The Girl Who Thought She Was A Goat

Hebrew is not the simplest language. Half the time you only know how a written word is pronounced based on its context. This is why taking a word out of context can lead to... interesting results:

Today's victim wanted the Hebrew word for "Strength" tattooed on her wrist. And she got it, sort of...

See, she used the letters AYIN and ZAYIN to spell "Oz", which means courage and also more obscurely - strength. However, she didn't use Nikkud (vowels), so the reader is left guessing how to pronounce this word. And it just so happens that the most common way to read this specific letter combination is "Ez" which means "Goat".

Yep, this tattoo will definitely read "Goat" to any Hebrew speaker. Nice way to label yourself!

Now, don't be crushed if you wanted your very own Hebrew "Strength" tattoo, you still can have one. You can have any other strength synonym, plenty of those in the Hebrew language. If you're set on "Oz", you could have it too, just use either Nikkud or Full Spelling, so that people won't confuse you with a goat.

Okay then, lets explore the possible translations of "Strength" to Hebrew:

You can see that all the strength words have subtly different meanings and connotations. If you want to use them in a certain situation or sentence, you should ask someone with a working knowledge of Hebrew for advice.


  1. I'm thinking she did that solely to be able, sometime in a conversation, to ask 'V'ani ez?' (what, and I'm a goat?) then look at her wrist. Nice setup for a joke but it might get old. There are some more recent substitutions for the expression, but none so 'right', to my taste. In the States I use '..and I'm what, chopped liver?'

  2. In your suggestions, you recommend three words, all using Vav as a vowel. In the case of a tattoo, I'd use a Holam instead - just seems more elegant to me. It can also be used to solve the problem of the lady in the picture.

  3. Great catch!

    I saw (and could not politely photograph) a woman whose wrist sported the delightful phrase
    אני חופש - which was written correctly and means "I am a vacation".

    Upon inquiry, it turned out she meant to say that she is free. Oh, well...

  4. Actually, "אני חופש" translates into "I am freedom". "I am a vacation" would be "אני חופשה" while the meaning she wanted would be "אני חופשיה" for a woman, or "אני חופשי" for a man.

  5. What a fascinating perspective. "חופש" is used in modern Hebrew (you know, the kind people actually speak and write) primarily as "vacation". Examples: "החופש הגדול" is the summer break (vacation, holiday).

    חופשה is at a more literate register, and also means vacation.

    I concur with your opinion about the correct form of her desired statement, though:
    אני חופשיה would have been far clearer.

  6. yeah, "חופש" is used in modern Hebrew to mean vacation, but the actual "official" meaning is still freedom. At least some of it, I think is because of the summer break, which is seen by children as freedom from school in addition to being a vacation.

  7. we're off the goat here but still on-general-topic, ha. There may still be room to insert a 'bet', i.e. Ani B'Hofesh. That way she wouldn't have to bend her schedule to just anyone's demand. Lucky she didn't write Ani He'nam. (I'm free...-of cost)

  8. Just wanted to add another option, if you don't want to have nikud in your "strength" translation then I think you're best off with the word עוצמה.

  9. Reut has a point. עוצמה (strength, might) would be great for a tattoo.

  10. there's nothing wrong with oz. you don't have to spell it with a VAV.
    the boy's name עז is written without it.
    I understand the confusion with EZ but if you're not a complete ignorant you will read it properly.

  11. You will read it properly based on what, a gut feeling? There's no context, you have no way to know that she didn't really mean "goat".

  12. Actually, it can be read as AZ, which means strong. So its not strength, but close.

    But I must admit goat is the first thing that comes to mind when reading this tatoo

  13. Actually, the right way is to write

  14. Maybe she's a Capricorn (although, in Hebrew zodiacs I've seen it's writing "gdi").

  15. Excuse me, but the title for this post should clearly have been "Which Animal Has One Ayin and One Zayin?"

  16. I cracked up about the whole חופש/חופשה thing; I remembered this line (some book?) where a kid uses חופש to talk about his summer break, and some old lady (trying to be as snarky as possible, I think) says, "Oh, you've managed to get true freedom?" I think it's one of those things that language nuts get really annoyed about

  17. אני חושבת שבעברית עכשווית אפשר להשתמש במילה "דרור" במקום "חופש", כדי למנוע בלבול עם חופשה.
    לגבי העז, היא יכולה להוסיף חולם חסר בקלות (כולה נקודה), וייצא לה אחלה קעקוע. גם גברת חופש יכולה להוסיף שתי אותיות בסוף ולהפוך לחופשיה.

  18. I found this post when I was Googling different words for "strength" in Hebrew. I'm hoping to find the *most* accurate word for strength - meaning inner/emotional strength, courage, and making it through a difficult situation. I've researched online and asked various people who are fluent Hebrew speakers, but I keep getting mixed answers.

    I've seen:

    כּוֹחַ (but I think that is more physical strength, and *not* what I'm looking for)
    חוזק (I've been told this may be the most accurate word to encompass strength/courage and getting through something difficult)

    If someone could tell me which of the above words is the MOST accurate description of [inner strength/courage] as one word (and the noun form, NOT a verb or adjective), I would be *so* grateful to finally have the right answer! If there isn't a word that captures the meaning of strength AND courage in one term, please let me know the most accurate word for "inner strength" and "courage" as separate words. If you could include the vowels that would be great; but if you're not able to, I'd still appreciate the words without vowels.

    Thank you!

  19. cloudyskynine, you are missing the point of this blog, my friend.

    1. No? I read this blog because it's funny. But there is obviously quite a few people around here with the knowledge to give good advise.
      It's quite a while since you asked, but if you're still pondering I'd rake the advise of the blog owner. Ask a rabbi.

  20. Im curious as to how dates are written in Hebrew. Im about to get a tattoo and Im going to have my husband and childrens names and birthdates written in Hewbrew. How would you translate a date like 11/20/2009 ??

    1. Hi, It's a while since you wrote... but I'll answer to the sake of others.
      There are at least 2 ways to translate this date. In Israel there's is use of the "regular" dates, say "11/20/2009" which is commonly written as "20/11/2009"
      However there is an Hebrew calendar with its own counting, in this case you go to the date your looking for in the correct year and come up with "ג' כסלו התש"ע" which is the third (ג is the third letter in Hebrew, and the counting of dates was traditionally made with letters not with numbers) of month "Kislev", year 5760 to Jewish counting.

      You can also say "העשרים לנובמבר אלפיים ותשע" if you want to translate "20/11/2009" to literally saying "the twentieth of November two thousand and nine"

      So you see, you need to be more specific with your request


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