Yiddish: דאַנאַ

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Senior Member
In a folk-singing group this morning, people were wondering about the meaning of the repeated word/sound "dona dona" in the song, Dona Dona--sometimes rendered Donna Donna, but originally transliterated Dana Dana. The sound in question is rendered דאַנאַ in Yiddish.

The song was originally in a Yiddish play, Esterke, produced by Aaron Zeitlin in the early 1940's. A 1950's English version of the song was made popular by Joan Baez in the 1960's. The original Yiddish song was apparently called דאָס קעלבל (the calf).

A Yiddish speaker in the singing group didn't recognize the English transliteration as any Yiddish word. This could be due to a poor transliteration (she was only considering "dona" rather than "dana") or it could be that this "word" is really just serving as a nonsense sound to sing.

Does anyone know the story behind this word/sound in the song?
The Wikipedia write-up on the song is at en.wikipedia dot org/wiki/Dona,_Dona

Thanks for any help!
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  • duvija

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Uruguay
    UH, I used to sing it in Yiddish school in Uruguay when I was a child (last century, of course) but never thought about the meaning. We took it as nonsense.


    New Member
    Of what I know, it does have (sort of) meaning: that's the voice the carter makes to urge the horse walk.

    נחמה הנדל ... תירגמה את הטקסט המקורי מיידיש והסבירה שבמקור ... שרים "דאנה דאנה", שהיא קריאת עידוד מקובלת של האיכר-העגלון לסוס המושך את העגלה שבה מוטל העגל.

    נראה כי משמעות המילים שבפזמון המקורי הן הקריאות שבהן נהגו העגלונים לעודד את סוסיהם המושכים את עגלתם.
    Wikipedia - אהרן צייטלין
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