Gadot was born on 30 April 1985 in Petah Tikva, where she first lived; she was later raised in the city of Rosh HaAyin. In Hebrew, her given name means "wave" and her surname means "riverbanks". Prior to her birth, her parents had Hebraized their surname from "Greenstein" to "Gadot". Her father is Michael Gadot, an engineer, and her mother is Irit , a physical education teacher. Gadot has a younger sister named Dana. Gadot's father is a sixth-generation Sabra. Her maternal grandparents were born in 20th-century Europe; her grandfather survived the Holocaust following his imprisonment at the Auschwitz concentration camp during Nazi Germany's occupation of Czechoslovakia, while her grandmother managed to escape the continent before the outbreak of World War II.
Gadot has stated that she was brought up in a "very Jewish, Israeli family environment". Growing up in Israel, she learned and danced jazz and hip-hop for 12 years, and her first jobs were working at a local Burger King as well as babysitting. She graduated from Begin High School in Rosh HaAyin, majoring in biology. As Jewish high schools in Israel often take their sophomores on trips to Holocaust memorial sites, Gadot went to Poland to gain a first-hand understanding of two Nazi concentration camps: Auschwitz and Majdanek. About the experience, she reminisced: "I stood there on top of a mountain of ashes. I, an entitled child, felt the suffering the Muselmann experienced back then. When it was time to give my speech at the memorial ceremony, my eyes filled up with tears, and I could not control the shivering. I returned home more mature and cried with my grandfather about that, coming a full circle from his childhood to mine."
At 20, Gadot enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat fitness instructor as part of her mandatory two years of military service. She has said that her military background helped her to win the role of Gisele Yashar in the 2009 film Fast & Furious, stating: "I think the main reason was that the director Justin Lin really liked that I was in the military, and he wanted to use my knowledge of weapons." After her military service, Gadot studied law at IDC Herzliya college in Israel (now Reichman University).