[ poor-im; Sephardic Hebrew poo-reem; Ashkenazic Hebrew poor-im ]
/ ˈpʊər ɪm; Sephardic Hebrew puˈrim; Ashkenazic Hebrew ˈpʊər ɪm /
Save This Word!

a Jewish festival celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Adar in commemoration of the deliverance of the Jews in Persia from destruction by Haman.
Do you know the difference between everyday US and UK terminology? Test yourself with this quiz on words that differ across the Atlantic.
Question 1 of 7
In the UK, COTTON CANDY is more commonly known as…

Origin of Purim

<Hebrew pūrīm, plural of pūr lot
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is Purim?

Purim is a Jewish holiday in celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from a massacre planned by Haman, a powerful Persian official.

The story of Purim revolves around Esther, the Jewish wife of Persian King Ahasuerus, and her pleas to the king to save the Jewish people.

Jews often observe Purim with religious services that include readings from the Book of Esther. It is traditional during such readings to make noise to drown out Haman’s name when it is spoken. Festive traditions include special meals and dressing up in costume. Small cakes known as hamantaschen are popular Purim treats.

Purim comes before Passover, a major Jewish holiday.

When is Purim?

Purim takes place on the 14th day of the Jewish calendar month of Adar. (In leap years, it takes place during the intercalary month of Adar Sheni.) Because the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar, the corresponding dates on the Gregorian calendar vary from year to year. Purim usually falls in February or March. Days on the Jewish calendar are considered to begin and end at sundown.

In 2023, Purim will start on the evening of March 6 and end at sundown on March 7. In 2024, Purim will start on the evening of March 23 and end at sundown on March 24.

More information and context on Purim

The story of Purim comes from the reign of Persian King Aharsuerus in the 400s b.c.e., when the Jews were subjects of the Persian empire.

The story centers around a plot by the powerful Persian figure Haman to massacre the Jews. Haman plots the massacre in revenge for the refusal of the Jewish leader Mordecai to obey an order to kneel before him. At Haman’s request, the king grants a decree calling for the extermination of all Jewish people on a certain date

Mordecai is the cousin of Esther, a Jewish woman who is the wife of King Aharsuerus. Mordecai eventually convinces Esther to intervene, thus revealing to the king that she is a Jew. Aharsuerus then sentences Haman to death by hanging (on the same gallows that had been erected to hang Mordecai), gives Haman’s position to Mordecai, and issues another decree allowing Jews to defend themselves from attack.

The name Purim comes from a Hebrew word meaning “lots,” a reference to the lots that Haman cast to determine the day of the massacre.

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Purim?

How is Purim discussed in real life?

Jews observe Purim in celebratory ways. Festive traditions include special foods and dressing in costume.



Try using Purim!

True or False? 

During Purim services, it is traditional to make noise whenever Haman’s name is mentioned.

How to use Purim in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Purim

/ (ˈpʊərɪm, Hebrew puːˈriːm ) /

a Jewish holiday celebrated on Adar 14, in February or March, and in Adar Sheni in leap years, to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the massacre planned for them by Haman (Esther 9)

Word Origin for Purim

Hebrew pūrīm, plural of pūr lot; from the casting of lots by Haman
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for Purim

[ (poor-im) ]

A Jewish festival celebrated each spring before Passover (see also Passover). It commemorates the deliverance of the Jews (see also Jews) from wholesale slaughter by Haman. (See Esther.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.