Glossary of Kosher Terms


Modern Jewish terms are principally derived from Yiddish and Hebrew words, although some German and Russian words have also found their way into the vernacular. Yiddish, used for more than 1,000 years throughout most of Europe, has become a written, rather than oral, language only in recent years. Hebrew, as written, does not specify vowels and the alphabet contains sounds that cannot be translated directly in the English language. As a result, a great deal of variation occurs in the spelling of most Jewish words.


Bagel: A bread roll, made of yeast dough and boiled in water, then baked in an oven.
Blintz: Very thin pancakes, or crepes, rolled with a variety of fillings, the most popular of which is cheese.
Boreka: A triangular pastry of layered dough, originally from Greece, usually stuffed with cheese or spinach.
Borscht: “Soup” in Russian, usually beet soup, served hot or cold, with or without meat.

Challah : A twisted or braided loaf of white bread prepared for the Sabbath and for holidays.
Chanukah : Festival of Lights (refer to holiday description following).
Charoses : A mixture of nuts, cinnamon, honey, apples and wine, symbolizing the mortar used by Israelite slaves for the construction of the Pyramids of Egypt.
Chometz : Leavening or leavened bread, proscribed for Passover. Chometz may also be used to denote any product or utensil that is not Kosher for Passover.

Dreidel : A traditional Chanukah toy, similar to the spinning top.

Farfel : Matzo or noodle dough, chopped into grains.
Fleishig : “Meat,” used to denote food products containing meat.

Gefilte fish : “Stuffed fish,” usually chopped together with onions, eggs, bread crumbs or carrots.

Haggadah : “The telling;” an ancient book narrating the story of Exodus (Passover), read at the Seder.
Hamantashen : Triangular cakes filled with poppy seeds, chopped prunes and a wide variety of fruit, eaten at Purim; named after the three-cornered hat of the evil ruler Haman.

Kabbalah : Certificate issued by a Rabbi, certifying the recipient (schochet) as a kosher slaughterer.
Karpas : Parsley, celery or other green vegetable dipped in salt water, used during Passover.
Kasha : Buckwheat (a fruit, not a grain) with the shell removed, used as a cereal.
Kasher : To “make kosher,” usually applied to the soaking and salting procedures used in the production of kosher meat and poultry.
Kashruth : The Jewish Dietary Laws, the basis of which are found in Deuteronomy.
Kichel : A cookie or wafer.
Kiddush : “Blessing,” usually with wine; also, the wine used for blessing.
Kielbasa : A highly seasoned, Polish-style sausage.
Kishke : A long tubular roll stuffed with savory fillings and roasted with onions, salt and pepper.
Knish : A baked or fried dumpling, usually served with soup, filled with chopped, seasoned meat, potatoes or kasha.
Kosher : “Proper;” used to designate foods that comply with the Jewish Dietary Laws.
Kosher for Passover : Kosher for use during Passover, containing no chometz (leavening).
Kreplach : Noodle dough, cut into small squares or triangles, filled with meat and cooked in soup.
Kugel : Baked pudding, especially one made with noodles and/or potatoes.

Latkes : Pancakes made of minced potato and onion and fried in oil.
L’Chaim : “To life!” A toast.
L’Shanah Tova : “Good Year,” a greeting used for Rosh Hashanah
Lox : Smokedsalmon.

Mandlen : Soup nuts.
Mashgiach : Specially trained rabbinical inspector to assure adherence to Kashruth in food processing. Plural: Mashgichim.
Matzo : Unleavened bread.
Mazel Tov : “Good Luck!” or Congratulations.
Megillah : “A scroll,” used to denote any of the five books of the Hagiographa, especially the Book of Esther, read at Purim.
Menorah : An eight-branched candelabra, used at Chanukah.
Milchig : “Milk,” used to denote dairy foods or meals.
Mitzvah : A commandment or precept, or an act of fulfilling a commandment.
Mogen David: “Shield of David,” the six-pointed star recognized as the international symbol of Judaism.
Moror : Bitter herbs such as horseradish or romaine lettuce eaten as part of the Passover Seder as a reminder of the bitter condition of the Israelites in ancient Egypt.

Parve : A term indicating that a food is neither meat nor dairy, and can therefore be eaten with either. Parve items include all fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, eggs, kosher fish and their derivatives.
Passover , Pesach: The holiday commemorating the liberation of the Jewish people from enslavement and their exodus from Egypt (refer to holiday description following).
Pesachdig : For use during Passover. Pierogie, Piroshki: A dumpling made of pastry dough stuffed with a variety of fillings.
Purim : The Feast of Lots, commemorating the deliverance, by Esther, of the Jews from massacre by Haman (refer to holiday description following).

Rabbi : “Teacher,” and “spiritual leader.”
Rosh Chodesh : “Head of the Month,” the first day of the Jewish month.
Rosh Hashanah : “Head of the Year,” the Jewish New Year (refer to holiday description following).

Schav : Spinach soup, usually served cold.
Schmaltz : Rendered chicken or goose fat.
Schochet : A person specially trained for the ritual kosher slaughtering of animals. Plural: Schochtim.
Seder : “Order of Arrangement,” used to describe the symbolic Passover meal, eaten in the order of the exodus from Egypt.
Shabbos : (Yiddish)”Sabbath.”Hebrew:”Shabbat.”
Shalom : “Peace.” Used in greeting, both hello and good bye.
Shofar : Ram’s horn, used as a wind instrument to trumpet the arrival of Rosh Hashanah and summon one to repentance.
Simchat Torah : “Rejoice in the Law,” a festival at the conclusion of the annual cycle of Torah reading.
Strudel : A dessert pastry of rolled or stretched dough filled with apples, raisins or other fruits.
Sukkah : A temporary hut or booth, built for the holiday of Sukkot.
Sukkot : The fall festival of the harvest (refer to holiday description following).
Synagogue : A place of worship.

Talmud : Collection of writings that constitute the Jewish civil and religious law.
Torah : “The Law,” the divine law, correlating to the first five books of the Old Testament. The Torah is hand scribed on a scroll of parchment and kept in the ark in the synagogue.
Tov, Tova : “Good,” frequently found in expressions and combined words such as Mazel Tov.
Treife : Not kosher.
Tzimmes : A dish of sweetened meat and carrots.

Yarmulke : Head covering or skull cap worn by Jewish males.
Yiddish : A language of the Jews in eastern and western Europe based on the German, Hebrew, Aramaic and Slavic languages.
Yom Kippur : “Day of Atonement,” the most religious of Jewish holidays (refer to holiday description following).
Yom Tov : (Hebrew) “Good Day,” used to signify a holy day. Yiddish: Yontiff


Glossary courtesy of Toronto Kosher