Lashon Hakodesh (Hebrew: לָשׁוֹן הַקֹּדֶשׁ; lit.
"the tongue [of] holiness" or "the Holy Tongue"), also spelled L'shon
Hakodesh or Leshon Hakodesh (Hebrew: לְשׁוֹן
הַקֹּדֶשׁ), is a Jewish term and appellation
attributed to the Hebrew language, or sometimes to a mix of Hebrew and
Aramaic, in which its religious texts and prayers were written, and
served, during the
Medieval Hebrew era, for religious purposes,
Halakha – in contrary to the secular tongue, which
served for the routine daily needs, such as the
1 Origins in the Classical texts
2 See also
4 Further reading
Origins in the Classical texts
The phrase's first appearance is already in the Mishnah:
"The following may be recited in any language: The Torah-portion of
'Sotah', the confession made at the presentation of the tithe, the
'Shema', and the 'Prayer' …
The following are recited in the Holy Tongue: The declaration made at
the 'First Fruits', the formula of 'Halizah', the blessings and
curses, the benediction of the priests …"
— Mishnah, Tractate Tractate Sotah 7:1-2 (Talmud, Sotah 32a)
In its narrow sense,
Lashon Hakodesh refers not to the Hebrew language
in its entirety, but rather to the
Biblical Hebrew only. In its
broader sense, it was used for combining Hebrew and Talmudic-Aramaic
within the Rabbinic Hebrew, which served the purpose of writing the
Jewish classical texts of the
Middle Ages and the Early modern period.
The exact meaning of the phrase "Lashon Hakodesh" becomes clear due to
its contrary term. In the
Mishnah and the
Gemara the term was aimed to
take out the foreign languages that were commonly spoken among the
"For Rabbi said: Why use the Syrian language in the land of Israel?
Either use the Holy Tongue or Greek! And R. Joseph said: Why use the
Syrian language in Babylon? Either use the Holy Tongue or Persian!"
— Talmud, Tractate Sotah, 49b
"Rabbi Hanina said: Because language [of Babylonia] is akin to the
Talmud Tractate Pesachim, 87b
Rishonim sages perceived only Biblical Hebrew, and not the
Mishnaic Hebrew, as "Lashon Hakodesh". In Yiddish, the term "Loshn
Koydesh" serves to describe its own Hebrew-
Aramaic component, as
opposed to words originating from German or Slavic languages. In some
Haredi denominations, the term is meant to describe old Hebrew
as opposed to Modern Israeli Hebrew, and few extreme Haredi
denominations even try to avoid using renewed words since the Revival
of the Hebrew language.
Jewish philosophers have offered various reasonings for Hebrew being
the "Sacred Language".
Maimonides, in his book
The Guide for the Perplexed
The Guide for the Perplexed (written in a
Judeo-Arabic language), reasoned that the preference of the Hebrew
language is based upon its internal characteristics:
" I have also a reason and cause for calling our language the holy
language-do not think it is exaggeration or error on my part, it is
Hebrew language has no special name for the
organ of generation in females or in males, nor for the act of
generation itself, nor for semen, nor for secretion. The Hebrew has no
original expressions for these things, and only describes them in
figurative language and by way of hints, as if to indicate thereby
that these things should not be mentioned, and should therefore have
no names; we ought to be silent about them, and when we are compelled
to mention them, we must manage to employ for that purpose some
suitable expressions, although these are generally used in a different
The Guide for the Perplexed
The Guide for the Perplexed 
Nahmanides disagrees with Maimonides' reasoning, and provides his own
reasoning, based on the way the Hebrew was being used:
"As I see it, the reason for the Rabbis calling the language of the
Torah the Holy Tongue is that the words of the
Torah and of the
prophecies and all sacred utterances were all spoken in that language;
it is the language that the Holy One, blessed be He, speaks with His
prophets and with His people, saying, "I am ...," "Thou shalt not have
..." and the remaining commandments and prophecies; it is the language
by which He is called in His sacred names... and in which He created
His universe, gave names to heaven and earth and all therein, giving
his angels and his host names — Michael, Gabriel, etc. — all in
that language, and in that language naming the saintly people in the
Land, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Solomon."
— Nahmanides' interpretation of Exodus, 30:13
^ a b Sotah 7:2 with vowelized commentary (in Hebrew). New York. 1979.
Retrieved Jul 26, 2017.
^ a b Vowelized
Mishnah Sotah 7:2 (in Hebrew). New York: The Hebraica
Press. 1966. OCLC 233369863. Retrieved Jul 26, 2017;
Mishnah Sotah 7:2 (in Hebrew). Jerusalem. 1999. Retrieved
Jul 26, 2017.
^ M. Friedlander (1904).  The Guide for the Perplexed
(Friedlander), Part III, Chapter 8.
Nahmanides (in Hebrew). רמב"ן על שמות ל יג.
Y. Frank & E.Z. Melamed (1991). Practical
Feldheim Publishers. ISBN 978-0873065887.
R. C. Klein (2014). Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew.
Mosaica Press. ISBN 978-1937887360.
D. Leitner (2007). Understanding the Alef Beis. Feldheim Publishers.
M. Munk (1986). The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet. Artscroll/Mesorah