Alternative Spellings

Kohen, Kohein, Cohein, Coheyn, Koheyn, Cohayn, Kohayn, Coyen, Koyen, Koyein, Coyein, Coyeyn, Koyeyn, Coyayn, Koyayn, Coyhen, Koyhen, Koyhein, Coyhein, Coyheyn, Koyheyn, Coyhayn, Koyhayn


  • "A made descendent of the family of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. Aaron and his descendants were consecrated to the service of God... in the Tabernacle... in the desert and later the Holy Temple" (Steinmetz). Often poorly translated as "priest," though the term "Levite" or "Aaronite" is more accurate, especially due to Christian usage (Steinmetz).

Example Sentences

  • "He can't go into the cemetery, can he, if he's a Kohen?" (Glinert)
  • "Is anyone in the room a Kohen for Rishon [first aliyah to the Torah reading]?"

Languages of Origin

Textual Hebrew, Yiddish


Hebrew כהן kohen, Yiddish כּהן koyen.

Who Uses This

Religious: Jews who are engaged in religious observance and have some Jewish education
Orthodox: Jews who identify as Orthodox and observe halacha (Jewish law)
Jews: Jews of diverse religious backgrounds and organizational involvements
Non-Jews: (words that have spread outside of Jewish networks)


The New Joys of Yiddish, by Leo Rosten and Lawrence Bush (New York, 2003[1968]).
The Joys of Hebrew, by Lewis Glinert (New York, 1992).
Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, by Sol Steinmetz (Lanham, MD, 2005).
The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001)


The term kehuna / kahuna is the form of the word that means that someone is a kohen, used in the form of "they have kehuna," they have 'Levitehood.' The plural is kohanim (Hebrew), or Koyanim/Kehanim (Yiddish). Today, the functions of a Kohen are mostly merely hereditary (Steinmetz), though a Kohen is preferred for the first aliyah of a Torah reading, traditionally should not enter a cemetery (unless for the funeral of an immediate family member) or marry a divorcée (Rosten), and they can perform the Priestly Blessing (Cf. duchen). "The Reform movement does not make distinctions as to heritage when it calls congregants for an aliyah" (Eisenberg).

Edit     See something you disagree with? Feel free to edit it. All changes will be moderated.