tefillin (TFIH-lin) listen


  • n. Phylacteries; small black boxes containing sections of the Shema that are attached to leather straps and wrapped around the head and arm during prayer.

Example Sentences

  • "I put on tefillin every morning."

  • "Are you packed now, John? You have your passport, tickets, credit cards, tefilin?" (Glinert)

Languages of Origin

  • Textual Hebrew


  • תפילין

    • Who Uses This

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


      • North America
      • Great Britain
      • South Africa
      • Australia / New Zealand


      • 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).

      Alternative Spellings

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


  • In non-egalitarian communities, only men put on tefillin, while in traditional egalitarian communities many women do as well. One puts on tefillin every morning, except for on Shabbat and yom tov (some Jews don tefillin on chol hamoed, but some don't). 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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