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Heated Hebrew – How to Express Anger in Hebrew

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Did you know that the word for a native Israeli is צבר (tzabar), often referred to as Sabra in English? This is a term which refers to the prickly pear, the fruit of a desert cactus. This is because, much like this same fruit, Israelis are known for being prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside.

In other words, while we’re quite rough around the edges, we have hearts of gold! One of the main ways this prickliness or roughness takes expression in our culture is in the piquant language we use to express anger in Hebrew.

Indeed, Israelis are well-known for having short—and even explosive—tempers when rubbed the wrong way. And the truth is that the Middle East in general is a place where arguments are vocal and colorful affairs. You’ll often see or overhear such arguments out in the street, and at a pitch that projects around the corner and up the street. Therefore, it’s no surprise that there should be such a rich lexicon of words and phrases to express anger, frustration, derision, and disdain.

In light of all this, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with the proper linguistic defenses should you find yourself being cut off in traffic, getting ripped off in the marketplace, or being shoved or elbowed as you try to board the bus. Not only can these words and phrases make it clear you mean business and are no easy prey (which tourists are often seen as in Israel, as elsewhere in the world), but they provide a colorful way to spice up your Hebrew and have some fun along the way!

In this article, you’ll learn how to let others know that you’re angry in Hebrew—and how to hold your own in a heated argument. Let’s get started.

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Table of Contents

  1. Angry Imperatives
  2. Angry Warnings
  3. Rhetorical Questions to Express Anger
  4. Expressions to Describe Anger
  5. Bonus: The Top Five Ways to Make an Israeli Angry
  6. Learn Hebrew with HebrewPod101, No Anger Necessary

1. Angry Imperatives

Complaints

As you probably already know, Hebrew is an extremely economical and direct language. And there’s nothing more economical and direct than Hebrew imperatives, which are generally just one or two syllables. This makes them perfect for expressing anger, and indeed, there’s no small number of situations where we use them for this purpose. Let’s have a look at some of the most common examples. But first, remember to conjugate your verbs depending on whom you’re speaking to.

  • סתום
    Stom
    “Shut up.”

Be careful using this one, as these can definitely be considered fighting words. Just like in English, you wouldn’t tell just anyone to shut up; you want to be cautious when and with whom you use this phrase. Here’s an example of when you might use it, in this case with a less than scrupulous taxi driver:

    סתום! כבר אמרתי לך שאני לא משלם אפילו שקל יותר ממה שמוצג במונה.
    Stom! Kvar amarti lekha she-ani lo meshalem afilu shekel yoter mi-mah she-mutzah ba-moneh.
    Shut up! I already told you that I’m not paying a shekel more than what the meter is showing.”

We can also intensify this imperative as follows:

  • סתום את הפה
    Stom et ha-peh
    “Shut your trap.”

סתום את הפה! אני לא רוצה לשמוע ממך אף מילה נוספת!
Stom et ha-peh! Ani lo rotzeh lishmo’a mimkha af milah nosefet!
Shut your trap! I don’t want to hear one more word out of you!”

  • עצור
    Atzor
    “Stop.”

    עצור מיד! אם תיגע שוב בתיק שלי, אתה תצטער על זה!
    Atzor miyad! Im tiga shuv batik sheli, atah titzta’er al zeh.
    Stop immediately! If you touch my bag again, you’ll be sorry.”

  • עזוב
    Azov
    “Let it go.” / “Leave it be.”

    עזוב כבר! אני לא רוצה לשמוע יותר על מה שאתה מוכר.
    Azov kvar! Ani lo rotzeh lishmoa yoter al mah she-atah mokher.
    Let it go already! I don’t want to hear anything more about what you’re selling.”

Note the following variation:

  • עזוב אותי בשקט
    Azov oti be-sheket.
    “Leave me in peace.” / “Leave me alone.”

    עזוב אותי בשקט! אתה ממש מטריד אותי.
    Azov oti be-sheket! Atah mamash matrid oti.
    Leave me alone! You’re really bothering me.”

When you’re very angry in Hebrew, there’s a number of ways you can tell someone to get lost. Let’s take a look at the most common ones:

  • עוף לי מהעיניים
    Uf li me-ha-eynayim
    “Get out of my face.” (literally: “Fly away from my eyes.” )

    עוף לי מהעיניים! ואני לא רוצה לראות אותך שוב.
    Uf li me-ha-eynayim! Ve-ani lo rotzeh lir’ot otkha shuv.
    Get out of my face! And I don’t ever want to see you again.”

  • טוס מכאן
    Tus mikan
    “Get away from me.” (literally: “Fly away,” as in what a plane does)

    טוס מכאן לפני שאני מזעיק משטרה!
    Tus mikan lifney sheani mazik mishtarah!
    Get away from me before I call the police!”

  • סע
    Sa
    “Take off.” (specifically when the person we’re talking to is driving a vehicle)

    סע כבר! אתה תוקע את כל התנועה.
    Sa kvar! Atah toke’a et kol ha-tnuah.
    Take off already! You’re blocking all the traffic.”

2. Angry Warnings

Hebrew is definitely a great language for warning people in! This is true whether we’re talking about a health advisory or warning someone not to get in your face. Of course, in this lesson, we’re interested in the latter. So let’s have a look at some of the most common ways to warn someone to back off.

  • לא כדאי לך להתעסק איתי
    Lo keday lekha lehit’asek iti
    “You’d better not mess with me.”

    לא כדאי לך להתעסק איתי. אני יודע ג׳ו ג׳יטסו.
    Lo keday lekha lehit’asek iti. Ani yodea ju jitsu.
    You’d better not mess with me. I know jujitsu.”

  • אל תנסה אותי
    Al tenaseh oti
    “Don’t try me.”

    אל תנסה אותי. אני לא ממש נחמד כשאני כועס.
    Al tenaseh oti. Ani lo mamash nekhmad ke-she-ani koes.
    Don’t try me. I’m not very pleasant when I get angry.”

  • אני לא אגיד את זה שוב
    Ani lo agid et zeh shuv
    “I’m not going to repeat myself.”

    תוריד ממני את היד! אני לא אגיד את זה שוב.
    Torid mimeni et ha-yad! Ani lo agid et zeh shuv.
    “Get your hands off me! I’m not going to repeat myself.

  • אני מזהיר אותך
    Ani mazhir otkha
    “I’m warning you.”

    אני מזהיר אותך, תחזיר לי את מה שלקחת.
    Ani mazhir otkha, takhzir et mah she-lakakhta.
    I’m warning you, give back what you took.”

3. Rhetorical Questions to Express Anger

Negative Verbs

Another common way to express that you’re angry in Hebrew, apart from imperatives and warnings, is through rhetorical questions. Obviously, you need to make sure to use the correct intonation, just as you would in English, to make it clear you’re using these rhetorically. Here are some choice examples of rhetorical questions to express anger in Hebrew.

  • מה חשבת לעצמך?
    Mah khashavta le-atzmekha?
    “What were you thinking?”

    מה חשבת לעצמך? אתה חוסם לי את החנייה!
    Mah khashavta le-atzmekha? Atah khosem li et ha-khanayah!
    What were you thinking? You’re blocking my driveway!”

  • מה נראה לך?
    Mah nir’eh lekha?
    “What does it look like to you?”

    מה נראה לך, שכל הכביש זה רכוש פרטי שלך?
    Mah nir’eh lekha, shekol ha-kvish zeh rekhush prati shelkha?
    What does it look like to you, that the entire street is your private property?”

  • מי אתה חושב שאתה?
    Mi atah khoshev she-atah?
    “Who do you think you are?”

    מי אתה חושב שאתה שתאמר לי מה לעשות, ראש הממשלה?
    Mi atah khoshev she-atah she-tomar li mah la’asot, rosh hamemshalah?
    Who do you think you are telling me what to do, the Prime Minister?”

  • השתגעת?
    Hishtagata?
    “Have you lost your mind?”

    תגיד לי, השתגעת? 100 שקל? זה לא שווה אפילו 20.
    Tagid li, histagata? Me’ah shekel? Zeh lo shaveh afilu esrim.
    “Tell me, have you lost your mind? 100 shekels? That’s not even worth 20.”

  • מה, אתה דפוק?
    Mah, atah dafuk?
    “What, are you nuts?”

    מה, אתה דפוק? עברת באור אדום!
    Mah, atah dafuk? Avarta be-or adom!
    What, are you nuts? You just ran through a red light!”

*Note that this last expression, though we often use it jokingly or half-seriously among friends, can be highly offensive if used with a stranger. So be careful whom you say this to!

4. Expressions to Describe Anger

Woman Making Angry Gesture at Man

Lastly, let’s take a look at what might certainly be considered a healthier alternative to venting your anger in Hebrew through direct imperatives, bold warnings, or provocative rhetorical questions. Let’s learn about expressing how you feel. In this case, following our theme, we’re talking about feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment. Below are some ways we can tell another person how we’re feeling without necessarily letting our emotions get the best of us.

  • אני כועס (מאוד)
    Ani koes (meod).
    “I’m (very) angry.”

    אני כועס מאוד בגלל מה שאמרת לי אתמול.
    Ani koes meod biglal mah she-amarta l etmoli.
    I’m very angry over what you said to me yesterday.”

  • נמאס לי
    Nim’as li
    “I’m sick of…”

    נמאס לי כבר מהשטויות שלך!
    Nim’as li kvar me-ha-shtuyot shelkha!”
    I’m sick of your antics!”

  • אני לא סובל…
    Ani lo sovel
    “I can’t stand…”

    אני לא סובל את הרעש הזה! הנמיכו כבר את הקולות שלכם!
    Ani lo sovel et ha-raash hazeh! Hanmikhu kvar et ha-kolot she-lakhem!
    I can’t stand that noise! Lower your voices already!”

  • אני ממש מאוכזב
    Ani mamash meukhzav
    “I’m truly disappointed.”

    אני ממש מאוכז מהארוחה הזאת. אמרו שזו דווקא מסעדה טובה.
    Ani mamash meukhzav me-ha-arukhah hazot. Amru li she-zu davka mis’adah tovah.
    I’m truly disappointed with this meal. I had been told this was a good restaurant.”

  • אין לי כוח
    Eyn li koakh
    “I can’t deal with…”

    אין לי כוח ליום ראשון. כל כך קשה לחזור לעבודה.
    Eyn li koakh le-yom rishon. Kol kakh kasheh lakhzor la-avodah.
    I can’t deal with Sunday. It’s hard to go back to work.”

5. Bonus: The Top Five Ways to Make an Israeli Angry

Just for fun, while we’re on the subject of anger, let’s take a look at the top five ways to really get an Israeli heated. Mind you, this really is just for fun; we don’t recommend trying these out on your next trip to Tel Aviv. Remember that Israeli is a high-tension society, so always be careful about taking a joke too far! Without further ado, here are the top five ways to make an Israeli angry:

1. Driving a vehicle on Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It’s customary in Israel for the streets to be nearly empty of traffic out of respect for the tradition, even though many (if not most) Israelis are not particularly religious. Therefore, you don’t want to be the only one on the road on this day.

However, feel free to hop on a bike or slap on a pair of rollerblades and take to the streets. This is a common phenomenon to see in Israel on Yom Kippur, as Israelis take advantage of the lack of traffic to do some relaxing R&R.

2. Ignoring the commemoration sirens

PA Sirens

Twice a year, on Holocaust Memorial Day and on the Day of Commemoration for Fallen Heroes and Terror Victims, there is a minute-long siren that’s sounded throughout Israel. For this minute, people stand still and in silence out of respect for the memories of those people. All traffic pulls to a halt and people exit their vehicles to stand and commemorate the dead. Out of respect, do not violate this moment or you could find yourself the victim of some serious anger from the Israelis around you.

3. Asking for ketchup on your falafel or shawarma

Ketchup

This is a surefire way to get the chef heated at you—and remember, he’s standing over boiling oil already! Falafel and shawarma are eaten with tahini, amba (a mango sauce), and spicy sauce. Ketchup in Israel is for fries!

4. Eating pita and hummus with a fork and knife

If you want to keep from irking the Israelis around you, note the correct way to eat these classic Israeli dishes. You rip a small piece of pita bread and use it to scoop up a bit of hummus, and then put it right in your mouth. No utensils are necessary. This is part of the communal table etiquette in Israel, so go ahead and use your hands!

5. Joking about security matters

Security Guard

Remember that Israel is in a constant state of existential war. We’ve been through multiple wars, even more smaller-scale operations, and are under threat of terrorist attack daily. Therefore, we don’t generally take kindly to jokes about bombs, attacks, and so on.

You’ll notice, as well, a high presence of military and police personnel wherever you go in Israel. You’ll also be subject to security checks when entering most public places. This is just part of normal life for us. Don’t take it personally or get stressed about it. Just let the security officers do their jobs and keep us all safe. After all, Israeli security forces are the best in the world!

6. Learn Hebrew with HebrewPod101, No Anger Necessary

Now that we’ve looked at a bunch of ways to express anger and frustration in Hebrew, remember that learning Hebrew is nothing to get upset over! While it’s pretty fun to practice these phrases, imagining how we’ll defend ourselves against aggressive drivers and predatory marketplace vendors, learning a language should always be a positive experience.

Take advantage of HebrewPod101’s wealth of lessons and materials to practice at your own pace. And if there’s something you need more help with, feel free to get in touch and let us know!

In the meantime, drop us a comment and let us know which of these angry phrases is your favorite! Are there any angry phrases we didn’t cover that you want to know? Are you ready to be angry in Hebrew? We look forward to hearing from you.

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