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Weird, wacky, wonderful (Hebrew) words: כַּדּוּר / Ball


There are many Hebrew words for which there’s no tidy English translation. 

Like what?  How about lehitlabet/ הִתְלַבֵּט, which means “to be conflicted about something” or have doubts, be uncertain, or be in the middle of pondering something.  The word just doesn’t exist in English.

But sometimes, it happens the other way around as well…

Like the word kadur / כַּדּוּר, which technically means “ball.”  Simple, right?

Except that the concept of “ball” in Hebrew extends far beyond where its boundaries are found in English.

In English, one tends to think of a “ball” as falling within a specific range of sizes, anywhere between “golf” and “bowling.” 

This a ball:


And this is a ball:


But in Hebrew, these also count as כדורים/kadurim, or balls:


Yes, they are far smaller.  In fact, I sort of giggle inside at the thought of “taking a ball.”  There is the word glula / גְּלוּלָה, which means “pill,” but it is used almost specifically to mean “the Pill.”  Anything else is a “ball.”

But you’d better be careful about which shop you walk into to ask for your pills, because these are also “balls,” or kadurim / כדורים:


And remember how I said before that, in English, we sort of have a built-in psychological limit to what we consider a “ball”?

Not so in Hebrew.  Just as that little teensy pill can be considered a “ball,” so can this…


That’s because, in Hebrew, there’s no word for “sphere” or “globe.”  So you call the earth kadur ha’aretz / כַּדּוּר הָאָרֶץ, which means literally, “ball of the earth.”  (Though there is also the Latinate globus / גְּלוֹבּוּס, which means exactly what it sounds like, but is far less commonly used.)

I love this language so much, even if it sometimes falls short, or is just plain quirky.  I guess you could say I’m still having a ball learning Hebrew.  Oh, except that kind of ball is actually translated neshef / נֶשֶׁף, like the one Cinderella went to. 

Never mind.  When it comes to translating puns, I guess you can’t win ‘em ball.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


  1. For the record, ,Tzivia, I love your blog! It's exactly what I'm looking for and I love these posts on weird things in Israel or peculiarities on the Hebrew language. Keep posting!


    1. Hey, thanks! I feel like I should hurry before this stuff all starts to seem ordinary. But so far, we're 2 years in and no sign of it being normal yet. :-)

  2. Actually, the kind of "ball" you're having in learning the language is more like "kef" than "neshef" :-)

    1. Thanks! I think my fingers were 2 steps ahead of my brain on that one. I think the English expression comes from a ball as in Cinderella. Not 100% sure, but that was my assumption. Thus, "neshef." Kef is a way better way of expressing this mood in modern Hebrew, of course. :-)


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