Biblical term denoting "far be it [from me, thee, etc.]." In Talmudic literature it has two distinct meanings, derived from the two meanings of the root "ḥalal" (to profane; pollute). In some instances its signification is cognate to that given to it in the Bible (Gen. R. xlix. 16; Yalḳ to Gen. lxxxiii.); in other places it has the meaning of "round about," "in turn," from "ḥalal" (to bore, pierce, make hollow or round), usually in conjunction with the word "ḥazar" (to turn around, begin again; Suk. 55b; Ket. 95a; Zeb. 10a).
In later Hebrew and in the Yiddish language the word is employed in its original meaning, but carries with it greater emphasis than is given to it in the Bible, having the signification of "God forbid," "by no means." It is sometimes strengthened, in colloquial speech, by the addition of the word "we-ḥas" (may He have pity). The expression is very common in Yiddish, and is especially used to ward off the evil effects of an ill-omened utterance.