Alternative Spellings

t'fillin, tfilin, t'filin, tefilan, tefilin


  • Small black boxes containing sections of the shema attached to leather straps and worn around the head and arm during prayer.
  • "phylacteries"

Example Sentences

  • "I put on tefillin every morning."

Languages of Origin

Textual Hebrew



Who Uses This

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


North America


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


In non-egalitarian communities, only men put on tefillin, while in egalitarian communities many women do as well. One puts on tefillin every morning, except for the Sabbath and holidays. The Greek-origin word "phylacteries" is sometimes used as a translation for "tefillin," but few people know that word and not "tefillin."

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