Frum Breslov boys from Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, 2011
Frum Breslov boys from Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, 2011

Frum (Yiddish: פֿרום, lit.'religious', 'pious') is a word that describes Jewish religious devotion.

The term connotes the observance of Jewish religious law in a way that often exceeds its bare requirements. This not only includes the careful study of Torah, daily prayers, observing Shabbat and kashrut, and performing deeds of loving-kindness, but also many more customs and khumrot (prohibitions or obligations in Jewish life that exceed the requirements of Halakha).[1][2]

The term frum contrasts with frei (Yiddish: פֿרײַ, lit.'free'), which describes Jews who are secular or practice non-Orthodox observance, or "free from keeping the… commandments."[3][4]


Frum can be used in a negative sense for 'hypocritically pious', 'holier-than-thou', 'sanctimonious'; or in a positive sense for 'pious', 'devout', 'God-fearing', and 'upright'. The phrase frum and ehrlich captures the positive connotations of these words, to mean roughly 'upright' or 'righteous' (see tzadik).[citation needed]

The question "is s/he frum?" asks whether the person is religious.[1]

Derived terms

In Yinglish, frummer is used both as a noun for 'one who is frum',[5] and as a comparative adjective, i.e. 'more frum'.[6][7] The correct Yiddish comparative form of the adjective is, in fact, frimer.[8][9][10] Frumkeit describes the lifestyle of those who are frum.[5]

Frummer can also have a negative connotation, similar to chasid shoteh ('pious idiot'), which is how the Talmud (Sotah 21B) describes a man who sees a woman drowning, but refuses to save her, and says, "It is not proper to look at her, and rescue her." A frummer in that sense is a person displaying a disproportionate emphasis on technical aspects of religion of one's daily life in a manner which actually violates the halakha in a specific case. (See Pikuach nefesh.) Another term with this meaning is frummie.[5]

A person who is frum from birth was born into a frum household and has remained observant.[11][12][13] This contrasts with a baal teshuva (literally 'master of return'), a Jew who has become frum after a period or lifetime living a non-Orthodox lifestyle.[14][15]

Mode of dress

Three men with customary head covering praying at the kotel, one wearing an additional spodik hat in the middle
Three men with customary head covering praying at the kotel, one wearing an additional spodik hat in the middle

The New York Times defines the word frum as 'religiously observant'.[12] For boys and men, covering the head is an identifier of religiosity.[16] For women, being frum includes adherence to the laws of tzniut, such as modest dress covering the arms and legs.[17] For married women, a head covering is another indicator.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b Dina Kraft (November 10, 2010). "Rapper Finds Order in Orthodox Judaism in Israel". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Zinoman, Jason (June 13, 2018). "What's So Funny About Orthodox Judaism? This Comic Has One Answer". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Miller, Marjorie (July 25, 1997). "Freier". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ Roniger, L. (1992). "From pioneer to freier: the changing models". European Journal of Sociology. 33 (2): 280–307. doi:10.1017/S0003975600006470. JSTOR 23997799.
  5. ^ a b c Rabbi Julian Sinclair (November 5, 2008). "Frum". The Jewish Chronicle.
  6. ^ Fried, Heshy (22 June 2011). "Words and statements that make you sound frummer [sic] than you are". Frum Satire. Frum Satire. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  7. ^ Staff (26 March 2017). "Frummer [sic] Than You". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  8. ^ Kahn, Lily; Rubin, Aaron D., eds. (2016). Handbook of Jewish Languages. Leiden, Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. p. 676. ISBN 9789004297357. Retrieved 29 March 2017. ו (u) becomes י (i), e. g., פֿרום frum 'Jewishly observant' > פֿרימער frimer 'more Jewishly osbervant'
  9. ^ Stutchkoff, Nahum (1950). Weinreich, Max (ed.). דער אוצר פון דער יידישער שפראך (Der oytser fun der Yidisher shprakh) (in Yiddish). New York: Yidisher Ṿisenshafṭlekher Insṭiṭuṭ. די קאַץ איז שוין פֿרימער פֿאַר אים. ('Di kats iz shoyn frimer far im.' — 'A cat is more pious than he is.')
  10. ^ "פֿרום (Adjective)". Wiktionary. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  11. ^ Sarah Bunin Benor (2012). "Becoming Frum". Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-53894. JSTOR j.ctt5hj7wn.
  12. ^ a b Susan Jo Keller (September 20, 1998). "Seeing the Light". The New York Times. born in an observant Orthodox family
  13. ^ a b Tova Ross (December 10, 2013). "When I got married, my sheitel was a symbol of my vows and my Orthodoxy".
  14. ^ Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin. "Tzaddik — The Baal Teshuvah".
  15. ^ "Laws of Repentance 7:4, citing Berakot, 34b. C. G." Mishneh Torah. their degree is above .. did not sin, because it is more difficult for them ..
  16. ^ Sara Levin (April 12, 2019). "Forbes Profiles Modest Fashion Influencers & Other Orthodox Jews in the News".
  17. ^ Naomi Fry (November 2, 2017). "Modest Dressing, as a Virtue". ankle-lengthed, high-necked and voluminous-sleeved .. long-sleeved, high-collared