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Hebrew Terms of Endearment and Affection

If you’re as old as me you probably remember that wonderful NBC show Cheers and its great theme song with with the lyrics, “where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came…”. Well in Israel only the second part of the song is true.

In Israel, it is common that no one knows your name, and even if they do, they generally won’t use it. You’ll hear terms of endearment from strangers in every kind of situation, be it at the grocery store, car wash, or on the street.

The most common Hebrew term of endearment for a man

The most common term of endearment for a man in Israel is “Akhinu אחינו” (our brother). It can also be said as “Akhy אחי”/ “Akh shelly אח שלי” (my brother) or “Akh אח” (brother).

Israeli people are very warm, one of the ways they show that they are talking to you as their equal and as someone they care about and who is close to them is by referring to you as their brother.

This term of endearment can be said to your actual brother, a close friend or relative, or even a stranger. If you call the waiter “Akhy אחי” It will make you sound like a better person and a better customer, than if you call him “Waiter”.

Here are some examples of common phrases you might hear with this term of endearment:

If you're a man in Israel, chances are you have already heard this word used many times, and after a while, it doesn’t sound weird at all coming from a stranger on the street.

By the way, if you have friends or relatives who speak Hebrew, why not learn the language? It is available on Pimsleur, and they offer a free lesson.

Other Hebrew terms of endearment for men

Israeli men can be perceived as much more open and friendly to one another than to women. You will hear men using terms of endearment much more freely with strangers, especially with other men rather than with women.

There is a sort of comradery between Israeli men, largely due to the mandatory military service in Israel. In the army, all the soldiers are supposed to care for each other, and that bond is often expressed through the use of terms of endearments among soldiers.

Hebrew terms of endearment for boys

In Israel, a lot of people believe in the evil eye, and they use terms of endearment to trick the evil eye so that no harm will come to their loved ones. They might use these terms for young boys:

In Israel, we love kids a lot. They are our future after all, and we sing a song called “Kids are happiness”, so we put our kid's needs first most of the time. And you will hear people calling their boys:

Hebrew terms of endearment for girls and women

As stated, women are different than men in the use of terms of endearment. Men should be more careful when talking to women they don’t know and using terms of endearment with them because it might be perceived as sexist or rude.

Usually, in conversations between women and other women, you will hear a lot of terms of endearment, and if a woman talks to a man she knows, they both will use terms of endearment.

In a conversation between 2 women you might hear:

Hebrew terms of endearment for family members

Families in Israel are usually very tight-knit. And since Israel is so small, families come together a lot, usually at holidays and special events. Some families get together every Friday for Shabbat dinner. That means there are a lot of words used to show how much love there is in the family.

The most common way to show your love to a family member is by simply adding an “ush” to the end of their role in the family:

Other common words that can be used for every member of the family would be:

And because the Israelis feel so close to each other, like a big dysfunctional family, they will sometimes call their neighbors or friends (even though they aren’t related):

It is very rare to hear anyone using the polite words “Adon” (mister) and “Geveret” (Mam).

Hebrew terms of endearment for romantic relationships

When people use so many terms of endearment daily, you might wonder, what can they call each other when they are in love? Well don’t worry, there are many words left to say to that special someone in your life:

And some important things you might say in a relationship:

I love - when said by a man - Ani ohev אני אוהב
When said by a woman, it’s – Ani ohevet אני אוהבת
If said to a woman, it’s - otakh אותך
And if said to a man, it’s - otkah אותך

I like- when said by a man - Ani mehavev אני מחבב
When said by a woman, it’s - Ani mehavevet אני מחבבת
If said to a woman, it’s - otakh אותך
And if said to a man, it’s - otkah אותך

In conclusion, if you come to visit Israel you should prepare yourself to feel closer to complete strangers than you have ever been. You will hear, more than once or twice everyday, terms of endearment said to you by complete strangers, and you will also find yourself calling the waiter “Akhy” אחי (Brother) or the man in front of you at the drugstore “Gever” גבר (Man).

It will make you feel like you are part of the community, and it is the reason a lot of people from around the world feel so at home in Israel and even immigrate here.

Unlike in some other countries where people complain about feeling transparent and struggle to make human connections, in Israel, even if you go to a restaurant alone, intending to enjoy a solitary dinner, you may leave with invitations to several dinners and three phone numbers of potential new friends.

So are you coming to Israel to hear some terms of endearment, Neshama?