Word of the Day Lehishtolel לְהִשְׁתּוֹלֵל

You can go wild with this word.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

When little kids are running around making a lot of noise, when drunks refuse to sit down on the plane to Cyprus and spit sunflower seed shells on the floor, when rental prices in Tel Aviv go even higher than usual and when a forest fire rages - it's all the same word in Hebrew: hishtolelut.

As you can imagine given the wide variety of situations to which this word applies, there's no single English word that adequately covers every angle of lehishtolel (le-heesh-toh-LEHL), to use the more common infinitive. But essentially, this word refers to behavior like goofing off, being unruly or boisterous, going wild, causing mischief, wreaking havoc and basically being out of control.

The word comes from shalal, according to the venerable Even Shoshan dictionary, which means booty or the spoils of war. I guess that's because when soldiers or pirates plunder, they're usually on the unrestrained side of the behavior spectrum. They might also be temporarily "bereft of sense," which is how the 1917 edition of the Jewish Publication Society Bible translates eshtolelu (Psalms 76:6). (In today's Hebrew that would be hishtolelu, the past plural of lehishtolel.)

The next time a frustrated elementary school teacher yells at her students to stop lehishtolel, maybe she should just be grateful that all they're most likely doing is goofing off, not destroying a forest or plundering gold.

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.

Letting loose on the Hermon; beats plundering a biblical caravan.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Count your blessings that when the kids mishtolelim, this isn't what they're up to.Credit: AP



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset on Monday.

Arab Voters Will Decide if Israel's Far-right Wins Power

A young Zeschke during down time, while serving with the Wehrmacht in Scandinavia.

How a Spanish Beach Town Became a Haven for Nazis

Ayelet Shaked.

What's Ayelet Shaked's Next Move?

נתניהו עם כיפה שחורה על הראש נשען בשתי ידיו על הכותל

Israel Is Heading for Its Most 'Jewish' Election Ever

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

FILE PHOTO: A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2021.

American Judaism Is in Decline. That's Great News for American Jews