Passover Vocabulary 101

English: Jews Celebrating Passover. Lubok, XIX...
Jews Celebrating Passover. Lubok, XIXth century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every Jewish holiday has at least a few Hebrew words connected with it that baffle newcomers and outsiders. Here are some of the Hebrew words that might puzzle you during Passover. (Note: I have two pronunciations for most, because there are two kinds of Hebrew. Don’t worry about it, just know that you might hear either one.)

פסח – PEH-sach or PAY-sach. Pesach means Passover, the seven day holiday at which we remember the Exodus from Egypt and eat matzah.

מצה – MAT-sah or MAT-zo. Matzah is flat bread. It has no leavening whatsoever.

כשר לפסח – ka-SHER l’PEH-sach or KO-sher l’PAY-sach – Kosher l’Pesach food is suitable to eat during Passover.  That means it has no Chametz. Speaking of which:

חמץ – chah-MEYTZ or CHAH-metz – This is a tricky one. Some will definit chametz as “leavening,” but that is not quite correct. The definition is “flour (rye, oat, spelt, wheat, or barley) that may have gotten wet at some time.” So all baked goods, pasta, etc are chametz, and we remove them from the house before Passover. Beer and whiskey are chametz, too.

סדר – SEH-der  – The seder is the ritual meal with which we celebrate Passover. “Seder” means “order” and we call the meal that because things happen in a particular order. That order appears in the …

הגדה – ha-gah-DAH or ha-GAH-dah. The Haggadah is the script for the Passover seder. It is an ancient method for learning about the story of the Jews’ deliverance from Egypt, and for experiencing that deliverance as if we, too, were there.

What other Hebrew words do you hear at Passover? Suggest some, and I will put them in another post!

• Readers kindly responded, and here is Passover Vocabulary 102!

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

5 thoughts on “Passover Vocabulary 101”

  1. Hi Ruth, sent you a note via your wordpress site but not confident I did it correctly. Here’s my 2 cents: kneydl, afikomen and ma nish ta na.

    Ely Zimmerman

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