Hebrew abbreviations (rashei teivot) are sometimes used for common Hebrew phrases. (You can view an exhautive list at Princeton University's web site by clicking here.) Here are some of the most common Hebrew abbreviations you are likely to encounter:
Alef-Bet (אָלֶף־בֵּית). The Hebrew alphabet.
Adonainu, Morainu, VeRabbeinu; "Our Master, Our Teacher, and Our Rebbe." An honorific title given to scholarly leaders of a Jewish community. In writing, this title is placed before the name, as in "Admor of Minsk" or "R' Ploni Almoni, Admor of Chelm."
A Hebrew notariqon for the phrase Attah Gibbur LeOlam Adonai, meaning "Thou art great forever, LORD."
Alev Hashalom (m), Aleha shalom (f); "Peace Be Upon Him/Her." For any deceased Jew (usually said postpositively, as in "My uncle Harry, Alev Hashalom...")
Gentile; Hebrew acronym for avdei kochavim u'mazalot - a "worshiper of stars and constellations" (somewhat ironic, since Kabbalah and Tarot definitely are akum-kop).
Ad Maia V'esrim Shana; Translation: [He/She should live] for 120 years; (Alef, Mem, Vav,[gerish], Shin) Used for salutations in correspondence: "Dear Ploni AMU"Sh." Note that this acronym is sometimes spelled as "Amosh."
(ah-rah-ree-tah) Achad Rosh Achdotho Rosh Ichudo Temu rahzo Achad, "One is his Beginning; One is His Individuality; His Permutation is One." Esoteric name.
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (יִצְחַק לוּרְיָא), the 16th century Kabbalist. He is called "Ari" (Lion) from an acronym for Ashkenazi Rabbi Yitzchak ("The Ashkenazic Rabbi Yitzhak"), and sometimes called Ari Ha-Kadosh ("The holy lion"). He is also referred to as "Arizal" with the "ZaL" acronym (Zikhrono Livrakha) added (see below).
Jewish shorthand term for the Babylonian Talmud.
Baruch Hashem "Blessed be G-d"; "thanks be to G-d"
B'Ezrat/Ezer Hashem; "With G-d's help" (i.e. at top of papers, sometimes with an Ayin following the Bet )
B'li Neder (בְּלִי נֶדֶר), "without taking a vow"; Used after a promise, since failure to fulfill a promise is a serious violation of Jewish law. For example, "I'll check that reference tomorrow, B"N." (i.e., if I forget, I don't want to be liable under Jewish law).
Ben Rabbi or ben Rav; Son of Rabbi so-and-so
besht; An honorary name given to Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (ישראל בן אליעזר), the founder of Chasidism, the 18th century mystical revival movement. Hebrew for Baal Shem Tov (בעל שם טוב), "master of the good name." The "BeSHT" is an acronym for Baal SHem Tov.
B'li Ayin Hara; "without the 'evil eye'"; meaning: "I'm saying this without hubris," or I say this without evil intent, malice, etc.
B'siyata d'shmaya; "With the help of heaven" (Aramaic).
B"T (בעל תשובה)
Ba'al Teshuvah; A penitent; a Jew who returns to a traditional observant Jewish lifestyle.
Hebrew acronym for חכמינו זכרונם לברכה: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha ("Our sages of blessed memory"), and often used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud. Note that the Tannaim (pl; sing. is tanna) are the sages of the Mishnah, whereas the Amoraim (pl; sing. is amora) are the sages of the Gemara. Collectively the Tannaim and Amoraim are referred to as Chazal in later rabbinical writing.
Aconym for R. Chizkiya ben Manoach (mid 13th Century French commentator). Chizkuni's commentary on the Torah (called "the Chizkuni") was originally published in Venice in 1524 and has been reprinted many times. It generally follows Rashi's explanations of the text and adds additional commentary.
Chas v'sholem; G-d forbid! (Stop or you'll break your neck, CHvSH).
An abbreviation for "Consult Your Local Authority on Halacha." A general disclaimer that the person speaing is without authority pertaining to Jewish Law (halakhah). "Use the information here for your own education, and in actual practice - CYLAH." A sort of "CYB" for those who write about Jewish religious subjects.
Faith and the Hebrew Scriptures
Gamzu (גם זוּ)
"This too," a shortened version of the phrase "Gam zu letovah," "This, too, is for the best." From a story in the Talmud of a sage named Nachum, whose staunch faith in God led him to declare all of God's actions as being for the best. His name therefore became Nachum Ish Gam Zu, Nachum, the Man of 'Everything is for the Best.'
G-d forbid; chvsh
Hashem Yikom Damo: השם יקום דמו; "Hashem will avenge his blood" (said on behalf of martyred Jews).
HKB"H - הקב"ה
Ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu (הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא), "The Holy One, Blessed be He"; (sometimes abbreviated as HKBH).
Im Yirtzeh Hashem; "If it be G-d's will." Used for referring to future actions: "I'll see you tomorrow, IY"H."
Kosher for Passover.
Maharal - מהר"ל
Moreinu ha-Rav Loew: "Our Teacher the Rabbi Loew"; Jewish philosopher, mystic and Talmud scholar (1525-1609) who served as a leading rabbi in Prague (thus he is called the Maharal of Prague). His works inspired the Polish branch of Hasidism. He is perhaps best known for his supposed creation of a golem by means of magical powers based on the esoteric knowledge of how God created Adam.
Malbim - מלבי"ם
Acronym for Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel Weiser (1809-1979), a Russian rabbi and Torah commentator (HaTorah vehaMitzva). He is chiefly known as a modern commentator who saw a philological connection between the written and oral Torahs.
Nishmaso b'Eden (m) / Nishmasa b'Eden (f); "His/Her soul should be in Eden/paradise"
Nakh - the Nevi'im and Ketuvim, considered apart from the Torah.
Nero yoir -- "may his candle shine"; similar in general sentiment to shlita (see below), but said of lesser mortals.
Rabbi (sometimes Rav)
Acronym for David Kimhi (1160–1235), a medieval rabbi, biblical commentator best known today for his commentaries on the books of the Prophets, though he also wrote commentaries on the Psalms and Torah. His interpretations lean toward the mystical, especially in commentary on Bereshit (Genesis).
Acronym for Rabbi Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (1522-1570), one of the most prominent scholars of early modern Judaism's Kabbalah, and author of the work Pardes Rimonim ("Orchard of the Pomegranates"). He belonged to a circle of Jewish mystical thinkers in 16th-century Tzafed. Cordovero's Kabbalism featured a comprehensive interpretation of the Zohar and was considered a friendly rival of the Lurianic interpretation. Cordovero also wrote the massicve Ohr Yakar ("A Precious Light") as a further commentary on the Zohar.
Acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (1135-1204), otherwise known as Maimonides, an Aristotelian medievalist who is considered by some to be the greatest Jewish sage and leader of his day.
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (1194-1270), a great Spanish-Jewish scholar. Also known as Nachmanides.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746), prominent Italian Jewish rabbi, kabbalist, and mystical philosopher. Ramchal is perhaps most famous for Meslilat Yesharim (מסילת ישרים), a dialogical work on mussar (character development and spirituality). Because he claimed to "channel" the teaching of "the maggid," most of his writings were burned by Jewish religious authorities.
Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (1080-1158). Famous contributor to the Tosafot (commentary on Rashi's notes of the Talmud) and Torah scholar.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (רבי שמעון בר יוחאי), a tanna (sage of the Mishnah) who is considered one of the great revealers of "Torat Hanistar" (the hidden Torah or kabbalah). A disciple of Rabbi Akiva who is (psuedopigraphically) said to be the author of the Zohar ("splendor"), a key work of Jewish mysticism. Lag Ba'omer (i.e., 18th of Iyar) is traditionally regarded as his Yahrzeit (the anniversary of the death). Rabbi Shimon is mentioned in every chapter in the Talmud. c.100-160 AD.
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 C.E.), a great French commentator.
Abbreviation for Shisha Sidarim, the six orders of the Mishnah that form the basis of the Talmud. Shas and Chumash with Rashi is considered a good Jewish religious education.
Shaliach tzibur; cantor; prayer leader; "messenger of (the) congregation"
SHe'yikhye Lirot Yamim Tovim ve'Arukim; Acronym for a Hebrew phrase, "May he live a long and good life, Amen," said by ultraorthodox when mentioning the name of a revered rabbi. As a word, "Shlita" means that the Rabbi who is mentioned is a person of leadership. (Example: "Note that the Rebbe sh'lita has instructed and requested all of Bar Mitzvah age and older to regularly put on tefillin.")
Sifrei Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzot; Refers to a style of writing (calligraphy) regarded as officially kosher by professional soferim (scribes). STAM writing is the only acceptable form of calligraphy used for Jewish ritual objects. A certified scribe is called a sofer STaM. There are hundreds of rules regarding the proper way to write STaM script, though there are some variations in presentation based on different scribal traditions.
Tzarich Iyun (צ"ע)
The abbreviation Tzade Ayin, or sometimes Vav, Tzade, Ayin, is short for tzarich iyun, a phrase that means "it needs further study." You will often see this phrase when a Torah question is raised but the issue remains unresolved.
Tanakh: The Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim divisions of the Hebrew scriptures.
U (inside a circle)
Kosher (from Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations). A solitary K is sometimes used as a symbol for kosher, but as this symbol cannot be trademarked and is not considered to be a safeguard. You may also see the following marks on packaged foods:
D - The product has dairy ingredients.
DE - The product is processed on equipment that processes dairy ingredients.
M - The product contains meat/poultry .
P - The products is kosher for Passover but may not be pareve (non-milk or meat).
YM"SH, Y'Sh, Y"ShU
Yimach Shmo Vazichro; For deceased enemies of the Jewish people. "May his name be wiped out" (YH"SH, Y'Sh); or "May his name and memory be wiped out" (Y'Shu); Note: This is also a term of disparagement among Orthodox Jews for Yeshua the Mashiach, blessed be He, who blasphemously call Him "Yeshu."
zekher kadosh livrakha: זכר קדוש לברכה Phr. "May the memory of the saintly be for blessing."
Zichrono livrakha (m) / zichronah livrakha (f); (Pronounced "zal") An abbreviation used to indicate that person has died. "Of Blessed Memory." Example: Rabbi Yochnon Z"L used to say...
Zecher Tzadik Livrocho; (Pronounced "zatzal") For deceased prominent Jews. "The Memory of the Righteous is a Blessing."
Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik veKadosh LeVaracha: "The memory of a Tzaddik (righteous man) and a Kadosh (a holy man) is a blessing."
z'khuto yagen aleinu: זכותו יגן עלינו Phrase: "May his merit protect us" (said of pious rabbis of the past).