gilgul (gill-GOOL)


  • n. Reincarnation.

  • n. Figurative or literal transformation.

Example Sentences

  • "Gilgul is a subject found in the writings of the Ramban, the Arizal, the Vilna Gaon, and many more of the great mekubalim." (source)

  • “That man is a gilgul of a horse!" (NJY)

  • “Such stubbornness you find only in the gilgul of a jackass.” (NJY)

Languages of Origin

  • Textual Hebrew
  • Yiddish


  • TH גִּלְגּוּל 'lit. revolving' > Y גילגול gilgl

    • Who Uses This

      • Religious: Jews who are engaged in religious observance and have some Jewish education
      • Kabbalists


      • 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).
      • The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001).
      • Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Popular Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, by Sol Steinmetz (Lanham, MD, 2005).

      Alternative Spellings



  • "The concept of reincarnation is not a basic tenet of mainstream Judaism, but the belief is expressed in the Zohar and is an important part of the kabbalistic view of the afterlife. The theory holds that the soul is purified through gilgul and can be reborn—some scholars say three times, others say an infinite number of times—in another mortal or animal." (JPS)

    plural: 'gilgulim'

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