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What Does “Oy Vey” Mean?

What Does “Oy Vey” Mean?


Oy and vey are two very old Jewish interjections which both mean “woe.” Oy is found many times in the Bible (see Numbers 21:29, I Samuel 4:7 and Isaiah 3:11 for a few examples). Vey is newer than oy; it is oy’s Aramaic equivalent.

Today, oy and vey are often used together. Oy vey is the ethnically Jewish way to react when you find out how much your son’s root canal will cost, or when you find out that there is a two-hour wait time for a table at the restaurant where you just arrived.

Sometimes you’ll hear people groan “oy vavoy,” which is Hebrew for “oy vey.”1 Those who prefer Yiddish lamentations will often cry “vey iz mir,” which means “woe is to me.”

Let’s pray that G‑d sends us Moshiach already, so we can stop waxing eloquent about our woes and expand our vocabulary of positive interjections!

1. See Proverbs 23:29, where King Solomon asks, “To whom is oy and to whom is avoy?”
By Staff
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Discussion (14)
June 7, 2015
Do You Write In Hebrew?
What does the Hebrew writing look like for "oy vay", or "oy vavoy"? A little research will find it. First I'll look up Ain Yod Vav Ain Yod" which adds up to 166, and proceed from there. It is interesting to know the numbers for the words. My forefathers were Sephardic Jews
rrP E laqiM
Boston, MA
April 23, 2015
"Wei" is the German word for "pain"...I have noticed that Yiddish happens to be a mixture of European words. Jud pronounced "yud" itself means "Jewish" in German. So Yiddish stems from the German word "Judish" or "Jewish" in German. Since "Wei" happens to be the German word for "pain", when you say "Oy vey" you are actually saying "oh pain" predicting the pain that is to come.
April 23, 2015
incorrect! Yiddish is a mixture of European languages and in this case, German."Vei" is the German word for "pain" so in effect you're saying "oh pain" in predicting and worrying about the pain that is to come
March 3, 2015
My mother says "oy vey" a lot and we aren't even Jewish. :/
April 12, 2013
The vey is Mir is the equivalent of Deutch Ebonics from a group of people who would change the local vocabulary to suit their isolated culture.
November 7, 2012
In English
I try to say( with a smile if possible) Oh yay! or Oh yeah! or Thank you Hashem I guess I need this.
Eretz Hakodesh
November 4, 2012
"My Enemies"?
Charest - interesting background on the German. Staff Writer - Doesn't "oyvey" mean "my enemies", as in "v'chol oyvecho m'hayro yikoraysu"? (And may all your enemies be cut down speedily... from the 12th blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei)
June 4, 2012
An aircraft does not have a greater ROC (rate of climb) with a headwind. The correct term is Angle of climb. An aircraft taking off into a headwind has a greater angle of climb and therefore will take less distance to achieve a certain altitude. The time it takes to climb to that altitude will not change with the wind.
st louis
March 26, 2012
Rabbi Posner, I think that Anonymous in California means the airplane comment as an analogy. An airplane has a greater rate of climb when it takes off against the wind than when it takes off with the wind. Anonymous is suggesting that we likewise climb faster to higher spiritual levels when faced with adversity ("taking off against the wind") than when everything is easy ("taking off with the wind").

Taking off against the wind, or adversity, is a comment on the theme of this article, woe. Anonymous is saying that, just as with the airplane against the wind, in the end of it all we will see that the difficult times ultimately lifted us to a higher place more quickly than we would have made it to otherwise.
Brooklyn, NY
January 3, 2012
Ah, now I can kvetch in three different ways, all ethnically appropriate when the "bad" happens. Actually, maybe it was a commentary in the ZOHAR that says that, when the MOSHIACH comes, everything----the "good" and the "evil" will be seen to have been necessary for the ultimate END of things. So maybe we should SING a song, a happy song, when so-called "bad" things happen to us also.
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