how do you say “kind” and “type” in Hebrew?

מין, סוג

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This entry is delivered at the request of all-star Ulpan La-Inyan faithful, Ruti.

So there are (at least) two words for “type” or “kind” in Hebrew: מִין (meen) and סוּג (soog). What’s the difference? When should one use which?

First of all, they’re very close synonyms. The English equivalents to these words are also a pair of synonyms: type and kind. The first comes from a Greek/Latin root (via the Norman/French invasion to Britain in 1066), and the second is a genuine Germanic root.

The difference between the two now-English words? It’s subtle, at best.

מין appears in Biblical Hebrew – this I know from the first chapter of Genesis. In that context, the word refers to a species.

I looked up סוג and confirmed my suspicion: the word doesn’t appear in Biblical Hebrew at all! (if someone has seen it in the Bible, please challenge me) It probably comes from a different language – possibly Aramaic.

The two Hebrew words – מין and סוג – have very similar meanings. A distinction I can draw is that מין tends to refer to what we’d call in English a sort of something, whereas סוג is more descriptive.

For example, you might speak about three different types of shoes – שְׁלֹשָׁה סוּגֵי נַעֲלָיִים (shloh-SHAH soo-GHEI nah-ah-LAH-yeem). You wouldn’t say three different sorts of shoes.

But you would say אֵיזֶה מִין אוֹכֶל זֶה? (EI-zeh meen OH-khel zeh) – what kind/sort of food is this? if what you mean is “I don’t really like this food,” or perhaps, “I like it a lot, and I’m curious as to what country it came from.”

מין also has the meaning of gender or sex, whereas סוג doesn’t have anything to do with those.

I hope this helped to clarify.

After having studied literature and linguistics on the bachelors level and psychology on the masters, Ami decided to draw upon his hobby of learning languages, his understanding of human thought processes and his skill of explaining complex ideas in simple terms, to found a program that enables people to speak Hebrew with confidence.


  • So what is the word for pair/couple? I thought
    that was סוג
    from Mona

    Anonymous Reply
  • That’s זוג (zoog), with a ז-z

    Ami Reply

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