.
the search for leaven conducted on the night before Passover eve.
Holy Temple in Jerusalem
Aramaic for egg, also means, "to entreat"
Named for the city of Bialystok, where it originated. Softer than a bagel, with an indentation rather than a hole in the center.
grace after meals.
A relative of the Hungarian crepe known as palascinta. Thin pancake filled with cheese or fruit.
Beet soup of Eastern European origin. Served cold with sour cream or hot with a plain boiled potato.
Cracked wheat. A key ingredient in tabbouleh.
(Alternate spelling: Boreka): Small, half-moon-shaped pastries filled with cheese, spinach, eggplant, or meat. Common to Jews of the Iberian Peninsula.
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talian word for artichokes, the star ingredient in a dish known as carciofi alla guidia, or Jewish-style artichokes--the only dish widely-recognized as Jewish in Italy.
the festival offering.
Challah (Alternate spelling: hallah)
Ashkenazic egg bread. Typically made in braided form for the Sabbath, and in circular form for the Jewish new year (to remind us of the circular nature of life.).
Leavened foods, prohibited on Passover.
Charoset (Alternate spelling: haroseth)
Mixture of apples, cinnamon, honey and wine (Ashkenazic version) or dried fruits and raisins (Sephardic version) eaten on Passover. Symbol of the mortar used by the Israelites while they were slaves in Egypt. A paste made of apples, pears, nuts and wine, in which the maror is dipped.
vegetable used for maror (bitter herbs)
Chol HaMoed (lit. "mundane [days] of the festival")
the intermediate days of the Festivals of Passover and Succot.
Ashkenazic version of the French cassoulet. Stew consisting of meat, potatoes, and beans simmered overnight. Typically served on the Sabbath.
Horseradish sauce. Typically eaten with gefilte fish.
An Eastern European dessert made of stewed fruits, dried or fresh.
Moroccan dish of tiny semolina grains.
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Dafina (or d'fina)
Sephardic version of cholent.
"It is enough for us"--the refrain in a song in the Haggadah.
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Yiddish and German word for "eat."
(Alternate spelling: Esrog) Hebrew word for citron, a rare citrus fruit that resembles a lemon (with coarser skin). Used in the festival of Sukkot.
(lit. "eve of") day preceding Shabbat or Festivals.
Middle Eastern fritter. Typically made with ground chick peas in Israel, but with ground fava beans elsewhere in the Middle East.
Yiddish word for meat, or meals containing meat ingredients.
Yiddish verb for overeating.
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Literally, "potted meat." Refers to tough cuts of meat, such as brisket, that are braised and then cooked for hours to soften.
Literally, "stuffed fish." A mixture of ground fish--typically, pike, carp, and whitefish--that traditionally was stuffed back into a fish skin.
Yiddish word for "chopped," as in chopped liver.
Chopped liver. A coarse version of pate de foie gras.
Kosher meat inspected after slaughter and found free from the slightest imperfections. Also used to refer to establishments that strictly observe kashrut laws.
Yiddish word for "burp."
Crispy bits of fried chicken skin. Typically found in schmaltz.
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a passage from the Prophetic writings, read following the Torah reading in the synagogue.
(lit. "narration") the text that is recited at the Seder.
Halachah (lit. "the pathway")
the entire body of Jewish law; a sepecific law.
Triangular pastries stuffed with jam, poppy seeds, or honey. Eaten on Purim to remind us of the villain Haman in the Purim story.
Sephardic hard-boiled eggs colored a deep russet with onion peels. Traditionally served at the Passover seder to remind us of the circular nature of life.
Hallel (lit. "praise")
the 14th activity of the Seder--reciting the Hallel, Psalms of praise and thankgiving to G-d.
Hashem (lit. "The Name")
Havdalah (lit. separation)
the blessings recited at the conclusion of Shabbat and Festivals, separating the holy day from the other days of the week.
Stuffed cabbage leaves.
Mediterranean dip made of pureed chick peas and tahini.
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Buckwheat groats. Now popularized as "health food." Commonly eaten in Eastern Europe.
System of Jewish dietary laws.
Ke'ara (lit. "plate")
the tray, plate or cloth on which are placed the three matzot and six foods for use during the Seder.
Kebab (Alternate spelling: kabob)
Chunks of marinated meat grilled on a skewer. Popular street food in Israel.
Ketz (lit. "the end")
the deadline for the end of the Exile.
Kezayit (lit. "like an olive")
a Halachic measurement, approx. 1 oz.
Kadesh (lit. "sanctify")
the first activity of the Seder--to recite the Kiddush.
Karpas (lit. "greens")
the vegetable, dipped in saltwater, eaten at the beginning of the Seder.
Kiddush (lit. "sanctification")
the sanctification of Shabbat and Festivals with a blessing recited over a cup of wine.
Dish made of stuffed beef casings. Also used for stuffing in general.
Klipah (li. "husk")
the Kabbalistic term for evil, which is extraneous to, and concealing of, the kernel of good within
Small pastry typically stuffed with potatoes, kasha, meat, or other vegetables. May be deep-fried (Coney Island style) or baked.
Literally, "fit." Refers to foods that meet the requirements of Jewish dietary laws. Click here for more information on Jewish dietary laws.
Coarse salt used to remove blood from meat in order to make it fit according to Jewish dietary laws.
Korech (lit. "wrap" and "make a sandwich")
the tenth activity of the Seder--to eat matzah and maroir combined in a sandwich.
Jewish version of wonton or ravioli. Simple dough stuffed with a mixture of ground meat--typically liver--and onions. Served floating in chicken soup or as a side dish.
Yiddish word for matzo balls.
Polish word for barley soup.
Kubneh (Alternate spelling: Kubaneh)
Sweet Yemenite bread prepared for the sabbath and typically eaten with zhoug.
Jewish version of a casserole, often with a pudding-like consistency. May be made with rice, noodles, vegetables, or potatoes.
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Crispy potato pancake fried in oil. Typically served for Hanukkah.
Lebneh (Alternate spellings: lebne, labne, labneh)
Home-made yogurt cheese common in the Middle East.
Honey cake. Traditionally eaten on Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish New Year) for a sweet year.
Levites, members of the tribe of Levi, who served in the Holy Temple.
Yiddish word for "noodles." Lox: Smoked and salted salmon.
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the evening prayer services.
Magid (lit. "telling")
the fifth activity of the seder--the telling of the story of the Exodus.
Mah Nishtanah (lit. "What Is Different?")
the "Four Questions" asked by the children at the Seder.
the last of the ten sefirot (Divine Attributes)
Yiddish word for almonds.
The Jewish version of biscotti. Crispy cookies with almonds.
Mashiach (lit. "the annointed")
Matzah (pl. matzot)
Unleavened bread eaten at Passover to remind the Jews of the haste with which they left slavery.
Matzo Balls (Alternate spellings: matzoh, matza, matzah)
Also called knaidlach. Round dumplings made of ground matzo meal, fat, and egg. Typically served in chicken soup or as a side dish for roasted meats.
Mayim acharonim (lit. "last water")
the practice, mandated by Torah law, to wash the tips of one's fingers at the conclusion of a meal.
Refers to wines that are rendered kosher by the process of boiling.
the non-literal interpretation and homiletic teachings of the Sages, on Scripture.
Yiddish word for dairy foods or meals with dairy ingredients.
afternoon prayer service.
the codification of the Oral Law that forms the crux of the Talmud; a specific paragraph of that work.
Mitzvah (pl. Mitzvot): "commandment"
the precepts of the Torah; also used to mean "good deed".
Motzi (lit. "take out" or "bring forth")
the blessing, thanking G-d "Who brings forth bread from the earth," recited before eating bread or matzah.
Musaf (lit. "additional")
additional prayer service held following the morning service on Shabbat and Festivals, commemorating the additional offerings brought in the Temple on these days.
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the Hebrew month in which Passover falls; mandated by the Torah to occur in the (beginning of) spring.
Yiddish noun for a little bite to eat--there are no calories in a nosh, incidentally--or verb for the act of snacking.
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biblical measure (approx. 43 oz.); the barley offering from the spring harvest which was brought on the second day of Passover.
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Pareve (Alternate spelling: Parve)
Hebrew word for "neutral" foods that are neither meat nor dairy, such as fish, fruits, vegetables, and eggs.
Calves' foot jelly.
Middle Eastern flat bread with a pocket. Typically used for sandwiches containing falafel.
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Rachtzah (lit. "washing")
the sixth activity of the seder--washing before eating the matzah.
Small pastries made from rich cream cheese dough and filled with jam, chocolate, honey, or nuts.
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A Russian soup with a pungent, tangy kick from its main ingredient, a sour grass called sorrell.
Seder (lit. "order")
the gathering and meal which takes place on the first two nights of Passover and follows a specific order.
Sefirat Haomer (lit. "the counting of the omer")
the period between the Festivals of Passover and Shavuot (the Torah commands to count 49 days period from the day on which the omer offering was brought in the Holy Temple--the second day of Passover--and to observe the Festival of Shavuot on the 50th day).
Yiddish word for rendered chicken fat. Gives incomparable flavor--and cholesterol--to traditional dishes. May be served with gribenes.
Used to describe all Jews who are not from Eastern and Central Europe. Sepharad means Spain in Hebrew--thus, the term originally referred to Jews from Spain and their descendants who lived in Greece, Turkey, and other Mediterranean countries after the expulsion in 1492.
Shabbat (lit: "rest", "cessation [of work]")
the Sabbath; the divinely-ordained day of rest on the seventh day of the week.
Shabbat Hagadol (lit. "The Great Shabbat")
the Shabbat before Passover.
Shacharit (lit. "the dawning")
the morning prayer service.
Shehecheyanu (lit. "Who has made us live")
the blessing recited over eating new fruit, wearing new clothing, or performing a mitzvah for the first time that season.
Shechinah (lit. "indwelling", "immanence")
the Divine Presence; that aspect of the Divine which resides within, or is in anyway connected with, the created reality.
Shemoneh Esreh (lit. "eighteen")
the eighteen blessings which comprise the Amidah--the solemn, silently recited prayer that is the climax of the three daily services.
Shmurah matzah (lit. "watched" or "guarded" matzah)
Matzah which has been made from grain which was guarded from the time of either reaping or grinding to ensure that it never came into contact with water or other liquids, to prevent it from rising.
Shulchan Orech (lit: "set table")
the eleventh activity of the seder--eating the festive meal.
Siddur (lit. "ordering", "arrangement")
the prayer book.
Siyum (lit. "completion")
the celebration held upon completing the study of a tractate of Mishnah or Talmud.
Soom soom (Alternate spelling: sum sum)
Hebrew word for sesame seeds.
Israeli donuts typically eaten on Hanukkah.
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Tabbouleh (Alternate spelling: Tabouli)
Cracked wheat salad typically made with parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, and mint.
Tahini (Alternate spelling: Tehina)
Middle Eastern condiment made of ground sesame seeds. Common topping for falafel.
Torah (lit. "law", "instruction")
the Divine wisdom and will communicated to Moses and handed down through the generations; includes both the "Wriiten Torah" (the Tanach or "Bible") and the "Oral Torah" (the interpretation and exposition of the Written Torah, as recorded in the Talmud, the Torah commentaries, the Halachic works, the Kabbalah, etc.)
Trayf (Alternate spelling: treif)
Literally, "torn." Refers to un-kosher food.
Tzafun (lit. "hidden")
the twelfth activity of the seder--to eat the afikoman which has been hidden away since the beginning of the seder.
Tzedakah (lit. justice, righteousness)
Literally "a fuss" in Yiddish. A medley of vegetables (typically root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnip, carrots) simmered with prunes or other dried fruit. Typically served at Rosh Hashanah for a sweet new year.
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Urchatz (lit: "and wash")
the second activity of the seder--washing one's hands before eating the karpas.
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Bow-tie pasta (farfalle in Italian). Typically served with kasha.
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Yachatz (lit: "divide")
the fourth activity of the seder--breaking the middle matzah in two.
Yom Tov (lit. "a good day")
a festival on the Jewish calendar.
Yoich (Alternate spelling: Yuch)
Yiddish word for chicken soup.
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Israeli spice mixture used for seasoning meats and flat breads.
Zeroah (lit: "shank bone")
the first item on the seder plate, commemorating the Passover offering; can be any bone with a bit of meat--commonly used is a chicken neck.
Fiery Yemenite condiment made of ground hot peppers.
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