Wooden dreidel

A dreidel (Yiddish: דרײדל dreydl plural: dreydlekh,[1] Hebrew: סביבוןSevivon) is a four-sided spinning top, played with during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for "נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – "a great miracle happened there"). These letters also form a mnemonic for the rules of a gambling game played with a dreidel: Nun stands for the Yiddish word nisht ("nothing"), Hei stands for halb ("half"), Gimel for gants ("all"), and Shin for shtel arayn ("put in"). In Israel, the fourth side of most dreidels is inscribed with the letter פ (Pei), rendering the acronym, נס גדול היה פה, Nes Gadol Hayah Poh—"A great miracle happened here" referring to the miracle occurring in the land of Israel. Some stores in Haredi neighbourhoods sell the ש dreidels.



Dreidels for sale at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem

The Yiddish word "dreydl" comes from the word "dreyen" ("to turn", compare to "drehen", meaning the same in German). The Hebrew word "sevivon" comes also from the root "SBB" ("to turn") and was invented by Itamar Ben-Avi (the son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda) when he was 5 years old. Hayyim Nahman Bialik used a different word, "kirkar" (from the root "KRKR" – "to spin"), in his poems,[2] but it was not adopted into spoken Hebrew.


Some Jewish commentators, such as Ja'cob, ascribe symbolic significance to the markings on the dreidel. One commentary, for example, connects the four letters with the four exiles to which the nation of Israel was historically subject—Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome.[3]

While not a mandated (mitzvah) for Hanukkah (the only mandated mitzvot are lighting candles and saying the full hallel), spinning the dreidel is a traditional game played during the holiday and has become one of the symbols associated with Hanukkah.

Rules of the game

Each player begins with an equal number of game pieces (usually 10–15). The game pieces can be any object, such as chocolate gelt, pennies, or raisins.

  • At the beginning of each round, every participant puts one game piece into the center "pot". In addition, every time the pot is empty and sometimes if it has one game piece left, every player puts one in the pot.
  • Each player spins the dreidel once during their turn. Depending on which player side is facing up when it stops spinning, they give or take game pieces from the pot:
    • a) If נ (nun) is facing up, the player does nothing.
    • b) If ג (gimel) is facing up, the player gets everything in the pot.
    • c) If ה (hei) is facing up, the player gets half of the pieces in the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes the half the pot rounded up to the nearest whole number)
    • d) If ש (shin) or פ (pei) is facing up, the player adds a game piece to the pot.
  • If the player is out of pieces, they are either "out" or may ask another player for a "loan".[4]

Dreidel tournaments

Dreidel is now a competitive sport in North America. Major League Dreidel (MLD), founded in New York City in 2007, hosts dreidel tournaments during the holiday of Hanukkah. In MLD tournaments the player with the longest Time of Spin (TOS) is the winner. MLD is played on a Spinagogue, the official booms spinning stadium of Major League Dreidel. Pamskee is the 2007 MLD Champion. Virtual Dreidel is the 2008 MLD Champion.[5] In 2009, Major League Dreidel launched a game version of the Spinagogue and MLD tournaments and original games are now being played around the country during Hanukkah.[6]

In 2009, Good Morning America published a story on Dreidel Renaissance reporting on the rising popularity of the dreidel.[7] Dreidel games that have come out on the market since 2007 include No Limit Texas Dreidel,[8] a cross between traditional dreidel and Texas Hold'em poker, invented by a Judaica company called ModernTribe.[9] Other new dreidel games include Stacabees[10] and Maccabees.[11]

Dreidel collections

In many cases, childhood enjoyment of dreidels has led to interest in collecting them in adulthood.[12] Jewish institutions such as the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva University and Temple Emanu-El in New York, house dreidel collections, as do museums such as the Spinning Top and Yo-Yo Museum in Burlington, Wisconsin.[13]

See also


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dreidel — aus Holz Mädchen mit Toton, Detail aus dem Gemälde Kinderspiele von Pieter Brueghel …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • dreidel — dreidel, dreidl dreidl(dr[=a]d l), n. 1. a toy shaped somewhat like a top, but having four flat sides, each marked with one of the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, he, or shin. It is spun like a top, and the letter showing when it stops spinning… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • dreidel — [drā′dəl] n. 1. a small top with Hebrew letters on each of four sides, spun in a game played by children, esp. during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah 2. the game using this top …   English World dictionary

  • dreidel — ˈdrādəl noun (plural dreidels or dreidel) Etymology: Yiddish dreidl, from drehen to turn, from Middle High German dræjen, dræhen, from Old High German drāen more at throw 1. : a 4 sided die that revolves like a spinning top, that is marked on… …   Useful english dictionary

  • dreidel — also dreidl noun Etymology: Yiddish dreydl, from dreyen to turn, from Middle High German drǣjen, from Old High German drāen more at throw Date: 1916 1. a 4 sided toy marked with Hebrew letters and spun like a top in a game of chance 2. a children …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • dreidel — /drayd l/, n., pl. dreidels, dreidel. a four sided top bearing the Hebrew letters nun, gimel, he, and shin, one on each side, used chiefly in a children s game traditionally played on the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. [1925 30; < Yiddish dreydl,… …   Universalium

  • Dreidel — Sevivon Un sevivon …   Wikipédia en Français

  • dreidel — noun /ˈdreɪ.dəl/ A four sided spinning top, a symbol of Judaism used at Hanukkah …   Wiktionary

  • dreidel — drei|del [ˈdreıdl] n [Date: 1900 2000; : Yiddish; Origin: dreidl, from dreien to turn ] a ↑top (=a toy that you spin) with a Hebrew letter on each of its four sides and a point at the bottom, used in a game played during Hanukkah …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • dreidel — n. spinning top used in games during Hanukkah …   English contemporary dictionary

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