Judaeo-Spanish: Wikis


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Judezmo or Ladino/Judeo-Spanish
ג׳ודיאו-איספאנייול Djudeo-espanyol, לאדינו Ladino
Pronunciation [dʒuðeo espaɲol]
Spoken in Israel, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, France, Greece, United States of America, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Mexico, Argentina, Curaçao
Total speakers 100,000 in Israel
8,000 in Turkey
1,000 in Greece
300 in the United States
unknown numbers elsewhere, steady decline in all those places
Language family Indo-European
Official status
Official language in None
Regulated by Alliance Israelite Universelle
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 lad
ISO 639-3 lad

Judeo-Spanish, known locally as Judezmo,Djudeo-Espanyol, Ladino, Djudezmo, Djudeo-Kasteyano, etc., commonly known as Ladino, is a Romance language derived from Old Spanish. As a Jewish language, it is influenced heavily by Hebrew and Aramaic, but also Arabic, Turkish and to a lesser extent Greek and other languages where Sephardic exiles settled around the world, primarily throughout the Ottoman Empire.

Currently, speakers are almost exclusively Sephardic Jews, principally those in or from Thessaloniki (Greece), Istanbul, Mexico and Izmir (modern Turkey), all localities into which the Sephardim re-settled centuries ago.

Judeo-Spanish has kept the postalveolar phonemes /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ of Old Castilian, which both changed to the velar /x/ in modern Spanish; it also has an /x/ phoneme taken over from Hebrew. In some places it has also retained certain characteristic words, such as muestro for nuestro (our). Its grammatical structure is close to that of Spanish, with the addition of many terms from Hebrew, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian and Bosnian depending on the geographic origin of the speaker.

Like many other Jewish languages, Judeo-Spanish is in serious danger of language extinction because most native speakers today are elderly, many of whom had immigrated to Israel where the language has not been transmitted to their children or grandchildren. However, it is experiencing a minor revival among Sephardic communities, especially in music. In some countries, especially expatriate communities in Latin America, there is also a danger of extinction due to the risk of dialect levelling, that is, assimilation into modern Spanish.



Today, especially in Israel, the language is commonly called "Ladino" (a variant of "Latin")(לדינו), though many consider this use incorrect. The language is also called Judeo-Spanish, Judeo-Espagnol, judeo-Español[1], Sefardi, Djudio, Dzhudezmo, Judezmo, and Spanyol or Español sefardita; Haquitía (from the Arabic haka حكى, "tell") refers to the dialect of North Africa, especially Morocco. The dialect of the Oran area of Algeria was called Tetuani, after the Moroccan town Tétouan, since many Orani Jews came from this city. In Hebrew, the language is called Spanyolit.

According to the Ethnologue:

The name 'Judezmo' is used by Jewish linguists and Turkish Jews and American Jews; 'Judeo-Spanish' by Romance philologists; 'Ladino' by laymen, especially in Israel; 'Hakitia' by Moroccan Jews; 'Spanyol' by some others.[2]

The derivation of the name "Ladino" is complicated. In pre-Expulsion times in the area known today as Spain the word simply meant "Mix" or "Mixture": literary latino ="DRAE Ladino 2">Ladino. 2nd sense in the DRAE</ref> in general as distinct from Arabic. (The first European language grammar and dictionary, of Castilian, refers to it as "ladino," or ladina. In the Middle Ages, the word "Latin" was frequently used to mean simply "mixture", and in particular the language one understands: a "latiner" or "latimer" meant a translator.) Following the expulsion, Jews spoke of "the Ladino" to mean the traditional oral translation of the Bible into archaic Spanish. By extension it came to mean that style of Castilian generally, in the same way that (among Kurdish Jews) Targum has come to mean Judeo-Aramaic and (in Arab countries) sharħ has come to mean Judaeo-Arabic. Historia 16, 1978</ref> reserve "Ladino" for the very Hebraicized form of the language[3] used in religious translations such as the Ferrara Bible, which was based on the traditional oral version.


At the time of the expulsion from Spain, the day to day language of the Jews of different regions of the peninsula was little if at all different from that of their Christian neighbours, though there may have been some dialect mixing to form a sort of Jewish lingua franca. There was however a special style of Castilian used for purposes of study or translation, featuring a more archaic dialect, a large number of Hebrew and Aramaic loan-words and a tendency to render Hebrew word order literally (ha-laylah ha-zeh, meaning "this night", was rendered la noche la esta instead of the normal Spanish esta noche[4]). As stated above, some authorities would confine the term "Ladino" to this style.

Following the expulsion, the process of dialect mixing continued, though Castilian remained by far the largest contributor. The daily language was increasingly influenced both by the language of study and by the local non-Jewish vernaculars such as Greek and Turkish, and came to be known as Judezmo: in this respect the development is parallel to that of Yiddish. However, many speakers, especially among the community leaders, also had command of a more formal style nearer to the Spanish of the expulsion, referred to as Castellano.

The Judeo-Castilian dialect of Northern Morocco, known as Haketia, is the subject of a separate article.


The grammar of Judeo-Spanish, and its core vocabulary (approx. 60% of its total vocabulary), are basically Castilian. However, the phonology of the consonants and part of the lexicon are in some respects closer to Galician/Portuguese than to modern Castilian, because both retained characteristics of medieval Ibero-Romance that Castilian later lost. Compare for example Judeo-Spanish aninda ("still") with Portuguese ainda (Galician aínda, Asturian aína or enaína) and Castilian aún, or the initial consonants in Judaeo-Spanish fija, favla ("daughter", "speech"), Portuguese filha, fala (Galician filla, fala, Asturian fía, fala, Aragonese filla, fabla, Catalan filla), Castilian hija, habla. This sometimes varied with dialect: in Judaeo-Spanish popular songs both fijo and hijo are found. The Judeo-Spanish pronunciation of s as "sh" before a "k" sound or at the end of certain words (such as seis, pronounced "sesh", for six) is also shared with Portuguese spoken in Portugal but not with Spanish.

Archaic features retained by Judeo-Spanish are as follows:

  • Modern Spanish z (c before e or i), pronounced as "s" or [θ] (as the English "th" in "think"), according to dialect, corresponds to two different phonemes in Old Castilian: ç (c before e or i), pronounced "ts", and z (in all positions), pronounced "dz". This distinction has been retained in Judeo-Spanish, where the two phonemes are pronounced "s" and "z" respectively: korason/coraçon, "heart" (modern Spanish corazón) versus dezir, "to say" (modern Spanish decir). (The cedilla in the character ç was invented in Spanish to represent the former of the two phonemes, though it is not used in modern Spanish.)
  • Modern Spanish j, pronounced [x], corresponds to two different phonemes in Old Castilian: x, pronounced [ʃ] (English "sh"), and j, pronounced [ʒ] ("zh"). Again the distinction has been retained: basho/baxo, "low" or "down" (modern Spanish bajo) versus mujer, "woman" or "wife".
  • In modern Spanish, the use of the letters b and v is determined partially on the basis of earlier forms of the language and partially on the basis of Latin etymology: both letters are pronounced as the same bilabial phoneme, realized either as [b] or as [β] according to position. In Old Castilian and in Judeo-Spanish the choice is made phonetically: bivir, "to live" (modern Spanish vivir). In Judeo-Spanish v is a labiodental "v" (as in English) rather than a bilabial.


Judeo-Spanish is distinguished from other Spanish dialects by the presence of the following features:

  • With regard to pronouns, Judeo-Spanish maintains the second-person pronouns as (informal singular), vos (formal singular), and vosotros (plural); usted and ustedes do not exist
  • Due to this choice of pronoun, the verb ending of the second-person plural is -aís /aʃ/
  • In verbs, the preterite indicates that an action taken once in the past was also completed at some point in the past. This is as opposed to the imperfect tense which refers to any continuous, habitual, unfinished or repetitive past action. Thus, "I ate falafel yesterday" would use the first-person preterite form of eat, comí, whereas "When I lived in Izmir, I ran five miles every evening" would use the first-person imperfect tense form, koría. Though some of the morphology has changed, usage is just as in normative Castilian.

Regular conjugation in the present:

  -ar verbs (avlar "to speak") -er verbs (komer "to eat") and -ir verbs (bivir "to live")
yo -o (avlo) -o (komo) (bivo)
tu -as (avlas) -es (komes) (bives)
el, eya -a (avla) -e (kome) (bive)
mozotros -amos (avlamos) -emos (komemos), -imos (bivimos)
vozotros -ásh (avlásh) -ésh (komésh),-ísh (bivísh)
eyos, eyas -an (avlan) -en (komen) (biven)

Regular conjugation in the preterite:

  -ar verbs (avlar) -er verbs (komer) and -ir verbs (bivir)
yo -í (avlí) -í (komí) (biví)
tu -ates (avlates) -ites (komites) (bivites)
el, eya -ó (avló) -yó (komyó) (bivyó)
mozotros -imos (avlimos) -imos (komimos) (bivimos)
vozotros -atesh (avlatesh) -itesh (komitesh) (bivitesh)
eyos, eyas -aron (avlaron) -yeron (komyeron) (bivyeron)


The following systems of writing Judeo-Spanish have been used or proposed.

  1. Traditionally Judeo-Spanish, especially in Ladino religious texts, was written in the Hebrew alphabet (especially in Rashi script), a practice that was very common, possibly almost universal, until the 19th century (and called aljamiado, by analogy with the equivalent use of the Arabic alphabet). This occasionally persists today, especially in religious use.
  2. The Greek and Cyrillic alphabets have been employed in the past,[5] but this is rare or nonexistent nowadays.
  3. In Turkey, Judeo-Spanish is most commonly written in the Turkish variant of the Latin alphabet. This may be the most widespread system in use today, as following the decimation of Sephardic communities throughout much of Europe (particularly in Greece and the Balkans) during the Holocaust the greatest proportion of speakers remaining were Turkish Jews. However, the Judeo-Spanish page of the Turkish Jewish newspaper Şalom now uses the Israeli system.
  4. The Israeli Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino promotes a phonetic transcription into the Latin alphabet from the traditional Hebrew script, making no concessions to Spanish orthography, and uses it in its publication Aki Yerushalayim. The songs Non komo muestro Dio and Por una ninya, below, and the text in the sample paragraph, below, are written using this system.
  5. Works published in Spain usually adopt the standard orthography of modern Castilian, to make them easier for modern Spaniards to read.[6] These editions often use diacritics to show where the Judaeo-Spanish pronunciation differs from modern Spanish.
  6. Perhaps more conservative and less popular, others including Pablo Carvajal Valdés suggest that Judeo-Spanish should adopt the orthography used during the time of the Jewish expulsion of 1492 from Spain. This system is used below in the transcription of the song Adio querida. (Quando el melekh Nimrod is in a mixture of this and the Israeli system.)

Arguments for and against the 1492 orthography

The Castilian orthography of that time has been standardized and eventually changed by a series of orthographic reforms, the last of which occurred in the 18th century, to become the spelling of modern Spanish. Judeo-Spanish has retained some of the pronunciation that at the time of reforms had become archaic in standard Castilian. Adopting 15th century Castilian orthography (similar to the modern orthography of Portuguese) would therefore closely fit the pronunciation of Judeo-Spanish.

  • The old spelling would reflect
    • the /s/ (originally /ts/) - c (before e and i) and ç (cedilla), as in caça,
    • the /s/ - ss, as in passo, and
    • the /ʃ/ - x, as in dixo.
  • The letter j would be retained, but only in instances, such as mujer, where the pronunciation is /ʒ/ in
  • The spelling of /z/ (originally /dz/) as z would be restored in words like fazer and dezir.
  • The difference between b and v would be made phonetically, as in Old Castilian, rather than in accordance with the Latin etymology as in modern Spanish. For example Latin DEBET > post-1800 Castilian debe, would return to its Old Castilian spelling deve.

Some old spellings could be restored for the sake of historical interest, rather than to reflect Judeo-Spanish phonology:

  • The old digraphs ch, ph and th (today c/qu - /k/, f - /f/ and t - /t/ in standard Castilian respectively), formally abolished in 1803, would be used in words like orthographía, theología.
  • Latin/Old Castilian q before words like quando, quanto and qual (modern Spanish cuando, cuanto and cual) would also be used.

The supporters of this orthography argue that classical and Golden Age Castilian literature might gain renewed interest, better appreciation and understanding should its orthography be used again.

It remains uncertain how to treat those sounds which the spelling of Old Castilian failed to render phonetically.

  • The s between vowels, as in casa, was probably pronounced /z/ in Old Castilian and is certainly so pronounced in Judeo-Spanish. The same is true of s before m, d and other voiced consonants, as in mesmo or desde. Supporters of Valdés' proposal are unsure about whether this should be written s as in Old Castilian or z in accordance with pronunciation.
  • The distinctive Judeo-Spanish pronunciation of s as /ʃ/ before a /k/ sound, as in buscar, cosquillas, mascar and pescar, or in is endings as in séis, favláis and sois, is probably derived from Portuguese: it is uncertain whether it occurred in Old Castilian. It is debated whether this should be written s as in Old Castilian or x in accordance with the sound.
  • There is some dispute about the Spanish ll combination, which in Judeo-Spanish (as in most areas of Spain) is pronounced like a y. Following Old Castilian orthography this should be written ll, but it is frequently written y in Ladino to avoid ambiguity and reflect the Hebrew spelling. The conservative option is to follow the etymology: caballero, but Mayorca.[7]
  • On this system, it is uncertain how loanwords from Hebrew and other languages should be rendered.


During the Middle Ages, Jews were instrumental in the development of Castilian into a prestige language. Erudite Jews translated Arabic and Hebrew works – often translated earlier from Greek – into Castilian and Christians translated again into Latin for transmission to Europe.

Until recent times, the language was widely spoken throughout the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, having been brought there by Jewish refugees fleeing the area today known as Spain following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

The contact among Jews of different regions and languages, including Catalan, Leonese language and Portugese, developed a unified dialect, already different in some aspects of the Castilian norm that was forming simultaneously in the area known today as Spain, though some of this mixing may have occurred in exile rather than in the peninsula itself. The language was known as Yahudice (Jewish language) in the Ottoman Empire. In late 18th century, Enderunlu Fazıl (Fazyl bin Tahir Enderuni) wrote in his Zenanname: "Castilians speak the Jewish language but they are not Jews."

The closeness and mutual comprehensibility between Judeo-Spanish and Castilian favoured trade among Sephardim (often relatives) ranging from the Ottoman Empire to the Netherlands and the conversos of the Iberian Peninsula.

After the expulsion of the Jews, who were of mostly Portuguese descent, from Dutch Brazil in 1654, Ladino-speaking Jews were one of the influences on the African-Romance creole Papiamento of the Caribbean islands Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.


Over time, a corpus of literature, both liturgical and secular, developed. Early Ladino literature was limited to translations from Hebrew. At the end of the 17th century, Hebrew was disappearing as the vehicle for Rabbinic instruction. Thus a literature in the popular tongue (Ladino) appeared in the 18th century, such as Me'am Lo'ez and poetry collections. By the end of the 19th century, Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire studied in schools of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. French became the language for foreign relations (as it did for Maronites), and Judeo-Spanish drew from French for neologisms. New secular genres appeared: more than 300 journals, history, theatre, biographies. Interaction with French also gave way to the creation of a new language named judeo-franzyol.

Given the relative isolation of many communities, a number of regional dialects of Judeo-Spanish appeared, many with only limited mutual comprehensibility. This is due largely to the adoption of large numbers of loanwords from the surrounding populations, including, depending on the location of the community, from Greek, Turkish, Arabic, and, in the Balkans, Slavic languages, especially Bosnian, Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian. The borrowing in many dialects is so heavy that up to 30% per cent of Judeo-Spanish is of non-Spanish origin. Some words also passed from Judeo-Spanish to neighboring languages: the word "palavra" (<Vulgar Latin "parabola"< Greek "parabole") for example passed into Turkish, Greek, & Romanian[8].

Judeo-Spanish was the common language of Salonika during the period of Ottoman rule. The city became part of the modern Greek Republic in 1912 and subsequently renamed to its original historical name Thessaloniki. Despite a major fire, economic oppression by Greek authorities, and mass settlement of Christian refugees, the language remained widely spoken in Salonika until the deportation and murder of 50,000 Salonikan Jews in the Holocaust during the Second World War.

Ladino was also a language used in Donmeh rites (Dönme in Turkish meaning convert and referring to adepts of Sabbatai Tsevi converted to the Moslem religion in the Ottoman empire). An example is the recite Sabbatai Tsevi esperamos a ti. Today, the religious practices and ritual use of Ladino seem to be confined to elderly generations.

The Castilian colonization of Northern Africa favoured the role of polyglot Sephardim who bridged between Castilian colonizers and Arab and Berber speakers.

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, Judeo-Spanish was the predominant Jewish language in the Holy Land, though the dialect was different in some respects from that spoken in Greece and Turkey. Some Sephardi families have lived in Jerusalem for centuries, and preserve Judeo-Spanish for cultural and folklore purposes, though they now use Hebrew in everyday life.

An often told Sephardic anecdote from Bosnia-Herzegovina has it that, as a Spanish consulate was opened in Sarajevo between the two world wars, two Sephardic women were passing by and, upon hearing a Catholic priest speaking Spanish, thought that – given his language – he was in fact Jewish![9]

In the twentieth century, the number of speakers declined sharply: entire communities were eradicated in the Holocaust, while the remaining speakers, many of whom migrated to Israel, adopted Hebrew. The governments of the new nation-states encouraged instruction in the official languages. At the same time, it aroused the interest of philologists since it conserved language and literature which existed prior to the standardisation of Castilian.

Judeo-Spanish is in serious danger of extinction because many native speakers today are elderly olim (immigrants to Israel), who have not transmitted the language to their children or grandchildren. Nevertheless, it is experiencing a minor revival among Sephardic communities, especially in music. In addition, Sephardic communities in several Latin American countries still use Judeo-Spanish. In these countries, there is an added danger of extinction by assimilation to modern Castilian Spanish.

Kol Yisrael[10] and Radio Nacional de España[11] hold regular radio broadcasts in Judeo-Spanish. Law & Order showed an episode, titled "A Murderer Among Us," with references to the language. Films partially or totally in Judeo-Spanish include Novia que te vea and Every Time We Say Goodbye.

Religious use

The Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo and the Jewish community of Belgrade still chant part of the Sabbath Prayers (Mizmor David) in Ladino. The Sephardic Synagogue Ezra Bessaroth in Seattle, State of Washington (US) was formed by Jews from Turkey and the Island of Rhodes and they use Ladino in some portions of their Shabbat services. The Siddur is called Zehut Yosef and was written by Hazzan Isaac Azose.

The late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translated some scholarly religious Ladino texts into Hebrew &/or English [12] [13].

Modern education

Like Yiddish,[14] [15] the Ladino language is seeing a minor resurgence in terms of educational interest in colleges across the United States and in Israel.[16] Still, given the ethnic demographics among American Jews, it is not surprising that more institutions offer Yiddish language courses than Ladino language courses. Today, only the University of Pennsylvania[17][18] and Tufts University[19] offer Ladino language courses among colleges in the United States.[20] Outside of the United States, Hebrew University also offers Ladino language courses.[21]


Comparison with other languages


El Judeo-Spanish, djudio, Judezmo o ladino es la lingua favlada por los sefardim, djudios ekspulsados de la Espanya enel 1492. Es una lingua derivada del espanyol i favlada por 150.000 personas en komunitas en Israel, la Turkia, antika Yugoslavia, la Gresia, el Maruekos, Mayorka, las Amerikas, entre munchos otros.


El judeo-español, djudio, djudezmo o ladino es la lengua hablada por los sefardíes, judíos expulsados de España en 1492. Es una lengua derivada del español y hablada por 150.000 personas en comunidades en Israel, Turquía, la antigua Yugoslavia, Grecia, Marruecos, Mallorca, las Américas, entre muchos otros.

Old Spanish

El iudeo-hispanyol, djudio, djudezmo uo ladino es la lingua fablada per los sefardim, iudios essipulsatos de la Hispania enel 1492. Es una lingua deriuada delle hispanyol i fablada per 150.ooo personas in-communites in Israel, la Turkaia, antica Yugoslavia, la Graecia, Maiorca, el Maruhek, las Amerikas, inter muncio altres.


El xudeoespañol, djudio, djudezmo o ladino ye la llingua falada polos sefardinos, xudíos expulsados d'España en 1492. Ye una llingua derivada del español y falada por 150.000 persones en comunidaes n'Israel, Turquía, na antigua Yugoslavia, Grecia, Marruecos, Mayorca, nes Amériques, entre munchos otros.


O xudeo-español, djudio, djudezmo ou ladino é a lingua falada polos sefardís, xudeos expulsados de España en 1492. É unha lingua derivada do español e falada por 150.000 persoas en comunidades en Israel, en Turquía, na antiga Iugoslavia, Grecia, Marrocos, Maiorca, nas Américas, entre moitos outros.


O judeu-espanhol, djudio, djudezmo ou ladino é a língua falada pelos sefarditas, judeus expulsos da Espanha em 1492. É uma língua derivada do espanhol e falada por 150.000 pessoas em comunidades em Israel, na Turquia, na antiga Iugoslávia, Grécia, Marrocos, Maiorca, nas Américas, entre muitos outros.


Judeo-Spanish, Djudio, Judezmo, or Ladino is a language spoken by the Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. It is a language derived from Spanish and spoken by 150,000 people in communities in Israel, Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Morocco, Majorca, the Americas, among many others.


Folklorists have been collecting romances and other folk songs, some dating from before the expulsion. Many religious songs in Judeo-Spanish are translations of the Hebrew, usually with a different tune. For example, Ein Keloheinu looks like this in Judeo-Spanish:

Non komo muestro Dio,
Non komo muestro Sinyor,
Non komo muestro Rey,
Non komo muestro Salvador.

Other songs relate to secular themes such as love.

Adío, querida

Tu madre cuando te parió           
Y te quitó al mundo,
Coraçon ella no te dió
Para amar segundo.
Coraçon ella no te dió

Para amar segundo.

Adío Querida,
Non quero la vida,
Me l'amargates tu.
Adío Querida,
Non quero la vida,
Me l'amargates tú.

Va, búxcate otro amor,
Aharva otras puertas,
Aspera otro ardor,
Que para mi sos muerta.
Aspera otro ardor,

Que para mi sos muerta.

Adío Querida,
No quero la vida,
Me l'amargates tu.
Adío Querida,
No quero la vida,
Me l'amargates tú.

Por una Ninya Per una Ninya (Old Spanish) For a Girl (translation)
Por una ninya tan fermoza
l'alma yo la vo a dar
un kuchilyo de dos kortes
en el korason entro.
Per una ninya tan fermoça
l'aima io la voi a dare
un cuiçilo de duos cortes
in il coraçon intro.
For such a beautiful girl
I will give my soul
a double-edged knife
pierced my heart.
No me mires ke'stó kantando
es lyorar ke kero yo
los mis males son muy grandes
no los puedo somportar.
No mi mirares que istoi catando
is lorar que quero io
les mies males soni muelt grandes
no los puoso soportar.
Don't look at me; I am singing,
it is crying that I want,
my sorrows are so great
I can't bear them.
No te lo kontengas tu, fijika,
ke sos blanka komo'l simit,
ay morenas en el mundo
ke kemaron Selanik.
No te lo contengas tu, filia
que sos blanca come'l pane,
ay morenaças in el mondo
que quemaron Selanizia.
Don't hold your sorrows, young girl,
for you are white like bread,
there are brunette girls in the world
who set fire to Thessaloniki.
Quando el Rey Nimrod (Adaptation)                 When King Nimrod (translation)
Quando el Rey Nimrod al campo salía
mirava en el cielo y en la estrellería
vido una luz santa en la judería
que havía de nascer Abraham Avinu.
When King Nimrod was going out to the fields
He was looking at heaven and at the stars
He saw a holy light in the Jewish quarter
[A sign] that Abraham, our father, must have been born.
Abraham Avinu, Padre querido
Padre barukh, la luz de Yisrael.
Abraham Avinu [our Father], dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.
Luego a las comadres encomendava
que toda mujer que preñada quedasse
si no pariera al punto, la matasse
que havía de nascer Abraham Avinu.
Then he was telling all the midwives
That every pregnant woman
Who did not give birth at once was going to be killed
because Abraham our father was going to born.
Abraham Avinu, Padre querido
Padre barukh, luz de Yisrael. '
Abraham Avinu, dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.
La mujer de Terach quedó preñada
y de día en día le preguntava
¿De qué teneix la cara tan demudada?
ella ya sabía el bien qué tenía.
Terach's wife was pregnant
and each day he would ask her
Why do you look so distraught?
She already knew very well what she had.
Abraham Avinu, padre querido
Padre barukh, luz de Yisrael.
Abraham Avinu, dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.
En fin de nueve meses parir quería
iva caminando por campos y viñas,
a su marido tal ni le descubría
topó una meara, allí lo pariría
After nine months she wanted to give birth
She was walking through the fields and vineyards
Such would not even reach her husband
She found a manger; there, she would give birth.
Abraham Avinu, Padre querido
Padre barukh, luz de Yisrael.
Abraham Avinu, dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.
En aquella hora el nascido fablava
"Andávos mi madre, de la meara
yo ya topo quen me alexasse
mandará del cielo ken me acompañará
porque só criado de El Dio Barukh."
In that hour the newborn was speaking
'Get away of the manger, my mother
I will somebody to take me out
He will send from the heaven the one that will go with me
Because I am a servant of the blessed God.'
Abraham Avinu, Padre querido
Padre barukh, luz de Yisrael
Abraham Avinu, dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.

Anachronistically, Abraham - who in the Bible is the very first Jew and the ancestor of all who followed, hence his appellation "Avinu" (Our Father) - is in the Judeo-Spanish song born already in the "judería", the Jewish quarter. This makes Terach and his wife into Jews, as are the parents of other babies killed by Nimrod. In essence, unlike its Biblical model, the song is about a Jewish community persecuted by a cruel king and witnessing the birth of a miraculous saviour - a subject of obvious interest and attraction to the Jewish people who composed and sang it in Medieval Spain.

The song attributes to Abraham elements from the story of Moses's birth (the cruel king killing innocent babies, with the midwives ordered to kill them) and from the careers of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who emerged unscathed from the fiery furnace. Nimrod is thus made to conflate the role and attributes of two archetypal cruel and persecuting kings - Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh. For more information, see Nimrod.

It is also suggested that the song borrows from the Christian nativity story: for example the miraculous light that signalled the birth, the birth in a manger and the massacre of the innocents.

Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow from the New York-based band Elysian Fields released a CD in 2001 called La Mar Enfortuna, which featured modern versions of traditional Sephardic songs, many sung by Charles in Judeo-Spanish. There are a number of groups in Turkey that sing in Judeo-Spanish, notably Janet - Jak Esim Ensemble, Sefarad, Los Pasharos Sefaradis, and the children's chorus Las Estreyikas d'Estambol. There is a Brazilian-born singer of Sephardic origins called Fortuna who researches and plays Judaeo-Spanish music.

The Israeli singer Yasmin Levy has also brought a new interpretation to the traditional songs by incorporating more "modern" sounds of Andalusian Flamenco. Her work revitalising Sephardi music has earned Levy the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Award for promoting cross-cultural dialogue between musicians from three cultures.[22] In Yasmin Levy's own words:

I am proud to combine the two cultures of Ladino and flamenco, while mixing in Middle Eastern influences. I am embarking on a 500 years old musical journey, taking Ladino to Andalusia and mixing it with flamenco, the style that still bears the musical memories of the old Moorish and Jewish-Spanish world with the sound of the Arab world. In a way it is a ‘musical reconciliation’ of history.[23]

Notable music groups performing in Judaeo-Spanish include Voice of the Turtle, Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles' "La Mar Enfortuna" and Vanya Green, who was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for her research and performance of this music. She was recently selected as one of the top ten world music artists by the We are Listening International World of Music Awards for her interpretations of the music.

See also


  1. ^ Judeo-Español in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (DRAE).
  2. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (2005). "Ladino". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. SIL International. http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=lad. Retrieved 2008-09-25.  
  3. ^ Ladino. 7th sense in the DRAE
  4. ^ "Clearing up Ladino, Judeo-Spanish, Sephardic Music" Judith Cohen, HaLapid, winter 2001; Sephardic Song Judith Cohen, Midstream July/August 2003
  5. ^ Verba Hispanica X: Los problemas del estudio de la lengua sefardí, Katja Smid, Ljubljana, pages 113-124: Es interesante el hecho que en Bulgaria se imprimieron unas pocas publicaciones en alfabeto cirílico búlgaro y en Grecia en alfabeto griego. [...] Nezirović (1992: 128) anota que también en Bosnia se ha encontrado un documento en que la lengua sefardí está escrita en alfabeto cirilico. The Nezirović reference is: Nezirović, M., Jevrejsko-Španjolska književnost. Institut za književnost, Svjetlost, Sarajevo, Bosnia 1992.
  6. ^ See preface by Iacob M Hassán to Romero, Coplas Sefardíes, Cordoba, pp. 23-24.
  7. ^ The modern Spanish spelling Mallorca is a hypercorrection.
  8. ^ palavră in the Dicționarul etimologic român, Alexandru Ciorănescu, Universidad de la Laguna, Tenerife, 1958-1966: Cuvînt introdus probabil prin. iud. sp: "Word introduced probably through Judaeo-Spanish.
  9. ^ Eliezer Papo: From the Wailing Wall (in Bosnian)
  10. ^ Reka Network: Kol Israel International
  11. ^ Radio Exterior de España: Emisión sefardí
  12. ^ http://www.americansephardifederation.org/sub/events/exhibition-rare_book_levy.asp
  13. ^ Yalkut May'Am Loez, Jerusalem 5736 Hebrew translation from Ladino language
  14. ^ http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/schools_to_teach_ein_bisel_yiddish_20050826/
  15. ^ http://yiddish.haifa.ac.il/tmr/tmr11/tmr11010.htm
  16. ^ http://www.ejpress.org/article/2998
  17. ^ http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jwst/courses09c.htm#JWST231680
  18. ^ http://www.jewishexponent.com/article/12032
  19. ^ http://ase.tufts.edu/grall/judaic/courses.asp
  20. ^ http://www.jstandard.com/index.php/content/item/2617
  21. ^ http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~msladino/courses.htm
  22. ^ "2008 Event Media Release - Yasmin Levy". Sydney Opera House. http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/About/08EventMediaRelease_YasminLevy.aspx. Retrieved 2008-08-19.  
  23. ^ "BBC - Awards for World Music 2007 - Yasmin Levy". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/worldmusic/a4wm2007/2007_yasmin_levy.shtml. Retrieved 2008-08-19.  
  24. ^ http://www.salom.com.tr/news/list/category/19-Judeo-Espanyol.aspx


  • Bunis, David M., Judezmo, An introduction to the Language of the Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire: Jerusalem 1999 ISBN 9654930244
  • Габинский, Марк А. Сефардский (еврейской-испанский) язык (M.A. Gabinsky. Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) language, in Russian). Ştiinţa: Chişinău, 1992.
  • Hemsi, Alberto: Cancionero Sefardí
  • Kohen, Elli; Kohen-Gordon, Dahlia. Ladino-English, English-Ladino: Concise Encyclopedic Dictionary. Hippocrene Books: New York, 2000
  • Markova, Alla: Beginner's Ladino with 2 Audio CDs, Hippocrene Books: New York, 2008, ISBN 0-7818-1225-9
  • Markus, Shimon, Ha-safa ha-sefaradit-yehudit (The Judeo-Spanish language, in Hebrew): Jerusalem 1965
  • Molho, Michael: Usos y costumbres de los judíos de Salónica (1950)
  • Varol, Marie-Christine: Manuel de Judéo-Espagnol langue et culture (book & CD, in French), L'Asiathèque: Paris, 2004, ISBN 2911053869
  • Thomas Immanuel Barton (Toivi Cook): Judezmo (Judeo-Castilian) Dictionary, USA 2008 ISBN 978-1890035730

Further reading

Lleal, Coloma (1992): "A propósito de una denominación: el judeoespañol" (en Cervantes Virtual)

External links

Judaeo-Spanish edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Judaeo- +‎ Spanish

Proper noun




  1. a Romance Language, based on Old Spanish, and spoken almost exclusively by Sephardic Jews in Greek and Turkey.


    • 1950, Agard, Frederick B., "Present-Day Judaeo-Spanish in the United States," in Hispania, Vol. 33, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, page 204:
      Although like most American-born children of immigrants they had failed to develop a fluent use of the mother tongue, both had heard Judaeo-Spanish all their lives and had entirely native habits of pronouncing it.

Related terms

  • Djudeo-Espanyol
  • Ladino
  • Djudezmo
  • Djudeo-Kasteyano


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