besamim (bih-sah-MEEM) listen


  • n. The spices in the spice box used for the Havdalah ceremony.

  • n. Spices.

  • n. Israeli slang for recreational drugs.

Example Sentences

  • "Shari, bring me the wine and the besamim box. Bobbie, bring me the candle." (Glinert)

  • "The purpose of the besamim is to cheer us up from the loss of our “extra souls” (neshama yetaira) which depart at the conclusion of Shabbat (Rashbam to Talmud Pesachim 102b)." (source)

  • "In the course of the havdalah ceremony, we sniff at besamim -- aromatic herbs, spices, or fruit (whole cloves are very popular)." (source)

    Listen to recordings of this sentence: ( Recording 1)

Languages of Origin

  • Textual Hebrew
  • Yiddish
  • Modern Hebrew


  • Hebrew בשמים besamim 'spices, specifically those used for Havdalah', Yiddish בשׂמים bsomim 'spices, generally'

    • 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)
      • Israel: Diaspora Jews who feel connected to Israel and have spent time there
      • Ashkenazim: Jews with Ashkenazi heritage


      • North America
      • Great Britain
      • Australia / New Zealand


      • The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001).
      • The Joys of Hebrew, by Lewis Glinert (New York, 1992).

      Alternative Spellings

      b'samim, bsamim, bisamim, besomim, b'somim, bsomim, bisomim


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