drei·​del | \ ˈdrā-dᵊl How to pronounce dreidel (audio) \
variants: or less commonly dreidl

Definition of dreidel

1 : a 4-sided toy marked with Hebrew letters and spun like a top in a game of chance
2 : a children's game of chance played especially at Hanukkah with a dreidel

Illustration of dreidel

Illustration of dreidel

dreidel 1

Did you know?

On each of the dreidel's four sides is inscribed a Hebrew letter—nun, gimel, he, and shin—which together stands for "Nes gadol haya sham," meaning "A great miracle happened there" (in Israel, the letter pe, short for po, "here," is often used instead of shin). This phrase refers to the miracle of the small amount of oil—enough for one day—which burned for eight days in the Temple of Jerusalem. But when playing dreidel, the letters have a more utilitarian significance. The dreidel is spun and depending on which letter is on top when it lands, the player's currency—be it pennies or candy—is added to or taken from the pot. (Nun means the player does nothing; gimel means the player gets everything; he means the player gets half; and shin means the player adds to the pot.) The word dreidel was borrowed into English early in the 20th century from the Yiddish dreydl (itself from the word dreyen, which means "to turn").

Examples of dreidel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Families play dreidel, a spinning top game, to win chocolate coins called gelt. Dahlia Ghabour, The Courier-Journal, 30 Nov. 2021 In the game, the players take turns spinning the dreidel. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 3 Dec. 2021 Highlights include a giant blow up bear, a large dreidel and flying menorahs powered by lasers. Daniel I. Dorfman, chicagotribune.com, 7 Dec. 2021 Jews celebrate Hanukkah by lighting menorahs, telling the Hanukkah story, playing dreidel, and eating special foods. Gege Reed, The Courier-Journal, 30 Nov. 2021 The kits include a small gift, a dreidel, gelt, and treats. Dahlia Ghabour, The Courier-Journal, 30 Nov. 2021 By the cash registers, an inflatable bear greets shoppers, his head nearly touching the ceiling, his arms cradling a blue dreidel. Christina Tkacik, baltimoresun.com, 26 Nov. 2021 Chabad Jewish Center in Glastonbury hosts free Chanukah events with warm latkes, hot cider, raffle and a dreidel mascot. Susan Dunne, courant.com, 24 Nov. 2021 Also available is a shawarma plate, hot dog plate, waffle dreidel and a $1 latke plate. Eddie Morales, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 18 Nov. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dreidel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of dreidel

1916, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for dreidel

Yiddish dreydl, from dreyen to turn, from Middle High German drǣjen, from Old High German drāen — more at throw entry 1

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The first known use of dreidel was in 1916

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Last Updated

3 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dreidel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dreidel. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on dreidel

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about dreidel


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