maacabiah (mah-KAH-bee-YAH)


  • n. International Jewish sports competition, known as the Jewish Olympics, held (mostly) every four years since 1932; smaller regional competitions held in Jewish community centers around the world.

  • n. Color war / intra-camp competition in a Jewish summer camp.

Example Sentences

  • "We stayed up all night making the banners for the maccabiah break-out." (Jewish summer camp)

  • "Having grown from 390 athletes from fourteen countries to nine thousand athletes from seventy-eight countries, the Maccabiah Games (or the “Jewish Olympics,” as it has come to be known) continue to gain popularity." (source)

Languages of Origin

  • Textual Hebrew
  • Modern Hebrew


  • The name of the international Jewish athletic competition was based on the ancient Maccabees, plus the -ia suffix common in Modern Hebrew, which is influenced by Ladino / Judeo-Spanish. The use of "maccabiah" for color war at camp was adopted by American Hebraist/Zionist Jewish camps in the 1940s, including at Massad Poconos, based on the international competition.

    • Who Uses This

      • Jews: Jews of diverse religious backgrounds and organizational involvements
      • Camp: Jews who attend or work at a Jewish overnight summer camp


      • Australia / New Zealand
      • South Africa
      • Great Britain
      • North America


      • The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001).

      Alternative Spellings

      maccabia, macabia, makabia, makabea, maccabiya, maccabiyah

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