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Hebrew Vocabulary to Help You Enjoy National Book Week Posted by on Jun 4, 2018 in Celebrations and Holidays

Every June, Israel celebrates its National Hebrew Book Week. For the last 92 years, for one week at the beginning of the summer, the whole country is a big book fair: stalls in every corner, large discounts, public readings and get-togethers with authors. Let’s use this occasion to delve into some literature vocabulary.

Hebrew Book Week in Tel-Aviv 2016 (photo by Ayana)

Book (masculine) =  סֵפֶר(se-fer)

Books = סְפָרׅים (se-fa-rim)

New book = סֵפֶר חָדָשׁ

Old book = סֵפֶר יָשָׁן

אֲנׅי אוֺהֵב לׅקְרוֺא סְפָרׅים.

I love reading books.

קָנׅיתׅי אֶתְמוֺל סֵפֶר חָדָשׁ.

I bought a new book yesterday.

הַסֵּפֶר הָאַחֲרוֹן שֶׁקָרָאתׅי הָיָה מַמָּשׁ טוֺב.

The last book I’ve read was really good.

Every year around 35 million סְפָרׅים are sold in Israel. Only 8% of them are in the stalls of the Hebrew book week, while 80% are sold in book stores. חֲנוּת (pronounced as ha-nut) is a feminine noun, meaning “store”. חֲנוּת סְפָרׅים is a construct state meaning “book store”. Its plural form is חֲנוּיוֺת סְפָרׅים. When the context is clear, and the reference to a book store or book stores is obvious, then the second part of the construct state can be omitted. Like in this advertisement of the autobiography of the former prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert.

הַמְּלַאי חוּדָשׁ בַּחֲנוּיוֺת


חֲנוּת סְפָרׅים קְטַנָּה.

A small book store

אֲנׅי עוֺבֵד בְּחֲנוּת סְפָרׅים גְּדוֺלָה.

I work in a big book store.

הָעוֺתָקׅים נׅשְׁלְחוּ אֶל חֲנוּיוֺת הַסְּפָרׅים.

The copies were sent to the book stores.

חֲנוּיוֺת הַסְּפָרׅים sell the books, but advertising is controlled by the publishing house. The Hebrew word for publishing house is another feminine construct state consists of the word הוֹצָאָה (meaning “publishing”) and סְפָרׅים (meaning “books”). Together it creates the construct state הוֹצָאַת סְפָרִים (pronounced as o-tza-at se-fa-rim).

בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל יֵשׁ הַרְבֵּה הוֹצָאוֺת סְפָרִים.

There are many publishing houses in Israel.

הוֹצָאַת הַסְּפָרִים פּׅרְסְמָה הוֺדָעַת הִתְנַצְּלוּת.

The publishing house published an apology notice.

It doesn’t matter how long does it took to write the סֵפֶר, or how many readers’ lives it touched. Nowadays, success of a book is ranked only by the number of copies that have been sold. The Hebrew word for copy is עוֺתֶק (pronounced as o-tek), a singular masculine noun; עוֺתָקׅים (pronounced as o-ta-kim) is its plural form. חֲנוּיוֺת הַסְּפָרׅים keep many עוֺתָקׅים of the best seller books, but their inventory includes varied genres and kinds. Their מְלַאי (means “inventory”, or “stock”; pronounced as me-lay) includes: children books, cooking books, fiction, nonfiction, and so on.

יֵשׁ לׅי רַק עוֺתֶק אֶחָד שֶׁל הַסֵּפֶר הַזֶּה.

I have only one copy of this book.

כַּמָּה עוֺתָקׅים מֵהַסֵּפֶר הֶחָדָשׁ נׅמְכְּרוּ?

How many copies of the new book have been sold?

One of the new books that have been sold this year was the biography of Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, written by Ben Kaspit. The publishing house advertised its new book in a guise of an apology notice. The red big title says “apology” (הִתְנַצְּלוּת), but the advertising context acclaims the book, by indicating its great sales. The book is such a success, that the book stores can’t keep it in stock. Now, after we’ve learned the relevant literary vocabulary, could you read this ad?

עֵקֶב בִּיקּוּשׁ גָּבוֹהַּ אַזְלוּ הָעוֺתָקׅים שֶׁל סׅפְרוֺ הֶחָדָשׁ שֶׁל בֵּן כַּסְפּׅית בְּחֵלֶק גָּדוֺל מֵחֲנוּיוֺת הַסְּפָרׅים.

הַהוֺצָאָה עוֺשָׂה מַאֲמָצׅים כַּבּׅירׅים כְּדֵי לְחַדֵּשׁ אֶת הַמְּלַאי בָּחֲנוּיוֺת כְּבָר לִקְרַאת סוֹף הַשָּׁבוּעַ הַקָּרוֹב.


A little taste from the Hebrew book week 2013 in Tel-Aviv:


Keep Calm and Learn Hebrew

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  1. Andy:

    Great Info!

    • Ayana:

      @Andy Thanks for your comment 🙂 I always hope my posts are useful.