Greeting and Saying Good-bye in Hebrew

Hebrew offers you many choices of ways to say hello and good-bye. Here are a few things to say in greeting:

  • Shalom. (shah-lohm; Hello; peace.)
  • Mah Ha'Inyanim? (mah hah-in-yah-neem; How are things?)
  • Mah Nishmah? (mah neesh-mah ; What's up?)
  • Mah Shlomcha? (mah sh-lohm-chah; How are you? Literally: How is your welfare?) (Masculine)
  • Mah Shlomech? (mah sh-loh-mehch; How are you? Literally: How is your welfare?) (Feminine)
  • Mah Shlom'chem? (mah sh-lohm-chehm; How are you?) (Masculine Plural/ Feminine Plural)

Ah, but parting is such sweet sorrow. When you have to hit the road, use one of these phrases to say good-bye:

  • Shalom. (shah-lohm; Peace.)
  • Kol Tuv. (kohl toov; Be well.)
  • L'hitraot. (leh-hee-trah-oht; See you soon.)

Greeting all day long

In Hebrew, as in every other language, the time of day you greet a person often determines what you say. But Hebrew throws a bit of a twist into the standard mix. It also contains particular greetings that depend on whether you greet someone before or after the Jewish Sabbath. The Sabbath starts when the sun begins to set on Friday night and ends about 25 hours later at sundown on Saturday night when the sun has completely set.

In the morning, you can say Boker Tov (boh-kehr tohv; good morning). If someone greets you in this manner, you can say Boker Tov right back to him or her, or you can say Boker Or (boh-kehr ohr;morning light). In the afternoon, you can say Tzohora'im Tovim (tzoh-hoh-rye-eem toh-veem; good afternoon). In response, you can simply repeat the same words back.

The pattern of simply repeating the greeting as a reply holds true for all the time-sensitive greetings. The morning greeting is the only exception because you can reply with either Boker Tov or Boker Or.

So, in the evening, you can say Erev Tov (eh-rehv tohv; good evening) whether you're greeting someone or responding to another person's salutation. At night, you can say Lilah Tov (lye-lah tohv; good night). And, if someone is headed off to bed, you can wish him or her Chalomot Paz (cha-loh-moht pahz; golden dreams)!

Got that? Good. Now on to the Sabbath-related greetings. All day Friday and during the Sabbath, greeting people with the words that wish them a peaceful Sabbath is customary: Shabbat Shalom (shah-baht shah-lohm; have peaceful Sabbath). When the sun sets on Saturday night (and you can see three stars in the sky), the Sabbath is over. On Saturday nights and even on Sundays, it's customary to greet people with a cheery Shavu'a Tov (shah-voo-ahtohv), wishing them a good week.

The Book of Genesis describes each day as beginning in the evening: "There was evening; there was morning; a first day." Therefore, days and holidays on the Jewish calendar begin in the evening with the setting sun and last until the sun is completely set 25 hours later. The reason for 25 hours is just for safety. It should be exactly 24 hours, but rabbis added the extra hour so that we'll never start the Sabbath too late or end the Sabbath too early.

Replying to a greeting

Knowing how to say hello and good-bye is a great start. But, if you want to get past the initial hello, you need a few more phrases in your back pocket (like what to say when someone asks how you're doing). Who knows? These phrases could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Some responses to greetings are:

  • Shlomi Tov. (sh-loh-mee tohv; My welfare is good.)
  • Etzli B'seder Gamur. (ehtz-lee buh-seh-dehr gah-moohr; With me, things are completely okay.)
  • B'seder. (beh-seh-dehr; Okay.)
  • Mamash Tov. (mah-mahsh tohv; Really good.)
  • Lo Kol-Kach Tov. (loh kohl-kahch tohv; Not so good.)

See also:

Common Greetings and Phrases in Hebrew

Speaking of Favorite Hebrew Expressions

How to Ask Questions in Hebrew

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