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October 4, 2019

Word of the Day: Dreidel

2 CQ

Word of the Day : December 24, 2016

dreidel \DRAY-dul\ noun


1 : a 4-sided toy marked with Hebrew letters and spun like a top in a game of chance

2 : a children's game of chance played especially at Hanukkah with a dreidel


The adults chatted in the living room while the children amused themselves by playing dreidel.

"He has bought a range of items, including a book on the mystical Jewish practice kabbalah and a glass dreidel." — Zoe Greenberg, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2016

Did You Know?

On each of the dreidel's four sides is inscribed a Hebrew letter—nun, gimel, he, and shin—which together stands for "Nes gadol haya sham," meaning "A great miracle happened there" (in Israel, the letter pe, short for po, "here," is often used instead of shin). This phrase refers to the miracle of the small amount of oil—enough for one day—which burned for eight days in the Temple of Jerusalem. But when playing dreidel, the letters have a more utilitarian significance. The dreidel is spun and depending on which letter is on top when it lands, the player's currency—be it pennies or candy—is added to or taken from the pot. (Nun means the player does nothing; gimel means the player gets everything; he means the player gets half; and shin means the player adds to the pot.) The word dreidel was borrowed into English early in the 20th century from the Yiddish dreydl (itself from the word dreyen, which means "to turn").

Aired December 24, 2016

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