A dreidel (Yiddish: דרײדל dreydl, Hebrew: סביבון Sevivon) is a four-sided spinning top, played with during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The dreidel is used for a form of the gambling game Teetotum (T-Totum). Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for "נס גדול היה שם" (Nes Gadol Haya Sham – "a great miracle happened there"). These letters also form a mnemonic for the rules of a gambling game played with a dreidel: Nun stands for the Yiddish word nite ("nothing"), Hei stands for halb ("half"), Gimel for gants ("all"), and Shin for shteln ("put"). In Israel, the fourth side of most dreidels are inscribed with the letter פ (Pei), rendering the acronym, נס גדול היה פה, Nes Gadol Haya Po—"A great miracle happened here" referring to the miracle occurring in the land of Israel. Some stores in Haredi neighbourhoods may sell the traditional ש dreidels.
Some Jewish commentators ascribe symbolic significance to the markings on the dreidel. One commentary, for example, connects the four letters with the four exiles to which the nation of Israel was historically subject—Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
The Yiddish word "dreydl" comes from the word "dreyen" ("to turn"). The Hebrew word "sevivon" comes also from the root "SBB" ("to turn") and was invented by Itamar Ben-Avi (the son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda) when he was 5 years old. Different terms were used by Hayyim Nahman Bialik in his poems. While the only mandated mitzvot for Hanukkah consist of lighting candles and saying the full hallel, there are numerous other customs that have come to be associated with Hanukkah.
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