What is the Jewish expression to refer to someone who has died?

Answered by
Rabbi Julie Zupan

In Judaism, when someone has died, it is customary to add the expression, “May their memory be for a blessing” after mentioning the deceased by name. In Hebrew, the expression is “zichrona livracha” (feminine), “zichrono livracha” (masculine), or “zichronam livracha” (plural or gender-neutral) and is typically abbreviated as z”l when writing. This serves a similar function as describing someone as “the late [insert name here].”

Alternatively, the honorifics “aleha hashalom” (feminine) or “hashalom alav” (masculine), meaning “may peace be upon them” and abbreviated as a”h, may be added to the deceased’s name.

Upon first learning of a person's death, it is common to say, “Baruch Dayan ha’emetBaruch Dayan HaEmetבָּרוּךְ דַּיַּן הָאֱמֶתLiterally, “Blessed is the Judge of Truth;” Customary words one recites upon hearing of a person’s death.  ,” which means “Blessed is the Judge of Truth.”

While the popular English expression “rest in peace” is not commonly used in Jewish contexts, the concept is consistent with Jewish practice. Notably, the El Maleh Rachamim prayer, which is recited at Jewish funerals and at YizkorYizkorיִזְכֹּר"Remember;" memorial service held on Yom Kippur and on the last day of Pesach, Shavout, and Sukkot. , concludes with the Hebrew equivalent of that phrase, “vatanuach b’shalom” (feminine)/“vayanuach b’shalom” (masculine).