Hebrew Language Blog

Hebrew Vocabulary and Grammar for the Winter Posted by on Dec 9, 2019 in Grammar

Photo by Ayana

Winter has come in Israel! This is a good opportunity to delve into some related grammar and vocabulary.

Hebrew nouns have gender – masculine or feminine. The Hebrew word for winter חֹורֶף (ho-ref) is masculine, as all the Hebrew seasons’ (עוֺנוֺת) names (אָבִיב, קַיִץ, סְתָיו). Hebrew adjectives come after the noun they describe and match it in gender. Adjectives to describe חֹורֶף should, therefore, appear in their masculine form. For example:

אֲנַחְנוּ מְצַפּׅים לְחֹורֶף גָּשׁוּם.

We look forward to a rainy winter.

הַחַזָּאִים צוֺפׅים חֹורֶף סוֹעֵר.

Forecasters predict a stormy winter.

הַחֹורֶף הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִי קָצָר.

The Israeli winter is short.

In the Hebrew language, adjectives and nouns must agree not only in gender, but also in number – singular or plural. When חֹורֶף appear in its plural form חוֺרָפׅים (ho-ra-fim), so should the adjective be describing it. For example:

עַבְרוּ עָלֵינוּ כַּמָּה חוֺרָפׅים קָשׁׅים.

We went through some tough winters.

הַחוֺרָפׅים הָאַחֲרוֹנִים הָיוֺ דֵי יְבֵשִׁים.

Recent winters were pretty dry.


The Israeli winter is usually not so tough, but it’s still cold, windy, and rainy (גָּשׁוּם). The Hebrew word for rain גֶּשֶׁם (ge-shem) is masculine, too, and receives the masculine suffix יׅם for plural forms, as well – גְּשָׁמׅים (ge-sha-mim). Not only adjectives, but Hebrew verbs are also conjugated to agree with their subjects in gender and number. For example:

גֶּשֶׁם חָזָק יָרַד כָּל הַלַּיְלָה.

It was raining hard all night.

גִּשְׁמֵי בְּרָכָה מַשְׁקׅים אֶת הַשָּׂדוֹת.

Blessed rain water the fields.

Watch this weather broadcast from last winter, and notice the verbs and adjectives the weatherwoman (חַזַּאׅית) refers to גֶּשֶׁם:


The Israeli rainy season (עוֹנַת הַגְּשָׁמׅים) lasts about six months, from October to April. The first rain to open the season usually falls in autumn and is called יוֹרֶה. But most of the rain, about 75%, falls over three months: December, January, and February. The last rain to close the rainy season is called מַלְקוֹשׁ. In the Book of Deuteronomy (chapter 11, verse 14), God promises the Israelites: וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ (I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain).

מַלְקוֹשׁ and יוֹרֶה are both masculine nouns. יוֹרֶה belongs to the list of exceptional masculine nouns that end with the letter ה. The verbs and adjectives which refer to them will match in gender. For example:

הַמַּלְקוֹשׁ מְבַשֵּׂר עַל סוֺף עוֹנַת הַגְּשָׁמׅים.

Malkush heralds the end of the rainy season.

The average annual rainfall varies from region to region. It decreases from north to south: in the north of Israel 800-900 mm rain per year falls on average, in the center only 500-600 mm, and in the south of Israel less than 100 mm rain per year. The number of rainy days also decreases from north to south: about 60-70 days of rain per year in the north, and about 40-60 in the center. In fact, most of the winter days are dry (יְבֵשִׁים).

Since Israel has a low precipitation climate, its infrastructures are not prepared for too much rain. Tens of millimeters of rain falling in one day are enough to cause flooding in the central cities and floods (שִׁטְּפוֹנוֺת) in the southern rivers. The Ayalon River, for example, overflows every couple of years, and floods the Ayalon Highway, the major inter-city road in the center of Israel. Ayalon roads have been closed four times since 1991 due to floods.

Watch the next article, from last December, about the consequences of one stormy day:

Happy winter, everyone!


Text vocabulary

Winter = חֹורֶף

Winters = חוֺרָפׅים

Season = עוֹנָה

Seasons = עוֺנוֺת

Rain = גֶּשֶׁם

Rainy = גָּשׁוּם

Rainy season = עוֹנַת הַגְּשָׁמׅים

Blessed rain = גִּשְׁמֵי בְּרָכָה

First rains (at the end of the rainy season) = יוֹרֶה

Last rain = מַלְקוֹשׁ

Stormy = סוֹעֵר

Tough = קָשֶׁה

Dry = יָבֵשׁ

Flood = הֲצָפָה, שִׁטָּפוֹן

Floods = הֲצָפוֺת, שִׁטְּפוֹנוֺת


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