For centuries the language of the Sephardic community, descendants of Jews driven from Spain in 1492, was Ladino, a unique version of Spanish, peppered with Hebrew. From Sarajevo to Seattle, and from Istanbul to Amsterdam, this language functioned much like its Ashkenazi counterpart, Yiddish, uniting its speakers across national borders and cultural divides.

Still spoken by the Jews of Turkey, particularly the older generation, Ladino reflects the religious, social, and economic challenges and triumphs of the Jewish people. Since 2001, Rabbi Mendy Chitrik has served as Chabad emissary to Turkey and rabbi of the Istanbul Ashkenazic community. Here is his pick of 10 Ladino words everyone can enjoy incorporating into their everyday speech:

1. Kal (Synagogue) קאל

A of contraction kahal, Hebrew for “community,” kal means “synagogue,” where the community gathers. Thus, you can say Vamos al kal, “We are going to the synagogue.”

2. Dio (G‑d) דיו

In the classic Ladino version of Ein Kelokeinu sung after Shabbat services, you will hear the congregation sing, non como muestro Dio, “there is none like our G‑d.” Dio is Ladino for G‑d. It is interesting that the Spanish version is dios, which sounds like it is plural, indicating (Heaven forbid) that there is more than one G‑d. As a Jewish language, Ladino refers to the Creator as Dio, unmistakably singular.

3. Kayades (Quiet) קיאדיס

This word means “let’s be quiet.” You use this word when you want to say that now is a good time not to attract undue attention. Unfortunately, during the Inquisition, when practicing Judaism was punishable by death, the Jews of Spain and Portugal became adept at this skill, trying their best to remain under the radar.

4. Pasensya (Patience) פסינסיה

This is a cousin of the English word “patience,” with an added layer indicating the ability to accept hardship with equanimity and faith. When someone loses a loved one, it is common to wish that G‑d grant that person pasensya.

5. Pezgaduras (Heaviness) פיזגדוראס

This word means “heaviness,” denoting a person for whom everything is pezgado, “heavy,” or a big deal (the opposite of liviano, “light”).

6. Vaziduras (Nothingness) וזידוראס

This means “nothing.” You can use this to describe the outcome of a failed project, the empty words of a chatterbox, or something that just simply doesn’t make sense.

7. Midrash (Study Hall) מידרש

This refers to the small prayer room adjacent to a larger synagogue, a cousin of the Yiddish shtiebel (“hut”) or cheder sheni (“second room”). The term comes from beit midrash, Hebrew for “house of study,” but in common Ladino parlance the first word has been dropped.

8. Ajeno (Foreigner) אז'ינו

An ajeno is a “foreigner.” Exiled from the Holy Land following the destruction of the Holy Temple, and once again exiled from the Iberian Peninsula where they had contributed so richly to the local community, the Sephardic Jew acutely felt his status as ajeno, a stranger in a strange land.

9. Kaminando i Avlando (Walking and Talking) קמיננדו אי אבלנדו

This one means “walking and talking,” and you use it like “time will tell.” There is no need to rush into hasty decisions. Walk alongside G‑d, and see what He has in store for you.

10. Haberes Buenos (Good News) חביריס בואינס

Paralleling the Hebrew term besurot tovot, haberes buenas means “good news,” something we always wish to hear more of. Amen!