Hebrew Language Facts

Interesting Hebrew Language Facts

If you’re thinking about learning Hebrew it’s always good to know a little about the origins and history of the language you are learning. Here, Cactus Language offers up our most interesting Hebrew language facts:

1. The Origins

Hebrew is a Semitic language and was originally spoken by the Israelites. The oldest records of written Hebrew date between 1200BC and 587BC, including the Bible.

2. The Speakers

There is an estimated 9 million Hebrew speakers across the world. Hebrew is mainly spoken in Israel with 90% of Israeli Jews and 60% of Israeli Arabs being proficient, and the United States has the second largest Hebrew-speaking population.

3. The Reborn

Hebrew was nearly extinct by Late Antiquity, but survived as the liturgical language of Judaism in the Middle Ages. It was only during the 19th century that Hebrew was revived as an everyday language. Its standardised form became Modern Hebrew.

4. The Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters are seen as fun way to practice elocution and Hebrew is no exception to this. Examples of famous Hebrew tongue twisters include:

  • גנן גידל דגן בגן דגן גדול גדל בגן (Ganan gidel dagan ba’gan. Dagan gadol gadal ba’gan) – A gardener grew rye in the garden. Large rye grew in the garden;
  • נחש נשך נחש (Nachash nashach nachash) – A snake bit a snake;
  • אנחנו לא מהממהרים אנחנו מהממהרות (Anachnu lo mehamemaharim, anachnu mehamemaharot) – We aren’t from the group of rushing men, we’re from the group of rushing women.

5. The Loanwords

Many English words borrowed from Hebrew are related to religion, mythology, and Hebrew names such as Adam, Benjamin and Jacob. Examples of Hebrew loanwords include behemoth, cherub, hallelujah, kosher, leviathan, jacket, jesuit, jockey, mazeltov, sabbatical, satanic, shibboleth and torah.


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