Word of the Day / Malei

A word meaning 'full' or 'complete' is chock-full of variations for usage.

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Israelis seeking a seat at their favorite café might find themselves using the same Hebrew word whether their caffeine provider of choice is empty or packed.

Malei primarily means "full," "whole" or "complete," as in hamis'ada meleia ("the restaurant is full") or kol hamekomot mele'im (literally "all the places are full," meaning "all the spots are taken").

But at an off-peak hour (or maybe just when there's a yare'ah malei, or full moon) you might find yourself pleasantly surprised that you can sit down and enjoy your cup of joe in peace because, to use the word a little more colloquially, yesh malei makom – there's plenty of room, since the café is "full of space."

A derivative of malei is sometimes also used as a formal way of indicating age, as in the guidelines for new drivers in Israel. If the new driver is between 17 and 17-and-a-half years old – or in the words of the regulations, if mal'u lo 17 years, meaning he's completed 17 (but not 17-and-a-half) years of life – he or she must be accompanied by an adult aged 24 or older who has had a license for several years.
If the accompanying adult is drunk, he doesn't count as a legal driving escort. The teenager is then left to find a memalei makom – a substitute, literally someone to "fill in the place" – if he wants to drive over to that café and find out whether it's malei or there's malei makom.

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.

Weird things can happen on a full moon. You might even find a seat at an otherwise-packed coffee house.Credit: Haim Taragan

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