drei·​del ˈdrā-dᵊl How to pronounce dreidel (audio)
variants or less commonly dreidl
: a 4-sided toy marked with Hebrew letters and spun like a top in a game of chance
: a children's game of chance played especially at Hanukkah with a dreidel

Illustration of dreidel

Illustration of dreidel
  • dreidel 1

Did you know?

If your dreidel is spinning beneath the glow of the menorah, it’s probably the Jewish festival of lights known as Hanukkah. The holiday celebrates the miracle of a small amount of oil—enough for one day—burning for eight days in the Temple of Jerusalem. And though it’s a toy, the dreidel’s design is very much an homage: on each of its four sides is inscribed a Hebrew letter—nun, gimel, he, and shin—which together stand 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). In the game of dreidel, each letter bears its own significance: the dreidel is spun and depending on which letter is on top when it lands, the player’s currency, or gelt, 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. Wherever you land on holiday traditions, we wish you words of gimel: gratitude, grub, and, of course, gaiety.

Examples of dreidel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The couple also purchased a menorah for the building with a custom runner, being sure to leave out dreidels for children during Hanukkah. Photographs and Additional Reporting By Karen Dias, New York Times, 14 July 2023 Stylish Hanukkah outfit ideas How many sides does a dreidel have? Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY, 31 Mar. 2023 One symbol of Hanukkah is the dreidel. CNN, 8 Dec. 2021 Modern day celebrations of the holiday include giving and receiving gifts, playing with a spinning top called a dreidel, enjoying delicious holiday foods such as jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot and potato pancakes called latkes, lighting candles, and of course saying Hanukkah blessings. Kelsey Hurwitz, Woman's Day, 2 Sep. 2020 While certain symbols of the holiday like the menorah (a decorative candelabra) and the dreidel (a four sided spinning top) may be more easily recognizable in popular culture, there is plenty more to learn about Hanukkah and why it is celebrated. Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY, 31 Mar. 2023 Each Horst limited-edition dreidel comes with a stamped certificate of conformance to demonstrate the quality put into the manufacturing. Susan Dunne, Hartford Courant, 13 Dec. 2022 Make sure your dreidel is polished. Maria Yagoda, Peoplemag, 18 Nov. 2022 Every dreidel in there has a story. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 3 Dec. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'dreidel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1916, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of dreidel was in 1916


Dictionary Entries Near dreidel

Cite this Entry

“Dreidel.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dreidel. Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

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