For mi.yodeya, I wrote up a jargon guideline (lightly adapted below) intended to make content on the site accessible to as many interested people as possible. It was not followed very closely on m.y, and I've had second thoughts about how far a site primarily for "experts/professionals" (as SE sites are supposed to be) needs to go to define terms for the benefit of novices.

Should we have a jargon policy/guideline, and what should it be?

The following is the official guideline for use of jargon and specialized terms on mi.yodeya. It is not meant as a strict policy and is subject to change. We welcome comments and suggestions in the comments.

When writing questions and answers on mi.yodeya, the overall guiding principle you should have in mind is:

Will any English speaker who is interested in this content be able to understand what it means without additional research?

Here are some guidelines that come out of this:

  • Don't use non-English terms gratuitously. If there's an English term that conveys your meaning smoothly, just use it.

    • No: How much should we pay people involved in chinuch?

    • Not even: How much should we pay people involved in chinuch (Jewish education)?

    • Yes: How much should we pay people involved in Jewish education?

  • If you use a non-English or specialized term that your readers might not know, define it the first time or link to a defintion. You can keep jargon in a question title as long as you define or link it in the body.

    • No: Turning on a light might be prohibited under the Melacha of Makeh Bapatish.

    • OK: Turning on a light might be prohibited under the Melacha (category of creative labor) of Makeh Bapatish (finishing touch).

    • Better: Turning on a light might be prohibited under the Melacha of Makeh Bapatish.

  • Terms that anyone who may be interested in the content would know are fine by themselves.

    • Fine: How should I purse my lips when blowing a shofar? No one will care about this if they don't already know what a shofar is.

    • Not so fine: The Yom Kippur service concludes with a shofar blast. All a person needs to know to potentially care about this is that there's a holiday called Yom Kippur.

    • Fixed: The Yom Kippur service concludes with a shofar blast.


5 Answers 5


Based on the earlier answers here, the question, and the various comments, I've compiled guidelines for the site. Please comment here on them.

  • 1
    Maybe incorporate some of the ideas from Joel's answer? E.g. in "Turning on a light might be prohibited", s/prohibited/*asur*? And if we could work in a bedieved (replace w/"after the fact", not "post facto"), that'd be good but I don't have a specific proposal. I'm not trying to make this overly long; I'd rather adjust/replace an existing example, not add one. Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 13:57
  • @MonicaCellio, I think Joel's answer pushed for "prohibited" (which is what the guidelines' post also has), so I'm not sure what you mean. I can add in a "bedieved" example, I suppose.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 15:02
  • (Err, did I post my comment in the wrong place? Sorry!) @msh210, I thought you were agreeing (in your comment there) with Joel's "don't use those words if there's a good English equivalent" (like asur), and I was just trying to call that out. Wasn't trying to make a big deal over it. :-) Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 16:20

Isaac's guidelines are great.

There are terms used in Yeshivish that are not known to most English speakers; using them can only exclude people from understanding and learning. There is no reason to use words like Assur, Makpid, Bedieved when the direct English translations prohibited, careful, and post facto will be understood by everyone.

On the other hand, you don't have to go overboard. Feast of Tabernacles is overkill as the term Succot is more common even among English speakers. Certain words like toivel have specific legal meanings that is lost if you just say submerge.

  • 4
    +1. I wasn't thinking, when I wrote my answer, about non-English words for which there's a perfectly good English equivalent that everyone will understand at a glance, like asur. For those, I agree with this answer rather than with my own "Hebrew should be usable without further explanation...". (As noted in this answer, though, as with tovel, there's often no real equivalent.) (By the way, I'd think post facto is rare enough that b'diavad is usable. But that's just implementation details.)
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 18:46
  • makpid could be explained as meaning careful but is not the same. when discussing halacha for example it makes deference to know what language was used
    – Avraham
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 22:37
  • Point of interest, I've heard "Feast of Tabernacles" all my life, but today is the first I've heard of Succot. (But I am a Christian and our translations of the Bible spell it out.) Perhaps Yom Kippur versus "whatever that translates into English" is a better example. Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 16:53
  • I agree with all but one of Joel's points. In some circles, and I'm including many "modern" Jewish day school students, bedieved is more familiar than post facto. Even my auto-correct didn't recognize facto just now (it tried to correct to factor). Only a more educated person will recognize certain Latin legal terms, just as only a more (Jewishly) educated person will understand certain Hebrew legal terms.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 0:39
  • 1
    When I need to substitute for bedieved I usually say "after the fact". Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 13:58
  • I somehow missed that @msh210 seems to have already shared the same view I expressed last night.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 16:17

IMO English and Hebrew should be usable without further explanation, as well as any Aramaic (or even transliterated Greek or the like) commonly found in Jewish life and based in the g'mara or the like (like the word g'mara itself). That's in Hebrew or Latin script (lettering). Rarer terms should carry explanation or should link to one, with no firm guideline on what's considered rare enough. (Comments can always ask for explanation, so leaving it out is not a terrible thing.) Of course, if someone wants to go the extra mile and always explain/link his non-English terms, more power to him.

Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, Ladino — IMO these should be avoided when possible (and translated when used) as culture-specific.

  • 8
    I agree. As a site geared toward experts/professionals, hebrew and transliterated words should be able to be used without explanation. If some one does not understand the used terms, s/he can comment asking for an explanation or source. However, if a question is asked such that it is clear that the asker is unfamiliar with the usual jargon, the answerer should be more explanatory with his/her terminology; the answerers can use their own good judgement.
    – jake
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 17:53
  • 2
    I agree. What about "yeshivish" terminology?
    – AviD
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 23:20
  • @AviD, 'yeshivish' as described at Wikipedia is English, or Hebrew, or Yiddish, depending on which words you mean. WP also describes some syntax and morphology that it claims is unique to 'yeshivish', and I think those should be avoided, but IMO it's not worth setting a rule for (at least not unless it gets out of hand). Is what Wp describes something like what you meant by 'yeshivish'?
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented May 13, 2011 at 3:22
  • 1
    yeah, I guess that is what I meant, and also as @Joel explained. I also have an issue with "American Hebrew" (e.g. shabbes, bayis, etc..) but I imagine I will be in the minority on that one...
    – AviD
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 19:12
  • See my comment on Joel Spolsky's answer
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 17:18
  • You seem to have changed your position since writing this answer. Care to comment? Also, what about terms that have been repeatedly translated on the site, in other questions /answers? If they're not so mainstream, do the need to be defined at least once in every body of content that employs them?
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 0:49
  • @SethJ, I've deleted some comments here, because I wrote something I don't actually hold of (and that no one else upvoted).
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 16:14
  • @SethJ, see meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/posts/comments/119.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Apr 11, 2013 at 16:15

I think we could have a guideline but not enforce it strongly.

and also in order to help newcomers we should have a dictionary with common terms used in the site. that should be a wiki of some sort so we can add and improve with time and need



If there is a word that's hard to understand, it can be defined one time, then use regularly after that.

However, there shouldn't be any policy prohibiting using terms like "goy" altogether, on the grounds that it might hurt someone's feelings, because the Creator Himself uses it in His works, and we don't know better than Him.

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