Hebrew Language Blog

Hebrew Family Vocabulary: Part 1 Posted by on Feb 21, 2021 in Uncategorized

מִשְׁפָּחָה זֶה הַכָּל (family is everything), as Israelis say. And family vocabulary is essential for every language learner. Let’s start with some basic family members vocabulary.

Image via Pixabay

A joyful Israeli nursery rhyme called הַמִּשְׁפָּחָה שֶׁלׅי (my family) is about a little boy’s birthday party. Songs, gifts, and, of course, family are all part of the celebration.

The chorus enumerates all the guests that are coming to celebrate with the boy on his special day. Most of them are family members. The boy knows how it all started, and the song begins with the verse:

זֶה הׅתְחׅיל מׅשְּנֵי הוֺרׅים עַלִּיזׅים וּצְעׅירׅים שֶׁהוֹלִידוּ בִּשְׁבִילׅי אֶת הַמִּשְׁפָּחָה שֶׁלׅי

It started with two cheerful young parents who brought up my family for me

The Hebrew word for parent is הוֹרֶה (pronounced as ho-re). It means one parent, and can refer to either father or mother. The word itself is, however, masculine. When using the word all the related verbs and adjectives should appear in their masculine form. For example:

הוֹרֶה אַחְרַאי הוּא הוֹרֶה שֶׁמַּצִּיב גְּבוּלוֹת.

A responsible parent is a parent who sets limits.

הַהוֹרֶה דָּרַשׁ שֶׁהַמִּתְקָנִים בְּגַּן שַׁעֲשׁוּעִים יְתוּקְּנוּ לְאַלְתַּר.

The parent demanded that the playground equipment will be repaired immediately.

הוֹרֶה יְחִידָנִי הוּא הוֹרֶה שֶׁאֵינוֹ נָשׂוּי.

A single-parent is an unmarried parent.


The single form הוֹרֶה is not so common in spoken language. The word is more prevalent in official documents and written communication. Although it’s probably grammatically correct, Israelis never say my parent. In the case of speaking about one parent, Israelis mention which one: father or mother. The Hebrew language has four terms for one’s parents:

The ancient Hebrew terms for father and mother are very short. Only one syllable words: אָב (pronounced as av) for father, and אֵם (pronounced as em) for mother. Both terms are nowadays mostly used in written language. In spoken language they are usually mentioned in well-known phrases. For instance:

אֵם בַּיִת – housemother

בֵּית אָב – household

אֵם הַדֶּרֶךְ – main road

אַב-טִיפּוּס – prototype

עִיר וָאֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל – a large important city in Israel

תָּכְנִית אָב – master plan

כִּבּוּד אָב וָאֵם – respect for one’s parents


The Hebrew language was heavily influenced by the Aramaic. Two Aramaic terms, adapted by Hebrew speakers, appeared in Hebrew texts in the first centuries AD: אַבָּא (pronounced as a-ba) for father, and אִמָּא (pronounced as i-ma) for mother. Today, these terms are the everyday terms in spoken Hebrew for one’s parents. אַבָּא means father, dad; אִמָּא means mother, mom. They are suitable to use when addressing dad or mom, or when talking about them. They are also suitable to use when talking about one’s own folks, or about a stranger’s folks. For example:

אִמָּא, אֲרוּחַת הָעֶרֶב מוּכָנָה?

Mom, is dinner ready?

אַבָּא שֶׁלׅי רוֹפֵא.

My dad is a doctor.

אִמָּא לׅשְׁלוֹשָׁה מְחַפֶּשֶׂת מְטַפֶּלֶת.

Mother of three is looking for a nanny.

אַבָּא שֶׁל הֶחָתָן בִּקֵּשׁ לָשֵׂאת דְּבָרִים.

The groom’s father asked to speak.

Image via Pixabay

Although there are two different terms for father and mother there is only one plural form for each gender. The plural form for fathers is אָבוֺת (pronounced as a-vot); the plural form for mothers is אׅמָּהוֺת (pronounced as i-ma-ot). When referring to a child’s parents – both the mother and the father – the word הוֹרֶה appears in its plural form – הוֺרׅים (pronounced as ho-rim). For example:

הַהוֺרׅים שֶׁל טַל קָנוּ לָהּ כְּלַבְלַב מַתָּנָה.

Tal’s parents bought her a puppy as a gift.

עַל פִּי סֶקֶר חָדָשׁ, אׅמָּהוֺת עוֺבְדוֺת מְאוּשָּׁרוֹת יוֺתֵר מֵעַקְרוֺת בַּיִת.

According to a new survey, working mothers are happier than housewives.

בּׅיְמֵי שׁׅישׁׅי אֲנׅי מְבַקֵּר אֶת הַהוֺרׅים.

On Fridays I visit my parents.

הַרְבֵּה אָבוֺת בַּמִּשְׂרָד שֶׁלָּנוּ יוֹצְאִים מֻקְדָּם מֵהָעֲבוֹדָה כְּדֵי לְבַלּוֹת עׅם הַיְּלָדׅים.

Many fathers in our office leave work early to spend time with their children.

הַהוֺרׅים שֶׁלִּי הִכִּירוּ בַּצָבָא.

My parents met in the army.


The plural form הוֺרׅים also refers to a group of parents, fathers, mothers or both, of different children. For example:

מֵאוֹת הוֺרׅים הִפְגִינוּ מוּל מָעוֹן רֹאשׁ הַמֶּמְשָׁלָה.

Hundreds of parents protested outside the prime minister’s residence.

לִפְעָמִים הוֺרׅים מִתְקַשִּׁים לְהִתְמוֹדֵד עׅם יֶלֶד בּוֹכֶה.

Sometimes parents find it difficult to deal with a crying child.


Now, after we’ve learned some of the above mentioned song vocabulary, you can enjoy the rhythm and the rhymes of the catchy song הַמִּשְׁפָּחָה שֶׁלׅי (my family) in the next video (Hebrew subtitles on screen):


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