Definition of Hebrew in English:



  • 1A member of an ancient people living in what is now Israel and Palestine and, according to biblical tradition, descended from the patriarch Jacob, grandson of Abraham. After the Exodus (c.1300 BC) they established the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and their scriptures and traditions form the basis of the Jewish religion.

    • ‘For the Hebrews there is always a legal obligation to rescue.’
    • ‘He had dreamed what seemed to be the unimaginable: He saw a time when the Hebrews were free!’
    • ‘Since, however, the rules of his religion were harsh and demanding, the Hebrews killed him.’
    • ‘How did the ancient Hebrews survive without Chinese food?’
    • ‘For example, the struggle of the ancient Hebrews against the wicked Pharaoh came to embody the struggle of the colonists against English tyranny.’
    • ‘For Paul, and for the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, Abraham is the great example of faith.’
    • ‘The Exodus of the Hebrews was a collective experience, still commemorated by the Jewish Passover festival.’
    • ‘We must not forget that the writer of Hebrews uses Israel's failure to enter the Promised Land to warn us.’
    • ‘The first great escape is the story of the first Hebrew, Abraham.’
    • ‘It explains that the Hebrews are descendants from Abraham, who, with God, formed the covenant.’
    • ‘By about 1000 B.C.E. the Hebrews had established the kingdom of Israel, which later split into two kingdoms, Judah and Israel.’
    • ‘Like their cousins back in England, these American Puritans strongly identified with both the historical traditions and customs of the ancient Hebrews of the Old Testament.’
    • ‘Many early travellers in Sinai were both enchanted and challenged by the inscriptions, some attributing them to the Hebrews of the Exodus.’
    • ‘So what you had was, a rewriting by conquerors, of the religious doctrines of the Hebrews and Jews, successively.’
    • ‘Abraham, a Hebrew, is considered the father of Judaism.’
    • ‘Paul describes himself as a Hebrew born of Hebrews, one who excelled in all things Jewish.’
    • ‘The Hebrews of ancient legend were a nomadic people who could not even imagine such a thing as a ‘good city.’’
    • ‘With these goals in mind, the reader can meet the ancient Hebrews anew, appreciating their unique voice as members of their own world.’
    • ‘All are Hebrews, but only the descendants of Judah are Jews.’
    • ‘It's not clear whether this debt is owed to all Egyptians, or just the descendants of the slave-owners from whom the biblical Hebrews presumably expropriated this bounty.’
    1. 1.1dated, offensive A Jew.
  • 2mass noun The Semitic language spoken by the Hebrews, in its ancient or modern form.

    • ‘This forced them to create many new words, and modern Hebrew was born.’
    • ‘‘I hate serving these smug ladies,’ she muttered, and noted that she spoke in Hebrew instead of Egyptian.’
    • ‘For some reason it occurred to me that a stuttered yet polite ‘Excuse me, I do not speak Hebrew, please repeat what you just said in English.’’
    • ‘Unfortunately, despite its recent translation into languages as diverse as Hebrew and Icelandic, there are currently no plans to translate the book into Indonesian.’
    • ‘Bare in mind that modern Hebrew and ancient Hebrew have their differences, and that a lot of texts are by those that don't have a firm grasp on the language.’
    • ‘Arabic is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Aramaic.’
    • ‘Here it's handled lightly - or so it seems to someone who doesn't speak Hebrew - a lingering echo of a bright, tight-knit family's former life.’
    • ‘We spoke Hebrew, a language which I barely knew, but somehow I understood everything she said.’
    • ‘Another example of a resuscitated language is modern Hebrew.’
    • ‘I share the frustration felt by those around the world who speak Arabic and Hebrew.’
    • ‘In addition, the books contained therein were written in three different languages: Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.’
    • ‘In this period, Hebrew was spoken, and Hebrew is a Semitic language, just like Arabic.’
    • ‘The Hebrew in which Genesis is written is ancient, but we cannot infer that Hebrew was the original language.’
    • ‘He was particularly committed to the revitalization of Hebrew as a modern, spoken language.’
    • ‘She was the same and she didn't speak Hebrew or Sanskrit did she?’
    • ‘Briefly she spared a thought for the other customers around them, and was grateful they were speaking in Hebrew instead of English.’
    • ‘And some of them they're speaking very good Hebrew, not Russian.’
    • ‘As I don't speak Hebrew, I'm bound to the choppy English translations.’
    • ‘Israelis, although held together by the common language of Hebrew, speak a variety of quite unexpected languages.’
    • ‘Although hardly a matter of political significance, this is nonetheless false and, like his statement on modern Hebrew, asserted without evidence.’


  • 1Of or in Hebrew.

    • ‘Yet if modern Hebrew is the reincarnation of Yiddish, he must show a relationship rather than what the Hebrew pioneers claim to have achieved, a rupture.’
    • ‘Each new title of his sells in excess of 50,000 copies in the Hebrew editions alone, ahead of being translated into more than a dozen other languages, including Arabic.’
    • ‘And it's just a song of all the Hebrew names of God.’
    • ‘Well the Hebrew word is a word that means messenger.’
    • ‘It is now surrounded by shops, travel agencies, and even juice carts equipped with Hebrew signage.’
    • ‘The Hebrew blogging scene was then quite dormant.’
    • ‘Many scholars say ‘the beast’ is really a coded reference, using Hebrew letters for numbers, for the despotic Roman emperor Nero.’
    • ‘Here, the Hebrew letters spelling ‘David Thomas’ run from bottom to top.’
    • ‘The sexy star, who became involved in the mystical faith after being introduced to it by close friend Madonna, revealed that she has had a Hebrew symbol inscribed onto the back of her neck..’
    • ‘‘They wanted a systematic book that compared with the already existent Greek and Hebrew versions,’ says Shaw.’
    • ‘As for the Hebrew letters, they all mean something.’
    • ‘Yesterday the front entrance to the Paradise Hotel was blocked off by yellow tape with Hebrew lettering.’
    • ‘And I wanted to complete an advanced Hebrew program, so that I could fully immerse myself in the literature of Jews across the globe.’
    • ‘The rabbi mumbled a bunch of Hebrew prayers, providing no explanation whatsoever of the significance of the prayers, nor any eulogy for the deceased.’
    • ‘However, the event is normally called ‘The Night of the Broken Glass’ in English, and the Hebrew word for the outrage is unconnected to crystal.’
  • 2Of the Hebrews or the Jews.

    • ‘But the writers aren't merely parroting what they learned in Hebrew school - they're analyzing it as a parable of corporate politics as well as piety.’
    • ‘It is a scene of human depravity, worthy of description by the Hebrew prophets.’
    • ‘The story of the Hebrew people is, after all, my story too.’
    • ‘And on Sunday we celebrated Lucy's Hebrew naming ceremony.’
    • ‘He could not be expected to respond to Hebrew music, but his comment on the Queens' service testifies to his attentive and critical ear.’
    • ‘This movie scene shows sacred rites and chants corresponding accurately to the mystical Hebrew folklore of 16th-century Prague.’
    • ‘The ‘professor,’ it turned out, had once taught Hebrew school at elementary level, but soon got fired.’
    • ‘But this sparked numerous complaints, most notably from practising Jews who said it interfered with Hebrew festivals, and was scrapped.’
    • ‘Early Hebrew law prohibited any form of infanticide, and the young were brought along to Jewish synagogues and included in services.’


From Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‘iḇray, based on Hebrew ‘iḇrî understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river)’.