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Hebrew vs. Yiddish: What’s the Difference? Posted by on Dec 30, 2013 in Cultural Awareness, Judaism, Yiddish

כל בני האדם נולדו בני חורין ושווים בערכם ובזכויותיהם. כולם חוננו בתבונה ובמצפון, לפיכך חובה עליהם לנהוג איש ברעהו ברוח של אחווה.

יעדער מענטש װערט געבױרן פֿרײַ און גלײַך אין כּבֿוד און רעכט. יעדער װערט באַשאָנקן מיט פֿאַרשטאַנד און געװיסן; יעדער זאָל זיך פֿירן מיט אַ צװײטן אין אַ געמיט פֿון ברודערשאַפֿט.

Looking at the two paragraphs above, what do you see? Two paragraphs of Hebrew writing, but the second paragraph is not actually Hebrew. It’s actually Yiddish. What’s the difference between the two langauges? Why is Yiddish written with the Hebrew alphabet?

Yiddish Origins

From a linguistic point of view, Yiddish is a mix of languages. It first started as Biblical Hebrew. And after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, speaking Biblical Hebrew was considered too holy for daily use. Around the 11th century, Ashkenazi Jews living in or around the areas now known as Germany and Poland started speaking a language that was a mix of Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, German and Polish called לשון־אַשכּנז (loshn-ashknez = “language of Ashkenaz”) and טײַטש (taytsh, the name for the German spoken in the region of origin). The term ייִדיש (Yiddish) did not become the name of the language until the 18th century. In the late 19th and early 20th century the language was more commonly called “Jewish”, but now “Yiddish” is again in use.

What are the differences?

Due to their Biblical Hebrew roots there are many similarities betwen the two languages. The most obvious is the fact that they use the same written letters. One difference is the niqqud (vowels) used in Hebrew are omitted for the most part in Yiddish. The consonants ע (ayin) and א (aleph) as well as variations of י (yud) to represent different vowel sounds.

Because Yiddish is a mix of various languages, it takes on the grammar rules of the other languages it picked up – making the grammar rules a little bit difficult to pin down. For example, there are two basic ways to form a plural in Hebrew—by adding ים (im) or ות (ot) to the end of the word. In Yiddish, however, there are several ways to form a plural depending on the source of the word (is it of German origin? Polish? Aramaic?). For example, the plural of “chaver,” (friend) a Hebrew word, would be “chaverim” in Yiddish. However, the plural of “bubbe” (grandmother) would be “bubbles” in Yiddish.

Yiddish is a very interesting language. And for all our readers who are Yiddish speakers, גוט טאָג פריינט. באַגריסונג צו דעם בלאָג!


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About the Author: Sean Young

Learning languages since 1978 and studying over 50 (achieving fluency in 10). Sean L. Young loves giving tips, advice and the secrets you need to learn a language successfully no matter what language you're learning. Currently studying Hindi and blogging his progress right here at Transparent Language - https://blogs.transparent.com/language-news.


  1. Yun Zayac:

    Great write-up. I’m a regular visitor of your web site and appreciate you taking the time to maintain the nice site. I’ll be a frequent visitor for a really long time.

  2. Fred:

    Thank you chaverim. I play guitar in a Klezmer band and hear the language spoken often. At first it sounded a lot like German. Your simple explanation said a lot.

  3. OkieSis:

    Imagine my surprise when at this stage of my life (65 yrs old) growing up and being told that my Dad’s family was German and My Mom’s side Native American and Irish, to find when my DNA results and OYE? was I told wrong. Daddy’s family came from Switzerland in 1500’s and before that they were from France and Belgium. My Mother’s family came from England and Ireland and not a trace of Native American in either family. No my Mother is wanting me to find out if anyone in her family was Jewish and told me not to tell anyone that we came from Jewish heritage because people are so prejudiced that someone might come and drive by and shoot us.. Such a imaginative mother I have. lol