Updated: Jan 4, 2021
Like every language, Hebrew has its unique sayings and idioms that sometimes literally makes no sense but have a deep meaning that anyone who speaks Hebrew know, in this blog post we will share with you 5 examples of such sayings.
Lo Dubim Ve Lo Ya'ar - לֹא דֻּבִּים וְלֹא יַעַר
Literally: No bears and no forrest
Actual Meaning: Nothing of it happened, none of it!
Example usage: A friend promises you that he did something you asked of him, but you know for sure that it didn't happen, so you tell him: לֹא דֻּבִּים וְלֹא יַעַר.
Ein ha nac'htom meid al isato - אֵין הַנַּחְתּוֹם מֵעִיד עַל עִסָּתוֹ
Literally: The baker can't testify how good are his own pastries
Actual Meaning: You can't be objective when talking about your own achievements.
In Modern Hebrew "Baker" is "Ofe - אוֹפֶה", but in this Biblical Saying, the word נַּחְתּוֹם means baker as well.
Example Usage: your friend brags about his project, claiming it's going to change the world, without being too rude you tell him: אֵין הַנַּחְתּוֹם מֵעִיד עַל עִסָּתוֹ.
Kol haposel, be mumo posel - כָּל הַפּוֹסֵל, בְּמוּמוֹ פּוֹסֵל
Literal Meaning: he who invalidates, invalidates himself.
The literal and actual meaning combines, it means that people tends to find defects in others they have in themselves, it's similar to "It takes one to know one" in English.
Lec'h el nemala atzel, re'e darkeya vec'hac'ham - לְך אֶל הנְמָלָה עָצֵל רָאָה דְּרָכֶיהָ וְחָכָם
Literal meaning: go to the ant lazy, see her ways and get wise.
We were wondering if we should put this saying here since it's very hard to translate, let's break it down:
לְך אֶל הנְמָלָה - go to the ant
that's the first part of the sentence, you tell someone to go see an ant.
עָצֵל - Lazy
Indicates that the recipient of this sentence is a lazy person, In Hebrew Lazy can be "Atzlan עצלן" as well.
רָאָה דְּרָכֶיהָ - see her ways
you tell that lazy person to see the ways of an ant, ants are hard working insects (unlike that person!)
וְחָכָם - become wiser
Suggests that after the person see the ways of the ant, he might become less lazy and become better, hopefully.
Al Rosh ha ganav boer ha kova - עַל רֹאשׁ הַגַּנָּב בּוֹעֵר הַכּוֹבַע
Literal meaning: on the head of the thief, the hat burns
Actual meaning: A guilty person reveals himself.
In English kids say "Liar liar pants on fire" and it's not that far from this saying that originates from Yiddish and migrated to Hebrew, claims that when someone is guilty of something, he might expose himself just by expressions and weird behaviour.
That's all for now, did you like it? let us know in the comments below :)
If you love Hebrew idioms and wants to know more, here are some relevant books:
For experts who also want to practice read & write, this book is perfect - Dictionary of Hebrew Idioms and Phrases (Hebrew-Hebrew) (Hebrew Edition)