24 great Hebrew proverbs, sayings and idioms – and their meanings

When learning a new language, one of the best ways to improve your fluency is to learn the proverbs and idioms. They are expressions that are used in everyday conversation, and they can be difficult to translate literally.

Hebrew has many proverbs, sayings and idioms – and we have compiled a list of 24 of the most common ones! In this blog post, we will give you the meaning of each expression, as well as an example sentence. Let’s get started!

1. “מנה פרוסת תירס, ולא ישבתי בבית”

Translation: “I ate a piece of parsley and didn’t sit at home”

Meaning: I did something small to make myself feel better.

Example sentence: “Mana pirtuset tiras, velo yishbotyi bevita. After eating a piece of parsley, I felt much better.”

2. “טוב שיהיה מרחוק כמו בתולה”

Translation: “It’s good that he should be far away like a bride (or virgin)”

Meaning: It’s better for someone to stay out of your way or distance themselves from you. Keep away from me!

Example sentence: “Tov sheyehi mrachok kmo batula. It would be best if my boss stayed far away today.”

3. “אי-שבת סבתא – אי-שבת”

Translation: “If there is no grandmother, there is no Shabbat”

Meaning: A true expression of the importance of family. You can’t have a proper celebration without your family.

Example sentence: “Iy-shabbat savta – iye shabbat! It’s not a real birthday party when my bubbe isn’t here.”

4. “זה לא המון – זה ארבעים”

Translation: “It’s not a lot; it’s 40!”

Meaning: I don’t care how much you give me; it won’t be enough.

Example sentence: “Zeh lo hamon – zeh arba’im. I don’t care how much you give me; it won’t be enough.”

5. “כשהייתי קטן, הייתי יותר חכם”

Translation: “When I was small/young, I was more wise”

Meaning: A person gets older and wiser as they age.

Example sentence: “Kshe hayiti ketan, hayti yoter chakham! As a kid, I thought the world was so simple!”

6. “השקט ברור מאוד”

Translation: “The silence is very clear”

Meaning: The truth is easy to see when there is no noise or distraction.

Example sentence: “Hashakat beyur meod. When there is peace and quiet, the truth is very clear.”

7. “היה לי מוזל, והתחלתי מברך”

Translation: “I was lucky, so I started blessing God”

Meaning: Things went well for me, so now I will give thanks to God.

Example sentence: “Hayeh li mozel vehtikhaliti mibrach. I was lucky, so I started blessing God.

8. “מה שאין בשבילו – אין בשבילו”

Translation: “What he doesn’t need, he doesn’t have”

Meaning: If someone has a lot of something, it must be important to them.

Example sentence: “Mah sheeyen beshevilo eyn beshevilo! I shouldn’t be surprised that my friend is so rich. He worked hard for his money.”

9. “סוף טוב – הרי זה טוב”

Translation: “The end is good; therefore this is good”

Meaning: The outcome was positive in the end, so now everything can be forgotten about the negative things that happened before.

Example sentence: “Sof tov harey zeh tov! In the end we had a great party, so the bad things that happened before are all forgotten.”

10. “שימו לב: מה שעלתה – תרד”

Translation: “Pay attention: what goes up must come down!”

Meaning: Whatever situation you find yourself in, whether good or bad, will eventually change.

Example sentence: “Shimu lav – mah she’alta terad! Pay attention to what’s happening this week; it could be a rollercoaster ride of emotions.”

11. “מי-שבראֶה שינים – בראֶַה וזוּלתוֹ”

Translation: “Whoever created teeth also created dentists!”

Meaning: There is always a solution to every problem.

Example sentence:” Mi shebarah shanim berah v’zulato! Whoever invented homework should’ve thought about the consequences.”

12. “לא ידעתי – אבל זה שווה”

Translation: “I didn’t know, but it’s worth it!”

Meaning: I don’t know why this happened, but it was worth all of my hard work and effort.

Example sentence: “Lo yedati – aval zeh shavua! I didn’t expect such great pay for being your tutor, but now that you mention it, it’s worth it!”

13. “מה שנשאר – זה לא בשבילו”

Translation: “What remains is not for him”

Meaning: He doesn’t need or want what is left over.

Example sentence: “Mah shenashar – zeh lo beshevilo! All that’s leftover isn’t for him.”

14. “למה לי? – מתי?”

Translation: “Why me? When?”

Meaning: Why do bad things always happen to me and when will I finally have some good luck?

Example sentence: “Lama li? Matay? Why does this always happen to me? When will my luck change?”

15. “אין לי כדי שמונה – ולא מברך”

Translation: “I don’t have enough for eight and I’m not blessing!”

Meaning: I am so hungry, that I can’t even say a “blessing over bread.”

Example sentence: “Ein li kidi shemone v’lo mibrach! I didn’t bring enough food to share with everyone.”

16. “טוב שירותיות – פחות ערך (אל תהיה)”

Translation: “Good service means less value (don’t be fooled by appearances)”

Meaning: Don’t be taken in by someone’s good service, because they might not actually be doing a good job.

Example sentence: “Tov sheyirotav – pachot arek! Good service is worth less!”

17. “כל המתנה – זו לא מתנה”

Translation: “All gifts aren’t gifts”

Meaning: Not every gift is really a gift. You should be careful about what you accept from others.

Example sentence: “Kol hamitanah – zeh lo matanah! Not every present is really a present.”

18. “שכר לפי עבודה”

Translation: “Pay according to the work”

Meaning: You should pay for every job done, or else you might not get your money’s worth.

Example sentence: “Sechar lifi avoda! Pay me what I’m worth!”

19. “מי שלא-יקר – אין-לוֹ (ש)מה”

Translation: “Who is not cold has no name.”

Meaning: If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.

Example sentence: “Mi shelo yikar – eyno shamah! Don’t be jealous of others; it won’t get you anywhere in life.”

20. “זו, ולא אחרת – היא המשפט”

Translation: “This and not another – is the law.”

Meaning: You have to accept things as they are.

Example sentence: “Zo v’lo achora – hi hamishpat! This one rule can’t be changed; it’s already been decided.”

21. “הבוּשה – כְּאַיִל-בּוֹר,”

Translation: “Shame is like an orphaned lamb (i.e., it goes wherever it wants).”

Meaning: If you’re ashamed of something, then people will see it and know about it no matter where you go.

Example sentence: “Habushah – ke’ayil bor! Shame is like an orphaned lamb!”

22. “הדבר הכי טוב – לא-ידעתי”

Translation: “The best thing is not to know.”

Meaning: The less you know, the better off you’ll be.

Example sentence: “Hadavar hakhi tov – lo yedi’ati! The best thing is not knowing!”

23. “למה? – שקול”

Translation: “Why? Because…”

Meaning: There is always a reason why something happens. You just have to find out what it is.

Example sentence: “Lama? Shekol! Why? Because there’s a reason for everything!”

24. “גוֹרָל-הַשּׁוֹאֶל – לא-יוּדַע”

Translation: “The answer to the question isn’t known.”

Meaning: Even the person asking the question doesn’t know the answer.

Example sentence: “Gorale hasho’el – lo yoda! We don’t even know who asked the question in the first place!”