Judaeo-Spanish, also Judezmo, Ladino, and other names
גודיאו-איספאנייול Djudeo-espanyol, לאדינו Ladino
Pronunciation [dʒuˈðeo espaˈɲol]
Spoken in Israel, Turkey, France, Greece, Spain, United States.
Native speakers 100,000 in Israel  (1985)
8,000 in Turkey, 1,000 in Greece
Language family
  • Italic
    • Romance
      • Western
        • Gallo-Iberian
          • Ibero-Romance
            • West Iberian
              • Spanish
                • Judaeo-Spanish, also Judezmo, Ladino, and other names
Official status
Official language in None
Regulated by Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino in Israel (based on modern Castilian and using Latin letters)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 lad
ISO 639-3 lad
Linguasphere 51-AAB-ba ... 51-AAB-bd

Judaeo-Spanish (Hebrew: גודיאו-איספאנייול‎‎; Judaeo-Spanish: IPA: [dʒuˈðeo espaˈɲol]; Spanish: judeoespañol, IPA: [xuˌðeoespaˈɲol]), in Israel commonly referred to as Ladino,[1] and known locally as Judezmo, Djudeo-Espanyol, Djudezmo, Djudeo-Kasteyano, Spaniolit and other names, is a Romance language derived from Old Spanish. As a Jewish language, it is influenced heavily by Hebrew and Aramaic, but also Arabic, Turkish and to a lesser extent Greek and other languages where Sephardic exiles settled around the world, primarily throughout the Ottoman Empire.

Judaeo-Spanish has kept the postalveolar phonemes /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ of Old Castilian, which both changed to the velar /x/ in modern Spanish. It also has an /x/ phoneme taken over from Hebrew. In some places certain characteristic words were retained, such as muestro for nuestro (our)[clarification needed]. Its grammatical structure is close to that of Spanish, with the addition of many terms from Hebrew, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Bosnian and Serbo-Croatian depending on the geographic origin of the speaker.

Like many other Jewish languages, Judaeo-Spanish is in danger of language extinction. Most native speakers are elderly, many of them having emigrated to Israel where the language was not transmitted to their children or grandchildren. However, it is experiencing a minor revival among Sephardic communities, especially in music. In some expatriate communities in Latin America and elsewhere, there is a threat of dialect levelling resulting in extinction by assimilation into modern Spanish.



In Israel particularly, the language is commonly called Ladino (לאדינו) (a variant of "Latin"), though many consider this use incorrect. The language is also called Judeo-Spanish, judeo-espagnol, judeo-español,[2] Sefardi, Djudio, Dzhudezmo, Judezmo, and Spanyol or Español sefardita; Haquitía (from the Arabic ħaka حكى, "tell") refers to the dialect of North Africa, especially Morocco. The dialect of the Oran area of Algeria was called Tetuani, after the Moroccan town Tétouan, since many Orani Jews came from this city. In Hebrew, the language is called Spanyolit.

According to the Ethnologue:

The name 'Judezmo' is used by Jewish linguists and Turkish Jews and American Jews; 'Judaeo-Spanish' by Romance philologists; 'Ladino' by laymen, especially in Israel; 'Hakitia' by Moroccan Jews; 'Spanyol' by some others.[3]

The derivation of the name "Ladino" is complicated. In pre-Expulsion times in the area known today as Spain the word meant literary Castilian as opposed to other dialects, or Romance in general as distinct from Arabic.[4] (The first European language grammar and dictionary, of Castilian, refers to it as ladino or ladina. In the Middle Ages, the word "Latin" was frequently used to mean simply "language", and in particular the language one understands: a "latiner" or "latimer" meant a translator.) Following the expulsion, Jews spoke of "the Ladino" to mean the traditional oral translation of the Bible into archaic Castilian. By extension it came to mean that style of Castilian generally, in the same way that (among Kurdish Jews) Targum has come to mean Judaeo-Aramaic and (in Arab countries) sharħ has come to mean Judaeo-Arabic.[5]

Informally, and especially in modern Israel, many speakers use "Ladino" to mean Judaeo-Spanish as a whole: for example, the language is regulated by a body called the Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino. More strictly, however, the term is confined to the style used in translation. According to the website of the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, "Ladino is not spoken, rather, it is the product of a word-for-word translation of Hebrew or Aramaic biblical or liturgical texts made by rabbis in the Jewish schools of Spain. In these, translations, a specific Hebrew or Aramaic word always corresponded to the same Spanish word, as long as no exegetical considerations prevented this. In short, Ladino is only Hebrew clothed in Spanish, or Spanish with Hebrew syntax. The famous Ladino translation of the Bible, the Biblia de Ferrara (1553), provided inspiration for the translation of numerous Spanish Christian Bibles."[6]

Nowadays "ladino" is a Spanish adjective[7] that means "sly" or "cunning", far away from its historical meaning.


At the time of the expulsion from Spain, the day to day language of the Jews of different regions of the peninsula was little if at all different from that of their Christian neighbors, though there may have been some dialect mixing to form a sort of Jewish lingua franca. There was however a special style of Castilian used for purposes of study or translation, featuring a more archaic dialect, a large number of Hebrew and Aramaic loan-words and a tendency to render Hebrew word order literally (ha-laylah ha-zeh, meaning "this night", was rendered la noche la esta instead of the normal Spanish esta noche[8]). As mentioned above, some authorities would confine the term "Ladino" to this style.

Following the expulsion, the process of dialect mixing continued, though Castilian remained by far the largest contributor. The daily language was increasingly influenced both by the language of study and by the local non-Jewish vernaculars such as Greek and Turkish, and came to be known as Judezmo: in this respect the development is parallel to that of Yiddish. However, many speakers, especially among the community leaders, also had command of a more formal style nearer to the Spanish of the expulsion, referred to as Castellano.


The grammar of Judaeo-Spanish, and its core vocabulary (approx. 60% of its total vocabulary), are basically Castilian. However, the phonology of the consonants and part of the lexicon are in some respects closer to Galician-Portuguese or Catalan than to modern Castilian, which is because they retained characteristics of medieval Ibero-Romance that Castilian later lost. Compare for example Judaeo-Spanish aninda ("still") with Portuguese ainda (Galician aínda, Asturian aína or enaína) and Castilian aún, or the initial consonants in Judaeo-Spanish fija, favla ("daughter", "speech"), Portuguese filha, fala (Galician filla, fala, Asturian fía, fala, Aragonese filla, fabla, Catalan filla), Castilian hija, habla. This sometimes varied with dialect: in Judaeo-Spanish popular songs both fijo and hijo are found. The Judaeo-Spanish pronunciation of s as "sh" before a "k" sound or at the end of certain words (such as seis, pronounced [seʃ], for six) is also shared with Portuguese spoken in Portugal but not with Spanish. Despite this, there are also similarities with contemporanean Spanish like yeísmo: eya [ˈeja] (Djudaeo-Spanish) and ella [ˈeʝa] (modern Spanish).

Archaic features retained by Judaeo-Spanish are as follows:

  • Modern Spanish z (c before e or i), pronounced as "s" or [θ] (as the English "th" in "think"), according to dialect, corresponds to two different phonemes in Old Castilian: ç (c before e or i), pronounced "ts", and z (in all positions), pronounced "dz". This distinction has been retained in Judaeo-Spanish, where the two phonemes are pronounced "s" and "z" respectively: korason/coraçon, "heart" (modern Spanish corazón) versus dezir, "to say" (modern Spanish decir). (The cedilla in the character ç was invented in Spanish to represent the former of the two phonemes, though it is not used in modern Spanish).
  • Modern Spanish j, pronounced [x], corresponds to two different phonemes in Old Castilian: x, pronounced [ʃ] (English "sh"), and j, pronounced [ʒ] ("zh"). Again the distinction has been retained: basho/baxo, "low" or "down" (modern Spanish bajo) versus mujer/muger, "woman" or "wife".
  • In modern Spanish, the use of the letters b and v is determined partially on the basis of earlier forms of the language and partially on the basis of Latin etymology: both letters are pronounced as the same bilabial phoneme, realized either as [b] or as [β] according to position. In Old Castilian and in Judaeo-Spanish the choice is made phonetically: bivir [biˈviɾ], "to live" (modern Spanish vivir). In Judaeo-Spanish v is a labiodental "v" (as in English) rather than a bilabial.


Judaeo-Spanish is distinguished from other Spanish dialects by the presence of the following features:

  • With regard to pronouns, Judaeo-Spanish maintains the second-person pronouns as (informal singular), vos (formal singular), and vosotros (plural); usted and ustedes do not exist
  • In verbs, the preterite indicates that an action taken once in the past was also completed at some point in the past. This is as opposed to the imperfect, which refers to any continuous, habitual, unfinished or repetitive past action. Thus, "I ate falafel yesterday" would use the first-person preterite form of eat, komí, whereas "When I lived in Izmir, I ran five miles every evening" would use the first-person imperfect form, koría. Though some of the morphology has changed, usage is just as in normative Castilian.

Regular conjugation in the present:

  -ar verbs (avlar "to speak") -er verbs (komer "to eat") and -ir verbs (bivir "to live")
yo -o (avlo) -o (komo) (bivo)
tu -as (avlas) -es (komes) (bives)
el, eya -a (avla) -e (kome) (bive)
mozotros -amos (avlamos) -emos (komemos), -imos (bivimos)
vozotros -ásh (avlásh) -ésh (komésh),-ísh (bivísh)
eyos, eyas -an (avlan) -en (komen) (biven)

Regular conjugation in the preterite:

  -ar verbs (avlar) -er verbs (komer) and -ir verbs (bivir)
yo -í (avlí) -í (komí) (biví)
tu -ates (avlates) -ites (komites) (bivites)
el, eya -ó (avló) -yó (komyó) (bivyó)
mozotros -imos (avlimos) -imos (komimos) (bivimos)
vozotros -atesh (avlatesh) -itesh (komitesh) (bivitesh)
eyos, eyas -aron (avlaron) -yeron (komyeron) (bivyeron)


The following systems of writing Judaeo-Spanish have been used or proposed.

  • Traditionally, especially in Ladino religious texts, Judaeo-Spanish was printed in the Hebrew alphabet (especially in Rashi script), a practice that was very common, possibly almost universal, until the 19th century (and called aljamiado, by analogy with the equivalent use of the Arabic abjad). This occasionally persists today, especially in religious use. Everyday written records of the language used Solitreo, a semi-cursive script similar to Rashi script, shifting to square letter for Hebrew/Aramaic words. Solitreo is clearly different from the Ashkenazi Cursive Hebrew used today in Israel, though that is also related to Rashi script. (A comparative table is provided in that article.)
  • The Greek alphabet and the Cyrillic alphabet have been employed in the past,[9] but this is rare or nonexistent now days.
  • In Turkey, Judaeo-Spanish is most commonly written in the Turkish variant of the Latin alphabet. This may be the most widespread system in use today, as following the decimation of Sephardic communities throughout much of Europe (particularly in Greece and the Balkans) during the Holocaust the greatest proportion of speakers remaining were Turkish Jews. However, the Judaeo-Spanish page of the Turkish Jewish newspaper Şalom now uses the Israeli system.
  • The Israeli Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino promotes a phonetic transcription into the Latin alphabet from the traditional Hebrew script, making no concessions to Spanish orthography, and uses it in its publication Aki Yerushalayim. The songs Non komo muestro Dio and Por una ninya, below, and the text in the sample paragraph, below, are written using this system.
  • Works published in Spain usually adopt the standard orthography of modern Castilian, to make them easier for modern Spaniards to read.[10] These editions often use diacritics to show where the Judaeo-Spanish pronunciation differs from modern Spanish.
  • Perhaps more conservative and less popular, others including Pablo Carvajal Valdés suggest that Judaeo-Spanish should adopt the orthography used during the time of the Jewish expulsion of 1492 from Spain. This system is used below in the transcription of the song Adio querida. (Quando el melekh Nimrod is in a mixture of this and the Israeli system.)

Arguments for and against the 1492 orthography

The Castilian orthography of that time has been standardized and eventually changed by a series of orthographic reforms, the last of which occurred in the 18th century, to become the spelling of modern Spanish. Judaeo-Spanish has retained some of the pronunciation that at the time of reforms had become archaic in standard Castilian. Adopting 15th century Castilian orthography (similar to modern Portuguese orthography) would therefore closely fit the pronunciation of Judaeo-Spanish.

  • The old spelling would reflect
    • the /s/ (originally /ts/) – c (before e and i) and ç (cedilla), as in caça,
    • the /s/ss, as in passo, and
    • the /ʃ/x, as in dixo.
  • The letter j would be retained, but only in instances, such as mujer, where the pronunciation is /ʒ/ in Judaeo-Spanish.
  • The spelling of /z/ (originally /dz/) as z would be restored in words like fazer and dezir.
  • The difference between b and v would be made phonetically, as in Old Castilian, rather than in accordance with the Latin etymology as in modern Spanish. For example Latin DEBET > post-1800 Castilian debe, would return to its Old Castilian spelling deve.

Some old spellings could be restored for the sake of historical interest, rather than to reflect Judaeo-Spanish phonology:

  • The old digraphs ch, ph and th (today c/qu/k/, f/f/ and t/t/ in standard Castilian respectively), formally abolished in 1803, would be used in words like orthographía, theología.
  • Latin/Old Castilian q before words like quando, quanto and qual (modern Spanish cuando, cuanto and cual) would also be used.

The supporters of this orthography argue that classical and Golden Age Castilian literature might gain renewed interest, better appreciation and understanding should its orthography be used again.

It remains uncertain how to treat sounds that Old Castilian spelling failed to render phonetically.

  • The s between vowels, as in casa, was probably pronounced /z/ in Old Castilian and is certainly so pronounced in Judaeo-Spanish. The same is true of s before m, d and other voiced consonants, as in mesmo or desde. Supporters of Carvajal's proposal are unsure about whether this should be written s as in Old Castilian or z in accordance with pronunciation.
  • The distinctive Judaeo-Spanish pronunciation of s as /ʃ/ before a /k/ sound, as in buscar, cosquillas, mascar and pescar, or in is endings as in séis, favláis and sois, is probably derived from Portuguese: it is uncertain whether it occurred in Old Castilian. It is debated whether this should be written s as in Old Castilian or x in accordance with the sound.
  • There is some dispute about the Spanish ll combination, which in Judaeo-Spanish (as in most areas of Spain) is pronounced like a y. Following Old Castilian orthography this should be written ll, but it is frequently written y in Ladino to avoid ambiguity and reflect the Hebrew spelling. The conservative option is to follow the etymology: caballero, but Mayorca.[11]
  • On this system, it is uncertain how loanwords from Hebrew and other languages should be rendered.


During the Middle Ages, Jews were instrumental in the development of Castilian into a prestige language. Erudite Jews translated Arabic and Hebrew works – often translated earlier from Greek – into Castilian and Christians translated again into Latin for transmission to Europe.

Until recent times, the language was widely spoken throughout the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa, having been brought there by Jewish refugees fleeing the area today known as Spain following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.[12]

The contact among Jews of different regions and languages, including Catalan, Leonese and Portuguese developed a unified dialect differing in some aspects from the Castilian norm that was forming simultaneously in the area known today as Spain, though some of this mixing may have occurred in exile rather than in the peninsula itself. The language was known as Yahudice (Jewish language) in the Ottoman Empire. In late 18th century, Enderunlu Fazıl (Fazyl bin Tahir Enderuni) wrote in his Zenanname: "Castilians speak the Jewish language but they are not Jews."

The closeness and mutual comprehensibility between Judaeo-Spanish and Castilian favoured trade among Sephardim (often relatives) ranging from the Ottoman Empire to the Netherlands and the conversos of the Iberian Peninsula.

After the expulsion of the Jews, who were of mostly Portuguese descent, from Dutch Brazil in 1654, Ladino-speaking Jews were one of the influences on the African-Romance creole Papiamento of the Caribbean islands Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

Over time, a corpus of literature, both liturgical and secular, developed. Early Ladino literature was limited to translations from Hebrew. At the end of the 17th century, Hebrew was disappearing as the vehicle for Rabbinic instruction. Thus a literature in the popular tongue (Ladino) appeared in the 18th century, such as Me'am Lo'ez and poetry collections. By the end of the 19th century, Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire studied in schools of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. French became the language for foreign relations (as it did for Maronites), and Judaeo-Spanish drew from French for neologisms. New secular genres appeared: more than 300 journals, history, theatre, biographies. Interaction with French also gave way to the creation of a new language named judeo-franzyol.[citation needed]

Given the relative isolation of many communities, a number of regional dialects of Judaeo-Spanish appeared, many with only limited mutual comprehensibility. This is due largely to the adoption of large numbers of loanwords from the surrounding populations, including, depending on the location of the community, from Greek, Turkish, Arabic, and in the Balkans, Slavic languages, especially Bosnian, Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian. The borrowing in many dialects is so heavy that up to 30% of Judaeo-Spanish is of non-Spanish origin. Some words also passed from Judaeo-Spanish to neighbouring languages: the word palavra "word" (Vulgar Latin = "parabola"; Greek = "parabole") for example passed into Turkish, Greek, and Romanian[13] with the meaning "bunk, hokum, humbug, bullshit" in Turkish and Romanian and "big talk, boastful talk" in Greek.

Judaeo-Spanish was the common language of Salonika during the period of Ottoman rule. The city became part of the modern Greek Republic in 1912 and subsequently renamed to Thessaloniki. Despite a major fire, economic oppression by Greek authorities, and mass settlement of Christian refugees, the language remained widely spoken in Salonika until the deportation and murder of 50,000 Salonikan Jews in the Holocaust during the Second World War. According to the 1928 census there were 62,999 native speakers of Ladino in Greece. This figure drops down to 53,094 native speakers in 1940 but 21,094 citizens also cited speaking Ladino "usually".[14]

Ladino was also a language used in Donmeh rites (Dönme in Turkish meaning convert and referring to adepts of Sabbatai Tsevi converted to the Moslem religion in the Ottoman empire). An example is the recite Sabbatai Tsevi esperamos a ti. Today, the religious practices and ritual use of Ladino seems confined to elderly generations.

The Castilian colonization of Northern Africa favoured the role of polyglot Sephardim who bridged between Castilian colonizers and Arab and Berber speakers.

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, Judaeo-Spanish was the predominant Jewish language in the Holy Land, though the dialect was different in some respects from that spoken in Greece and Turkey. Some Sephardi families have lived in Jerusalem for centuries, and preserve Judeo-Spanish for cultural and folklore purposes, though they now use Hebrew in everyday life.

An often told Sephardic anecdote from Bosnia-Herzegovina has it that, as a Spanish consulate was opened in Sarajevo between the two world wars, two Sephardic women were passing by and, upon hearing a Catholic priest speaking Spanish, thought that – given his language – he was in fact Jewish![15]

In the twentieth century, the number of speakers declined sharply: entire communities were murdered in the Holocaust, while the remaining speakers, many of whom emigrated to Israel, adopted Hebrew. The governments of the new nation-states encouraged instruction in the official languages. At the same time, it aroused the interest of philologists, since it conserved language and literature existed prior to the standardisation of Castilian.

Judeo-Spanish is in serious danger of extinction because many native speakers today are elderly olim (immigrants to Israel), who have not transmitted the language to their children or grandchildren. Nevertheless, it is experiencing a minor revival among Sephardic communities, especially in music. In addition, Sephardic communities in several Latin American countries still use Judeo-Spanish. In these countries, there is an added danger of extinction by assimilation to modern Castilian Spanish.

Kol Yisrael[16] and Radio Nacional de España[17] hold regular radio broadcasts in Judeo-Spanish. Law & Order: Criminal Intent showed an episode, titled "A Murderer Among Us", with references to the language. Films partially or totally in Judeo-Spanish include Mexican film Guita Schyfter), The House on Chelouche Street, and Every Time We Say Goodbye.

Efforts have been made to gather and publish modern Ladino fables and folktales. In 2001, the Jewish Publication Society published the first English translation of Ladino folk tales, collected by Matilda Koén-Sarano, Folktales of Joha, Jewish Trickster: The Misadventures of the Guileful Sephardic Prankster.

Religious use

The Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo and the Jewish community of Belgrade still chant part of the Sabbath Prayers (Mizmor David) in Ladino. The Sephardic Synagogue Ezra Bessaroth in Seattle, Washington (US) was formed by Jews from Turkey and the Island of Rhodes, and they use Ladino in some portions of their Shabbat services. The Siddur is called Zehut Yosef and was written by Hazzan Isaac Azose.

The late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translated some scholarly religious Ladino texts into Hebrew &/or English.[18][19]

Modern education

As with Yiddish[20][21] the Ladino language is seeing a minor resurgence in educational interest in colleges across the United States and in Israel.[22] Still, given the ethnic demographics among American Jews, it is not surprising that more institutions offer Yiddish language courses than Ladino language courses. Today, the University of Pennsylvania[23][24] and Tufts University[25] offer Ladino language courses among colleges in the United States.[26] Outside of the United States, Hebrew University also offers Ladino language courses.[27]


Comparison with other languages


El djudeo-espanyol, djudio, djudezmo o ladino es la lingua favlada por los sefardim, djudios ekspulsados de la Espanya enel 1492. Es una lingua derivada del espanyol i favlada por 150.000 personas en komunitas en Israel, la Turkia, antika Yugoslavia, la Gresia, el Maruekos, Mayorka, las Amerikas, entre munchos otros.


El judeo-español, djudio, djudezmo o ladino es la lengua hablada por los sefardíes, judíos expulsados de España en 1492. Es una lengua derivada del español y hablada por 150.000 personas en comunidades en Israel, Turquía, la antigua Yugoslavia, Grecia, Marruecos, Mallorca, las Américas, entre muchos otros.


El judeocastellà, djudiu, djudezmo o ladino és la llengua parlada pels sefardites, jueus expulsats d'Espanya al 1492. És una llengua derivada de l'espanyol i parlada per 150.000 persones en comunitats a Israel, Turquia, antiga Iugoslàvia, Grècia, el Marroc, Mallorca, les Amèriques, entre moltes altres.


El xudeoespañol, djudio, djudezmo o ladino ye la llingua falada polos sefardinos, xudíos expulsados d'España en 1492. Ye una llingua derivada del español y falada por 150.000 persones en comunidaes n'Israel, Turquía, na antigua Yugoslavia, Grecia, Marruecos, Mayorca, nes Amériques, entre munchos otros.


O xudeo-español, djudio, djudezmo ou ladino é a lingua falada polos sefardís, xudeos expulsados de España en 1492. É unha lingua derivada do español e falada por 150.000 persoas en comunidades en Israel, en Turquía, na antiga Iugoslavia, Grecia, Marrocos, Maiorca, nas Américas, entre moitos outros.


O judeo-espanhol, djudio, djudezmo ou ladino é a língua falada pelos sefarditas, judeus expulsos da Espanha em 1492. É uma língua derivada do espanhol e falada por 150.000 pessoas em comunidades em Israel, na Turquia, na antiga Iugoslávia, Grécia, Marrocos, Maiorca, nas Américas, entre muitos outros.


Judeo-Spanish, Djudio, Judezmo, or Ladino is a language spoken by the Sephardi Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. It is a language derived from Spanish and spoken by 150,000 people in communities in Israel, Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Morocco, Majorca, the Americas, among many others.


Folklorists have been collecting romances and other folk songs, some dating from before the expulsion. Many religious songs in Judeo-Spanish are translations of the Hebrew, usually with a different tune. For example, Ein Keloheinu looks like this in Judeo-Spanish:

Non komo muestro Dio,
Non komo muestro Sinyor,
Non komo muestro Rey,
Non komo muestro Salvador.

Other songs relate to secular themes such as love.

Adio, kerida

Tu madre kuando te pario           
Y te kito al mundo,
Korason ella no te dio
Para amar segundo.
Korason ella no te dió
Para amar segundo.

Adio Querida,
No kero la vida,
Me l'amargates tu.
Adio kerida,
No kero la vida,
Me l'amargates tu.

Va, bushkate otro amor,
Aharva otras puertas,
Aspera otro ardor,
Ke para mi sos muerta.
Aspera otro ardor,
Ke para mi sos muerta.

Adio kerida,
No kero la vida,
Me l'amargates tu.
Adio kerida,
No kero la vida,
Me l'amargates tú.

Por una Ninya Per una Ninya (Old Spanish) For a Girl (translation)
Por una ninya tan fermoza
l'alma yo la vo a dar
un kuchilyo de dos kortes
en el korason entro.
Per una ninya tan fermoça
l'aima io la voi a dare
un cuiçilo de duos cortes
in il coraçon intro.
For a girl so beautiful
I will give my soul
a double-edged knife
pierced my heart.
No me mires ke'stó kantando
es lyorar ke kero yo
los mis males son muy grandes
no los puedo somportar.
No mi mirares que istoi catando
is lorar que quero io
les mies males soni muelt grandes
no los puoso soportar.
Don't look at me; I am singing,
it is crying that I want,
my sorrows are so great
I can't bear them.
No te lo kontengas tu, fijika,
ke sos blanka komo'l simit,
ay morenas en el mundo
ke kemaron Selanik.
No te lo contengas tu, filia
que sos blanca come'l pane,
ay morenaças in el mondo
que quemaron Selanizia.
Don't hold your sorrows, young girl,
for you are white like bread,
there are brunette girls in the world
who set fire to Thessaloniki.
Quando el Rey Nimrod (Adaptation)                 When King Nimrod (translation)
Quando el Rey Nimrod al campo salía
mirava en el cielo y en la estrellería
vido una luz santa en la djudería
que havía de nascer Avraham Avinu.
When King Nimrod was going out to the fields
He was looking at heaven and at the stars
He saw a holy light in the Jewish quarter
[A sign] that Abraham, our father, must have been born.
Avraham Avinu, Padre querido,
Padre bendicho, luz de Yisrael.
Abraham Avinu [our Father], dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.
Luego a las comadres encomendava
que toda mujer que prenyada quedara
si no pariera al punto, la matara
que havía de nascer Abraham Avinu.
Then he was telling all the midwives
That every pregnant woman
Who did not give birth at once was going to be killed
because Abraham our father was going to born.
Avraham Avinu, Padre querido,
Padre bendicho, luz de Yisrael.
Abraham Avinu, dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.
La mujer de Terach quedó prenyada
y de día en día le preguntava
¿De qué teneix la cara tan demudada?
ella ya sabía el bien que tenía.
Terach's wife was pregnant
and each day he would ask her
Why do you look so distraught?
She already knew very well what she had.
Avraham Avinu, Padre querido,
Padre bendicho, luz de Yisrael.
Abraham Avinu, dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.
En fin de nueve meses parir quería
iva caminando por campos y vinyas,
a su marido tal ni le descubría
topó una meara, allí lo pariría
After nine months she wanted to give birth
She was walking through the fields and vineyards
Such would not even reach her husband
She found a manger; there, she would give birth.
Avraham Avinu, Padre querido,
Padre bendicho, luz de Yisrael.
Abraham Avinu, dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.
En aquella hora el nascido avlava
"Andavos mi madre, de la meara
yo ya topó quen me alexara
mandará del cielo quen me accompanyará
porque so criado del Dio bendicho."
In that hour the newborn was speaking
'Get away of the manger, my mother
I will somebody to take me out
He will send from the heaven the one that will go with me
Because I am a servant of the blessed God.'
Avraham Avinu, Padre querido,
Padre bendicho, luz de Yisrael
Abraham Avinu, dear father
Blessed Father, light of Israel.

Anachronistically, Abraham – who in the Bible is the very first Jew and the ancestor of all who followed, hence his appellation "Avinu" (Our Father) – is in the Judeo-Spanish song born already in the "djudería" (modern Spanish: judería), the Jewish quarter. This makes Terach and his wife into Jews, as are the parents of other babies killed by Nimrod. In essence, unlike its Biblical model, the song is about a Jewish community persecuted by a cruel king and witnessing the birth of a miraculous saviour – a subject of obvious interest and attraction to the Jewish people who composed and sang it in Medieval Spain.

The song attributes to Abraham elements from the story of Moses's birth (the cruel king killing innocent babies, with the midwives ordered to kill them, the 'holy light' in the Jewish area) and from the careers of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who emerged unscathed from the fiery furnace. Nimrod is thus made to conflate the role and attributes of two archetypal cruel and persecuting kings – Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh. For more information, see Nimrod.

Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow from the New York-based band Elysian Fields released a CD in 2001 called La Mar Enfortuna, which featured modern versions of traditional Sephardic songs, many sung by Charles in Judeo-Spanish. The American singer, Tanja Solnik, has released several award-winning albums that feature songs sung in Ladino: From Generation to Generation: A Legacy of Lullabies and Lullabies and Love Songs. There are a number of groups in Turkey that sing in Judeo-Spanish, notably Janet – Jak Esim Ensemble, Sefarad, Los Pasharos Sefaradis, and the children's chorus Las Estreyikas d'Estambol. There is a Brazilian-born singer of Sephardic origins called Fortuna who researches and plays Judaeo-Spanish music.

The Jewish Bosnian-American musician Flory Jagoda recorded two CDs of music taught to her by her grandmother, a Sephardic folk singer, among a larger discography.

The cantor Dr. Ramón Tasat, who learned Judaeo-Spanish at his grandmother's knee in Buenos Aires, has recorded many songs in the language, with three of his CDs focusing primarily on that music.

The Israeli singer Yasmin Levy has also brought a new interpretation to the traditional songs by incorporating more "modern" sounds of Andalusian Flamenco. Her work revitalising Sephardi music has earned Levy the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation Award for promoting cross-cultural dialogue between musicians from three cultures.[28] In Yasmin Levy's own words:

I am proud to combine the two cultures of Ladino and flamenco, while mixing in Middle Eastern influences. I am embarking on a 500 years old musical journey, taking Ladino to Andalusia and mixing it with flamenco, the style that still bears the musical memories of the old Moorish and Jewish-Spanish world with the sound of the Arab world. In a way it is a ‘musical reconciliation’ of history.[29]

Notable music groups performing in Judaeo-Spanish include Voice of the Turtle, Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles' "La Mar Enfortuna" and Vanya Green, who was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship for her research and performance of this music. She was recently selected as one of the top ten world music artists by the We are Listening International World of Music Awards for her interpretations of the music.

Robin Greenstein, a New York based musician, received a federal CETA grant in the 1980s to collect and perform Sephardic Ladino Music under the guidance of the American Jewish Congress. Her mentor was Joe Elias, noted Sephardic singer from Brooklyn. She recorded residents of the Sephardic Home for the Aged, a nursing home in Coney Island, NY singing songs from their childhood. Amongst the voices recorded was Victoria Hazan, a well known Sephardic singer who recorded many 78's in Ladino and Turkish from the 1930s and 40's. Two Ladino songs can be found on her "Songs of the Season" holiday CD released in 2010 on Windy Records.

The Portland Oregon based Pink Martini released a Ladino Hanukkah song, "Ocho Kandelikas," on their 2010 album "Joy to the World"

See also



  1. ^ Alfassa, Shelomo (December 1999). "Ladinokomunita". Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture. http://www.sephardicstudies.org/quickladino.html. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Real Academia Española dictionary, entry: Judeo-Español in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (DRAE).
  3. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (2005). "Ladino". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. SIL International. http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=lad. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  4. ^ (Spanish) DRAE: Ladino, 2nd sense. Buscon.rae.es. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  5. ^ Historia 16, 1978
  6. ^ Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki. Jmth.gr. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  7. ^ 2001 Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy of the spanish tongue, Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española, Espasa.
  8. ^ "Clearing up Ladino, Judeo-Spanish, Sephardic Music" Judith Cohen, HaLapid, winter 2001; Sephardic Song Judith Cohen, Midstream July/August 2003
  9. ^ Verba Hispanica X: Los problemas del estudio de la lengua sefardí, Katja Šmid, Ljubljana, pages 113–124: Es interesante el hecho que en Bulgaria se imprimieron unas pocas publicaciones en alfabeto cirílico búlgaro y en Grecia en alfabeto griego. [...] Nezirović (1992: 128) anota que también en Bosnia se ha encontrado un documento en que la lengua sefardí está escrita en alfabeto cirilico. The Nezirović reference is: Nezirović, M., Jevrejsko-Španjolska književnost. Institut za književnost, Svjetlost, Sarajevo, Bosnia 1992.
  10. ^ See preface by Iacob M Hassán to Romero, Coplas Sefardíes, Cordoba, pp. 23–24.
  11. ^ The modern Spanish spelling Mallorca is a hypercorrection.
  12. ^ "Ladinoikonunita: A quick explanation of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish). Sephardicstudies.org. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  13. ^ palavră in the Dicționarul etimologic român, Alexandru Ciorănescu, Universidad de la Laguna, Tenerife, 1958–1966: Cuvînt introdus probabil prin. iud. sp: "Word introduced probably through Judaeo-Spanish.
  14. ^ Συγκριτικός πίνακας των στοιχείων των απογραφών του 1928, 1940 ΚΑΙ 1951 σχετικά με τις ομιλούμενες γλώσσες στην Ελλάδα. – Μεινοτικές γλώσσες στην Ελλάδα Κωνσταντίνος Τσιτσελίκης (2001), Πύλη για την Ελληνική Γλώσσα
  15. ^ Eliezer Papo: From the Wailing Wall (in Bosnian)
  16. ^ Reka Network: Kol Israel International
  17. ^ Radio Exterior de España: Emisión sefardí
  18. ^ > Events > Exhibitions > Rare Book Library Collection Restoration Project – Ladino. American Sephardi Federation (23 April 1918). Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  19. ^ Yalkut May'Am Loez, Jerusalem 5736 Hebrew translation from Ladino language
  20. ^ Price, Sarah. (2005-08-25) Schools to Teach Ein Bisel Yiddish | Education. Jewish Journal. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  21. ^ The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language, Volume 11, No. 10. Yiddish.haifa.ac.il (30 September 2007). Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  22. ^ EJP | News | Western Europe | Judeo-Spanish language revived. Ejpress.org (19 September 2005). Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  23. ^ Jewish Studies Program. Ccat.sas.upenn.edu. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  24. ^ Ladino Class at Penn Tries to Resuscitate Dormant Language. The Jewish Exponent (1 February 2007). Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  25. ^ Department of German, Russian & Asian Languages and Literature – Tufts University. Ase.tufts.edu. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  26. ^ For love of Ladino – The Jewish Standard. Jstandard.com. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  27. ^ Courses – Ladino Studies At The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Pluto.huji.ac.il (30 July 2010). Retrieved on 19 October 2011.
  28. ^ "2008 Event Media Release – Yasmin Levy". Sydney Opera House. http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/About/08EventMediaRelease_YasminLevy.aspx. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  29. ^ "BBC – Awards for World Music 2007 – Yasmin Levy". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/worldmusic/a4wm2007/2007_yasmin_levy.shtml. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  30. ^ Åžalom Gazetesi – 12.10.2011 – Judeo-Espanyol İçerikleri. Salom.com.tr. Retrieved on 19 October 2011.


  • Barton, Thomas Immanuel (Toivi Cook) (2010) Judezmo Expressions. USA ISBN 9788900357547
  • Barton, Thomas Immanuel (Toivi Cook) (2008) Judezmo (Judeo-Castilian) Dictionary. USA ISBN 978-1890035730
  • Bunis, David M. (1999) Judezmo: an introduction to the language of the Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire. Jerusalem ISBN 9654930244
  • Габинский, Марк А. (1992) Сефардский (еврейской-испанский) язык (M. A. Gabinsky. Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) language, in Russian). Chişinău: Ştiinţa
  • Hemsi, Alberto (1995) Cancionero Sefardí; edited and with an introduction by Edwin Seroussi (Yuval Music Series; 4.) Jerusaelem: The Jewish Music Research Centre, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Kohen, Elli; Kohen-Gordon, Dahlia (2000) Ladino-English, English-Ladino: concise encyclopedic dictionary. New York: Hippocrene Books
  • Markova, Alla (2008) Beginner's Ladino with 2 Audio CDs. New York: Hippocrene Books ISBN 0-7818-1225-9
  • Markus, Shimon (1965) Ha-safa ha-sefaradit-yehudit (The Judeo-Spanish language, in Hebrew). Jerusalem
  • Molho, Michael (1950) Usos y costumbres de los judíos de Salónica
  • Varol, Marie-Christine (2004) Manuel de Judéo-Espagnol, langue et culture (book & CD, in French), Paris: L'Asiathèque ISBN 2911053869

Further reading

Lleal, Coloma (1992) "A propósito de una denominación: el judeoespañol", available at Centro Virtual Cervantes, http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/FichaObra.html?Ref=19944

  • Saporta y Beja, Enrique, comp. (1978) Refranes de los judíos sefardíes y otras locuciones típicas de Salónica y otros sitios de Oriente. Barcelona: Ameller

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Judaeo-Spanish — noun a Romance Language, based on Old Spanish, and spoken almost exclusively by Sephardic Jews in Greek and Turkey. Although like most American born children of immigrants they had failed to develop a fluent use of the mother tongue, both had… …   Wiktionary

  • Judaeo-Spanish — /dʒuˌdeɪoʊ ˈspænɪʃ/ (say jooh.dayoh spanish) noun → Ladino. Also, Judeo Spanish …   Australian-English dictionary

  • Spanish and Portuguese Jews — are a distinctive sub group of Sephardim who have their main ethnic origins within the crypto Jewish communities of the Iberian peninsula and who shaped communities mainly in Western Europe and the Americas from the late 16th century on. These… …   Wikipedia

  • Spanish dialects and varieties — Spanish language …   Wikipedia

  • Spanish pronouns — Spanish language …   Wikipedia

  • Spanish language — Castellano and Español redirect here. For the village in Italy, see Castellano, Trentino. For people with the surname Castellano, see Castellano (surname). Castilian castellano Pronunciation [kasteˈʎano] Spoken in …   Wikipedia

  • Judaeo-Masonic conspiracy theory — The International Communist Judaeo Masonic Conspiracy, sometimes called the international marxist judaeo masonic conspiracy, or simply the judaeo masonic conspiracy, is a conspiracy theory involving a secret coalition of Jews, freemasons, and… …   Wikipedia

  • Spanish translations of the Bible — Many Spanish translations of the Bible have been made during the last 1,000 years or so. Jewish translations Medieval Spanish Jews had a tradition of oral translation of Biblical readings into Spanish, and several manuscript translations were… …   Wikipedia

  • Murcian Spanish — Murciano, more popularly known as panocho, is a variant of the Peninsular Spanish, spoken mainly in autonomous region of Murcia and the adjacent Comarca of Vega Baja del Segura in the province of Alicante (especially in the rural areas) on the… …   Wikipedia

  • Differences between Spanish and Portuguese — Although Portuguese and Spanish are closely related, to the point of having a considerable degree of mutual intelligibility, there are also important differences between them, which can pose difficulties for people acquainted with one of the… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”