Word of the Day / Hazuy: Raving About the Surreal

From the Bible to Internet videos, this word has been contributing an altered perspective to the Hebrew language for centuries.

Shoshana Kordova
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
The word 'hazuy' started out life as an adjective describing a dreamlike state.Credit: Brian Exton
Shoshana Kordova

The word “hazuy” (ha-ZOOY) started out life as an adjective describing a dreamlike state, or one induced by delirium or hallucination. Take Isaiah 56:10, for example: “His watchmen are all blind, without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; raving [‘hozim,’ from the same root as ‘hazuy’], lying down, loving to slumber.”

The word has become much more popular in recent years, as it has become something of a catchall for things weird, strange, unbelievable, incredible or surreal.

The tagline for The World is Funny, a Hebrew website that aggregates online videos, is “Everything that’s funny, amazing or hazuy on the Web.” And an article posted last week on the Haredi news website Kikar Hashabbat told what it described as the "hazuy" story of a Tel Aviv woman whose supermarket delivery – including warm milk and defrosted meat – didn’t arrive until 2:30 A.M., more than nine hours after she bought the food.

The colloquial sense of the word is also used in more formal contexts, as when Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said in June that the sections of the state comptroller’s report on the 2010 Carmel fire that accused the treasury of playing a role in the worst forest fire in Israel’s history were “hazuy and unfounded in the extreme.”

And the judges who acquitted former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of bribery in two corruption cases in July apparently did not find Morris Talansky, an American businessman who has admitted giving Olmert tens of thousands of dollars in cash, to be quite the star witness the prosecution had hoped. They wrote in their ruling that anyone watching the video of Talansky being questioned by police – in which, they said, he “cried, spoke about the establishment of the State of Israel, about cigars and hotel suites” – could only “feel that these were hazuy moments.”

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com.