Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Challah

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is challah. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Challah refers to an egg-rich yeast-leavened bread that is usually braided or twisted before baking and is traditionally eaten by Jewish people on the Sabbath and some holidays.

// One of her fondest food memories is the round challah her grandmother baked for holidays.

CHALLAH in Context

“Flour was everywhere, scraps of fried potato lined the counters, dishes were piled up in the sink, and I somehow looked less camera-ready than I had at the start of the night, my hair falling out of its messy bun and my cooking wounds announcing themselves even from beneath Band-Aids. I didn’t care, though, because my house smelled like fresh challah, a scent I won’t even bother attempting to describe for fear of botching its essential goodness.” — Emma Specter, Vogue, 6 Oct. 2022

Did You Know?

When English speakers first borrowed challah from Yiddish, they couldn’t quite settle on a single spelling, so the word showed up in several forms; challah and hallah, and the plural forms challotchallothchallahshallothalloth, and hallahs were all common enough to merit inclusion in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged when it was released in 1961. Today, challah and the anglicized plural challahs are the variants that are usually encountered by English speakers. The initial ch of challah is frequently pronounced as a velar or uvular fricative, like the ch in the German Buch or the Scottish English loch.

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