Alternative Spellings

ga-on, goen, go'on, ga'on, go'oyn, gooyn


  • "A title of honor for the rabbis and teachers who were the spiritual heads of the Babylonian yeshivot between the 6th and 11th centuries C.E." (JPS)
  • "A rabbi whose learning was so great that he was given the honorary title of gaon" (Rosten), e.g. the Vilna Gaon
  • Modern Hebrew: genius (JPS)

Example Sentences

  • "Thus Elijah ben Solomon (1720–97) became known as gaon of Vilna or the Gaon." (

Languages of Origin

Textual Hebrew


גאון gaon '(one who is) prideful'

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)


North America


The New Joys of Yiddish, by Leo Rosten and Lawrence Bush (New York, 2003[1968]).
Yiddish and English: A Century of Yiddish in America, by Sol Steinmetz (Tuscaloosa, 1986).
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)

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