Results tagged “draydel”

Wooden Dreidels

Here is a sampling of wood dreidels available for online purchase.  Wood dreidels are made using a variety of techniques:  some are turned on a lathe, some have laser cut parts, and most are assembled from multiple pieces because its easier and less expensive to create a dreidel that way.  I've tried to note the artisan/designer when possible.


Simple Flat Dreidel

This small 2" dreidel falls nicely on it's side -- a nice inexpensive dreidel, but still handmade using laser cut plywood.  Sold in a package of 3.  Price: $15.00 (as of 11/11/08).  Designed and handmade by Cheryl and Don Olney.  Available at

Wood Dreidel by Cheryl Olney Wood Dreidel by Cheryl Olney

Bead Dreidel

Wooden dreidel about 3" tall. A printed cylindrical wooden bead encased in a wooden framework creates a round in a square sort of dreidel. Comes in a festive pouch.  2-3/4"t x 1-1/4"w. Price: $12.00 (as of 11/11/08).  Designed and handmade by Cheryl and Don Olney.  Available at the Jewish Museum Store

colorful wood dreidel

Colorful Wood Dreidel

These inexpensive wood dreidels are solidly constructed and have a unique shape.  This is one of the only mass produced dreidels that is well balanced and consistantly shaped - and thus spins well and isn't weighted to land on a particular side.  2" tall x 1" wide. Price: $1.25 (as of 11/30/08).  Available at

saguaro cactus dreidel

Saguaro Cactus Dreidels

Hand carved from Saguaro Cactus these dreidels by Maury Lipowich are marked using a wood burning technique.  According to his artist page, he had a giant, 18 arm saguaro in his back yard that died and he was determined to see that the skeleton not be wasted.  6"HX5"W  Price: $40.00 (as of 11/30/08).  Available at

wood dreidel with charms by Daniel Riccio and Elliot Landes

Dreidel Box

This beautiful wood dreidel shaped box by Elliot Landes contains six bronze charms of Hanukkah symbols by Daniel Riccio. Represented are the menorah, a dreidel, an oil cruse, an oil lamp, gelt, and latkes in a pan. The wood body is about 2"" by 2"" by 2"".  Price: $80 (as of 11/30/08).  Available in rosewood with the body made of various blond, red, or brown woods from

German Dreidel - Wood

Classic Dreidel Top

A simple turned wood dreidel with a unique black spinning handle and black branded letters this dreidel is designed by Ulrich Büker.  Solidly constructed of beech wood the dreidel is 29 x 48 mm and spins very well.  Price: $20.00 (as of 11/30/08). Available from the German top retailer

The letters on the sides of the dreidel top were originally designed to help players remember the rules.  These letters vary depending on the origin of the top.

The Yiddish dreidel, with which most jews are familiar, uses Hebrew letters which refer to Yiddish words: nun for nichts or nit (nothing), gimel for ganz, gor, or gorin (all), hay for halb (half), shin for stell or shtel ein (put or put in).  To connect the game to Hannukah the letters are also said to stand for the phrase Nes Gadol Haya Sham, which means "a great miracle happened there."  In Yiddish, the word dreidel comes from the word "dreyden" (to spin).  The dreidel was also called "fargle" and "varfl" which translates to "something thrown". 

Its likely that the Yiddish dreidel has its origins in a secular German spinning top game - which itself was based on a historical European game called totum or teetotum.  The German version of the game had similar rule mnemonics as the Yiddish game - but the letters were of course latin letters instead of Hebrew letters: N for Nichts (nothing), G for Ganz (all), H for Halb (half), S for Stell (put).  The British version used the letters T for Take, H for Half, P for Put, and N for None. A German spinning top game is called a "torrel", "trundl, or "trendlspiel."  In modern England and the United states teetotum is now popularly known as put and take.

In the United States the traditional Yiddish dreidle is generally used - even though the letters don't match up quite as nicely to the rules in English as they do in Yiddish and German.  A popular rule mnemonic is Nun for Nothing, Gimel for Get it all, Hay for half, and Shin for Put it In.  In English, the dreidel is has many alternative spellings (or misspellings) such as dradel, dradle, dradyl, draydl,draydle, draydel, dreidl, dreidle, dreidyl, dreydl, dreydle, dreydel, dreydyl, driedl, driedel, driedle, and driedyl.

In Israel a dreidel is called a sivivon.  This name is derived from the Hebrew word sovev which means "turn" and was invented by Itamar Ben-Avi when he was 5 years old.  Itamar Ben-Avi happened to be the son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1952), author of the first modern Hebrew dictionary and a leader in the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language.   Because the miracle of Hannukah actually happened in Israel, the letters on Israeli dreidels are nun, gimel, hay and pay. Pay is used instead of shin so that the Israelis can use the phrase "nes gadol haya po" or "a great miracle happened here".  (In the US the phrase is "nes gadol haya sham" or "a great miracle happened THERE").

Here is a list of more game tops, similar to dreidel, from around the world:

  • Ancient England - Teetotum four sided top: N for nothing, P for put, S for some (an agreed upon amount), T for take all.  Learn more...
  • Ancient England - Teetotum six sided top: Take 1, All Put, Take All, Put 2, Take 2, Put 1.  Learn more...
  • Ancient France - Totum four sided top: P for piller (plunder/take the pool stake), R for rien (nothing), J for jocque (game - the player doubles the pool stake), F for fors (out/take all in the pool).  Learn more...
  • Ancient Rome - four sided top: M for medum (half), N for nihil (nothing), O for omne (all), P for pone (put).  Learn more...
  • Ancient Rome - Teetotum four sided top: A for aufer (take all?),  D for depone (put one in), N for nihil (nothing), T for totum (take all).  Learn more...
  • Modern England - Put and Take four sided top: T for take, H for half, P for put, and N for none. Learn more...
  • Modern England: Put and Take ten sided top: Put 1, Put 2, Put 3, Put 5, All Put, Take 1, Take 2, Take 3, Take All, Spin Again. Learn more...
  • Modern France - six sided top: Prenez 1, Mettez Chacun, Prenez tout, Mettez 2, Prenez 2, Mettez 2. Learn more...
  • Modern Germany - eight sided top: Gewinnt 1 (win 1), Gewinnt 3 (win 3), Gewinnt 10 (win 10), Verliert 1 (lose 1), Verliert 2 (lose 2), Verliert 3 (lose 3), Verliert 5 (lose 5), Alle Verl 1 (everybody loses 1). Learn more...
  • Modern Germany - six sided top: Nimm 1 (take 1), Nimm 2 (take 2), Nimm ROMA (take everything), Setze 1 (set/put 1), Setze 2 (set/put 2), Jeder Setze (everybody sets/puts). Learn more...
  • Modern Germany/Austria - Nimm-Gib six sided top: Nimm 2 (take 2), Gib 1 (give 1), Alle Geben, Jeder Gibt, Nimm 1 (take 1), Gib 2 (give 2). Learn more...
  • Modern Italy/Sardinia - Baddarincu four sided top: Mesu (half), Totu (everything), Poni (put), Nudda (nothing). Learn more...
  • Modern Malta - four sided top: Paga (pay), Mezzo (half), Niente (nothing) and Tutto (everything). Learn more...
  • Modern Mexico - Toma Todo six sided top: Toma Todo (take all), Todos Ponen, Toma 1, Toma 2 (take two), Pon 1 (put 1), Pon 2.  Learn more...

Here are a few great references on this subject:

Competitive Dreidel

Major League DreidelInterested in taking your dreidel playing to a new level? Try entering the World Series of Dreidel in Carmichael, California.  In this dreidel competition many contestants enter but only one prevails using a variation of dreidel with tournament style rules.

A similar dreidel tournament New York City bills itself as Major League Dreidel.

Other forms of dreidel contests include simultaneious spinning and dreidel building.  The world record for simultaneous dreidel spinning is currently held by the University of Maryland Hillel:

From Sports Illustrated Online: Come on, sing it with me now. You know the words ... Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when my dreidel's ready, my dreidel I will play. It's Hannukah time and that can only mean one thing, dreidel competitions and while the Festival of Lights is still not over, so far it looks like Maryland is the big winner. Last week, 602 Maryland students took part in a dreidel "spin-off", reclaiming the world record for most people spinning dreidels simultaneously, which they previously held from 2000-2005. Students at Indiana and Michigan were less fortunate. Neither the Hoosiers nor the Wolverines could round up the necessary amount of dreidel spinners to break Maryland's record. But don't worry, we've still got two more nights left.

The title of worlds largest dreidel is unofficially held by students from West Island Hillel in Montreal who built a 22 foot tall dreidel.

Dreidel Collecting

Antique Wooden DreidelDreidels are a great item to collect.  Prices range from a few cents for mass-produced dreidels to thousands of dollars for one-of-a-kind pieces so it's easy to start and there is plenty of room to grow your dreidel collection.

Here are a few articles about people with substantial collections:

Personally, I've been trying to find images of rare or unique wood dreidels (rare, unique and inexpensive would be even better).  Antique judaica stores seem to be the most promising sources so far.  I also found a few vintage dreidels on Ebay.

I've also been looking for worldwide sources of low-end dreidels - other than the United States, Israel and China.  So far I've been able to find examples from Germany, Russia, India, and Turkmenistan - some low end, some more expensive.


How to Play Dreidel

Dreidel can be played by anyone as long as they are old enough to know not to eat the dreidel.  At least two players are needed.  There is no upper limit to how many people can play.  The dreidel game can be as long or short as desired - as the winner is simply the person with the most tokens when the game ends.

The materials needed to play are the dreidel, a collection of tokens (for example pennies, chocolate coins, candies, nuts) a flat surface to spin the dreidel, and a surface or container for the "pot".

1. Divide the tokens so that each player has an equal number.

2. Choose the player who will take their turn first.

3. At the start of each round all players put a token into the pot as an ante.  A new round starts each time all the players have taken a turn.

4. A turn goes like this:
 - The player spins the dreidel
 - The player acts according to the Hebrew letter which is facing up when the dreidel comes to a stop. 
נ - Nun means the player does nothing.
ג - Gimel means the player collects all the tokens from the pot.
ה - Hey means the player takes half of the tokens from the pot.
ש - Shin means the player puts one token into the pot.

5. Proceed with each player taking a turn until one player has all the tokens, or the players decide to end the game. 

6. At any point that a player has no tokens they are out of the game.

Variations in the Basic Rules

  • A common variation in the basic dreidel rules involves an ante of one token any time the pot empties instead of at the start of each round.  With this rule, the game starts with each player putting a token in the pot.
  • In another common variation, players ante both at the start of a round and when the pot empties.
  • Yet another ante variation has players ante if the value of the pot is less than or equal to the total ante value.
  • The game duration can be shortened by having players lose an amount equal to the current pot when a Shin is spun and put one token in when Nun appears.
  • The length of the game can be extended by allowing any player who runs out of tokens to take a loan of tokens from another player.
  • Edible tokens are a nice game variation (e.g. chocolate coins): eat the winnings when the game ends
Learn more about:
Dreidel Party Games for Young Kids
Dreidel Games for Older Kids
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