List of English words of Yiddish origin

List of English words of Yiddish origin

This is a list of English words of Yiddish origin, many of which have entered the English language by way of American English. Spelling of some of these Yiddish language words may be variable (for example, schlep is also seen as shlep, schnoz as shnozz, and so on). Many of these words are more common in the entertainment industry, via vaudeville, the Catskills/Borscht Belt, and Hollywood. Others are more regionally oriented, e.g. in the New York City metropolitan area. A number of Yiddish words also entered English via large Jewish communities in England, particularly London, where Yiddish has influenced Cockney dialect.

A number of Yiddish words are related to Hebrew, Germanic or Slavic forms, and some words of those origins have entered English via Yiddish.



Yiddish is a Germanic language originally spoken by the Jews of Central and later Eastern Europe, written in the Hebrew alphabet, and containing a substantial substratum of words from Hebrew as well as numerous loans from Slavic languages.[1] For that reason, some of the words listed below are in fact of Hebrew or Slavic origin, but have entered English via their Yiddish forms. Since Yiddish is very closely related to modern German, many native Yiddish words have close German cognates; in a few cases it is difficult to tell whether English borrowed a particular word from Yiddish or from German. Since Yiddish was originally written using the Hebrew alphabet, some words have several spellings in the English alphabet. The transliterated spellings of Yiddish words and conventional German spellings are different, but the pronunciations are frequently the same (e.g., שוואַרץ shvarts in Yiddish is pronounced the same way as schwarz in German).

Many of these words have slightly different meanings and usages in English, from their Yiddish originals. For example chutzpah is usually used in Yiddish with a negative connotation meaning improper audacity, while in English it has a more positive meaning. Shlep (שלעפּ) in Yiddish is usually used as a transitive verb for carrying (or dragging) something else, while in English it is also used as an intransitive verb, for dragging oneself. Glitch simply means 'slip' in Yiddish.

List of words

A list of English words of Yiddish origin is found below. Except as noted, all words listed can be found in the current online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (AHD) or Merriam-Webster dictionary (MW).

  • bagel: a ring-shaped bread roll made by boiling then baking the dough (from בײגל beygl) (OED, MW)
  • blintz: a sweet cheese-filled crepe (Yiddish בלינצע blintse from Russian "блины" bliny) (AHD)
  • bris: the circumcision of a male child. (from Hebrew ברית brith 'covenant') (OED, MW)
  • boychick: boy, young man. (English boy + Eastern Yiddish כיק -chik, diminutive suffix (from Slavic)) (AHD)
  • bupkis (also bupkes, bupkus, bubkis, bubkes): emphatically nothing, as in He isn't worth bupkis (indeterminate, either 'beans' or 'goat droppings', possibly of Slavic, Vlach, or Greek origin; cf. Polish bobki 'animal droppings')[2] (MW, OED)
  • chutzpah: nerve, guts, daring, audacity, effrontery (Yiddish חוצפּה khutspe, from Hebrew) (AHD)
  • dreck, drek: (vulgar) worthless material, especially merchandise; literally: "crap" or "shit" (Yiddish ‫דרעק ‬ drek cf. German Dreck) (OED, MW)
  • dybbuk: the malevolent spirit of a dead person which enters and controls a living body until exorcised (from Hebrew דיבוק dibbuk, 'a latching-onto') (AHD)
  • fleishig: made with meat (Yiddish פֿליישיק fleyshik 'meaty', from fleysh 'meat', cf. German fleischig 'meaty') (MW)
  • ganef or gonif: thief, scoundrel, rascal (Yiddish גנבֿ ganev or ganef 'thief', from Hebrew גונב gannav). (AHD)
  • gelt: money; chocolate coins eaten on Hanukkah (געלט gelt 'money', cf. German Geld) (AHD)
  • glitch: a minor malfunction (possibly from Yiddish גליטש glitsh, from גליטשן glitshn 'slide', cf. German glitschen 'slither') (AHD)
  • golem: a man-made humanoid; an android, Frankenstein monster (from Hebrew גולם gōlem, but influenced in pronunciation by Yiddish גוילעם goylem) (OED, MW)
  • goy: a Gentile, someone not of the Jewish faith or people (Yiddish גוי, plural גויים or גוים goyim; from Hebrew גויים or גוים goyim meaning 'nations [usually other than Israel]', plural of גוי goy 'nation') (AHD)
  • haimish (also heimish): home-like, friendly, folksy (Yiddish‫ היימיש ‬ heymish, cf. German heimisch) (AHD)
  • handel (pronounced /ˈhʌndəl/): to bargain ("If you handel long enough, you'll get a good price."); cf. Wiktionary definition of handeln[3]
  • huck; sometimes "hock," "huk," "hak," etc.: to bother incessantly, to break, or nag; from Hakn a tshaynik: "to knock a teakettle." Frequently used by characters intended to represent residents of New York City, even if not Jewish, in movies and television shows such as Law & Order.
  • khazeray; also chazeray, or chozzerai: ( /khoz zair EYE/ ) food that is awful; junk, trash; anything disgusting, even loathsome (Yiddish, from Heb. חזיר "khazir," pig)[4][5]
  • kibitz: to offer unwanted advice, e.g. to someone playing cards; to converse idly, hence a kibitzer, gossip (Yiddish קיבעצן kibetsn; cf. German kiebitzen, related to Kiebitz 'lapwing') (OED, MW)
  • klutz: clumsy person (from Yiddish קלאָץ klots 'wooden beam', cf. German Klotz) (OED, MW)
  • kosher: conforming to Jewish dietary laws; (slang) appropriate, legitimate (originally from Hebrew כּשר kašer) (AHD)
  • kvell: to feel delighted and proud to the point of tears (Yiddish קװעלן kveln, from an old Germanic word akin to German quellen 'well up') (OED, MW)
  • kvetch: to complain habitually, gripe; as a noun, a person who always complains (from Yiddish קװעטשן kvetshn 'press, squeeze', cf. German quetschen 'squeeze') (OED, MW)
  • latke: potato pancake, especially during Hanukkah (from Yiddish‫לאַטקע ‬, from either Ukrainian or Russian латка meaning "patch") (AHD)
  • Litvak: a Lithuanian Jew (OED)
  • lox: cured salmon (from Yiddish לאַקס laks 'salmon'; cf. German Lachs), often used loosely to refer to smoked salmon (OED, MW)
  • macher: big shot, important person (Yiddish מאַכער makher, literally 'maker' from מאַכן makhn 'make', cf. German Macher) (OED)
  • mamzer: bastard (from Yiddish or Hebrew ממזר) (OED)
  • maven: expert; when used in a negative sense: a know-it-all (from Yiddish מבֿין meyvn, from Hebrew mevin 'one who understands') (OED, MW)
  • mazel: luck (Yiddish מזל mazl, from Hebrew מזל mazzāl 'luck, planet') (OED)
  • Mazel tov, also mazal tov: congratulations! (Yiddish מזל־טובֿ‏ mazl-tov, from Hebrew מזל טוב mazzāl ṭōv: מזל mazzāl 'fortune' or 'sign of the Zodiac (constellation)' + טוב ṭōv 'good') (OED, MW:Hebrew)
  • megillah: a tediously detailed discourse (from Yiddish מגילה megile 'lengthy document, scroll [esp. the Book of Esther]', from Hebrew מגילה məgillā 'scroll') (OED, MW)
  • mensch: an upright man; a decent human being (from Yiddish מענטש mentsh 'person', cf. German Mensch) (OED, MW)
  • meshuga, also meshugge, meshugah, meshuggah: crazy (Yiddish משוגע meshuge, from Hebrew məšugga‘) (OED, MW)
  • meshugaas, also mishegaas or mishegoss: Crazy or senseless activity or behavior; craziness (Yiddish משוגעת meshugaas, from Hebrew məšugga‘ath, a form of the above) (OED, AHD)
  • meshuggeneh, meshuggene: a crazy woman (AHD, OED)
  • meshuggener: a crazy man (Yiddish משוגענער meshugener, a derivative of the above משוגע meshuge) (OED)
  • milchig: made with milk (Yiddish מילכיק milkhik milky, from מילך milkh milk, cf. German milchig) (MW)
  • minyan: the quorum of ten adult (i.e., 13 or older) Jews that is necessary for the holding of a public worship service; in Orthodox Judaism ten adult males are required, while in Conservative and Reform Judaism ten adults of either sex are required. (Yiddish מנין minyen, from Hebrew מנין minyān) (OED, MW:Hebrew)
  • mishpocha: extended family (Yiddish משפּחה mishpokhe, from Hebrew משפּחה mišpāḥā) (OED)
  • naches: feeling of pride in 1: the achievements of one's children; 2. one's own doing good by helping someone or some organization (Yiddish נחת nakhes, from Hebrew נחת naḥath 'contentment') (OED)
  • narrischkeit: foolishness, nonsense (Yiddish נאַרישקייט, from nar 'fool', cf. German närrisch 'foolish') (OED)
  • nebbish: an insignificant, pitiful person; a nonentity (from Yiddish interjection נעבעך nebekh 'poor thing!', from Czech nebohý) (OED, MW)
  • noodge, also nudzh: to pester, nag, whine; as a noun, a pest or whiner (from Yiddish נודיען nudyen, from Polish or Russian) (OED)
  • nosh: snack (noun or verb) (Yiddish נאַשן nashn, cf. German naschen) (OED, MW)
  • nu: multipurpose interjection often analogous to "well?" or "so?" (Yiddish נו nu, perhaps akin to Russian "ну" (nu) or German na='well'[citation needed]; probably not related to German dialect expression nu [short for nun=now], which might be used in the same way) (OED)
  • nudnik: a pest, "pain in the neck"; a bore (Yiddish נודניק nudnik, from the above נודיען nudyen; cf. Polish nudne, 'boring') (OED, MW)
  • oy or oy vey: interjection of grief, pain, or horror (Yiddish אוי וויי oy vey 'oh, pain!' or "oh, woe"; cf. German oh weh) (OED)
  • pareve: containing neither meat nor dairy products (from Yiddish (פּאַרעוו(ע parev(e)) (OED, MW)
  • pisher: a nobody, an inexperienced person (Yiddish פּישער pisher, from פּישן pishn 'piss', cf. German pissen or dialectal German pischen) (OED)
  • potch: spank, slap, smack (Yiddish פּאטשן patshn; cf. German patschen 'slap') (OED)
  • plotz: to burst, as from strong emotion (from Yiddish פּלאַצן platsn 'crack', cf. German platzen) (OED)
  • putz: (vulgar) an idiot, a jerk; a penis (from Yiddish פּאָץ pots) (AHD)
  • schav: A chilled soup made of sorrel. (AHD) (via Yiddish סטשאוו from Polish Szczaw)
  • schlemiel: an inept clumsy person; a bungler; a dolt (Yiddish שלעמיל shlemil from Hebrew שלא מועיל "ineffective") (OED, MW)
  • schlep: to drag or haul (an object); to make a tedious journey (from Yiddish שלעפּן shlepn; cf. German schleppen) (OED, MW)
  • schlimazel: a chronically unlucky person (שלימזל shlimazl, from Middle Dutch slimp 'crooked, bad'—akin to Middle High German slimp 'awry'—and Hebrew מזל mazzāl 'luck', cf. German Schlamassel) (M-W;OED).[6] In June 2004, Yiddish shlimazl was one of the ten non-English words that were voted hardest to translate by a British translation company.[7]
  • schlock: something cheap, shoddy, or inferior (perhaps from Yiddish שלאק shlak 'a stroke', cf. German Schlag) (OED, MW)
  • schlong: (vulgar) penis (from Yiddish שלאַנג shlang 'snake'; cf. German Schlange) (OED)
  • schlub: a clumsy, stupid, or unattractive person (Yiddish ‬זשלאָב zhlob 'hick', perhaps from Polish żłób) (OED, MW)
  • schmaltz: melted chicken fat; excessive sentimentality (from Yiddish שמאַלץ shmalts or German Schmalz) (OED, MW)
  • schmatta: a rag (from Yiddish שמאַטע shmate, from Polish szmata) (OED); also means junk or low-quality merchandise: "Don't buy from Silverman; all he sells is schmatta."
  • schmeer also schmear: noun or verb: spread (e.g., cream cheese on a bagel); bribe (from Yiddish שמיר shmir 'smear'; cf. German schmieren) (OED, MW)
  • schmegeggy: from Yiddish שמעגעגע schmegege meaning "an idiot"; "a dickhead."
  • schmo: a stupid person. (an alteration of schmuck; see below) (OED, possibly influenced by Heb. שמו, 'his or its name', indicating either anonymity or euphemism.
  • schmooze: to converse informally, make small talk or chat (from Yiddish שמועסן shmuesn 'converse', from Hebrew שמועות shəmūʿōth 'reports, gossip') (OED, MW)
  • schmuck: (vulgar) a contemptible or foolish person; a jerk; literally means 'penis' (from Yiddish שמאָק shmok 'penis', maybe from Polish smok 'dragon') (AHD)
  • schmutter: clothing; rubbish (from Yiddish שמאַטע shmate 'rag', as above) (OED)
  • schmutz: dirt (from Yiddish שמוץ shmuts or German Schmutz 'dirt') (OED)
  • schnook: an easily imposed-upon or cheated person, a pitifully meek person, a particularly gullible person, a cute or mischievous person or child (perhaps from Yiddish שנוק shnuk 'snout'; cf. Northern German Schnucke 'sheep') (OED)
  • schnorrer: beggar, esp. "one who wheedles others into supplying his wants" (Yiddish שנאָרער shnorer, cf. German Schnorrer (OED, MW)
  • schnoz or schnozz also schnozzle: a nose, especially a large nose (perhaps from Yiddish שנויץ shnoyts 'snout', cf. German Schnauze) (OED, MW)
  • schvartze: term used to denote black people. (from Yiddish שוואַרץ shvarts 'black'; cf. German schwarz). (OED)
  • schvitz: schvitz or schvitzing: To sweat, perspire, exude moisture as a cooling mechanism (From Yiddish, cf. German schwitzen). (OED)
  • Shabbos, Shabbas, Shabbes: Shabbat (Yiddish Shabes, from Hebrew Šabbāth) (AHD)
  • shalom: 'peace', used to say hello or goodbye. (OED)
  • shammes or shamash: the caretaker of a synagogue; also, the 9th candle of the Hanukkah menorah, used to light the others (Yiddish shames, from Hebrew שמש šammāš 'attendant') (OED, MW)
  • shamus: a detective (possibly from שאַממעס shammes, or possibly from the Irish name Seamus) (OED, Macquarie)
  • shegetz: (derogatory) a young non-Jewish male (Yiddish שגץ or שײגעץ sheygets, from Hebrew šeqeṣ 'blemish') (AHD)
  • shemozzle (slang) quarrel, brawl (perhaps related to schlimazel, q.v.) (OED). This word is commonly used in Ireland to describe confused situations during the Irish sport of hurling, e.g. 'There was a shemozzle near the goalmouth'. In particular, it was a favourite phrase of t.v. commentator Miceal O'Hehir who commentated on hurling from the 1940s to the 1980s.
  • shikker, shicker, shickered: drunk (adjective or noun) (Yiddish shiker 'drunk', from Hebrew šikkōr) (OED)
  • shiksa or shikse: (often derogatory) a young non-Jewish woman (Yiddish שיקסע shikse, a derivative of the above שײגעץ sheygets, from Polish siksa) (AHD)
  • shmendrik: a foolish or contemptible person (from a character in an operetta by Abraham Goldfaden) (OED)
  • shtetl: a small town with a large Jewish population in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe (Yiddish שטעטל shtetl 'town', diminutive of שטאָט shtot 'city'; cf. German Städtl, South German / Austrian colloquial diminutive of Stadt, city) (AHD)
  • shtick: comic theme; a defining habit or distinguishing feature (from Yiddish שטיק shtik 'piece'; cf. German Stück 'piece') (AHD)
  • shtup: vulgar slang, to have intercourse (from Yiddish שטופּ "shtoop" 'push,' 'poke,' or 'intercourse') (OED)
  • shul: synagogue, typically refers to an Orthodox Jewish place of worship which is also a place of study (from Yiddish כּשול shul literally 'school'; plural 'shuln'; cf. Middle High German schuol, school)
  • spiel or shpiel: a sales pitch or speech intended to persuade (from Yiddish שפּיל shpil 'play' or German Spiel 'play') (AHD)
  • tchotchke: knickknack, trinket, curio (from Yiddish צאַצקע tsatske, טשאַטשקע tshatshke, from obsolete Polish czaczko) (OED, MW)
  • tref or trayf or traif: not kosher (Yiddish treyf, from Hebrew ṭərēfā 'carrion') (AHD)
  • tzimmes: a sweet stew of vegetables and fruit; a fuss, a confused affair, a to-do (Yiddish צימעס tsimes) (OED, MW)
  • tsuris: troubles (from Yiddish צרות tsores, from Hebrew צרות tsarot 'troubles') (AHD)
  • tukhus: buttocks, bottom, rear end (from Yiddish תחת tokhes, from Hebrew תחת taḥath 'underneath') (OED)
  • tummler: an entertainer or master of ceremonies, especially one who encourages audience interaction (from Yiddish tumler, from tumlen 'make a racket'; cf. German (sich) tummeln 'go among people, cavort') (OED, MW)
  • tush (also tushy): buttocks, bottom, rear end (from tukhus) (OED, MW)
  • vigorish (also contraction vig): that portion of the gambling winnings held by the bookmaker as payment for services (probably from Yiddish, from Russian vyigrysh, winnings) (OED)
  • verklempt: choked with emotion (German verklemmt = emotionally inhibited in a convulsive way; stuck)
  • yarmulke: round cloth skullcap worn by observant Jews (from Yiddish יאַרמלקע yarmlke, from Polish jarmułka and Ukrainian ярмулка yarmulka (skullcap), from the Turkish word yağmurluk (raincoat; oilskin) (OED, MW; see also yarmulke)
  • Yekke: (mildly derogatory) a German Jew (Yiddish יעקע Yeke) (OED)
  • yenta: a talkative woman; a gossip; a scold (from Yiddish יענטע yente, from a given name) (OED, MW)
  • Yiddish: the Yiddish language (from Yiddish ייִדיש yidish 'Jewish', cf. German jüdisch) (AHD)
  • yontef also yom tov: a Jewish holiday on which work is forbidden, e.g. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach (from Yiddish יום- טובֿ yontef 'holiday', from Hebrew יום טוב yōm ṭōv 'good day') (OED)
  • yutz: a fool (NPD)
  • zaftig: pleasingly plump, buxom, full-figured, as a woman (from Yiddish זאַפֿטיק zaftik 'juicy'; cf. German saftig 'juicy') (OED, MW)

See also


  1. ^ Bartleby on Yiddish
  2. ^ Horwitz, Bert (19 August 2005). "A Hill of Bupkis". The Jewish Daily Forward (New York). Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Ruby's World of Yiddish
  4. ^ Rosten, Leo. The New Joys of Yiddish. Crown Publishers, New York, 2001. pp. 78, 162. ISBN 0609607855
  5. ^ The worthless word for the day is.... Retrieved 7 Jan 2011.
  6. ^ The difference between a schlemiel and a schlimazel is described through the aphorism, "The schlemiel spills his soup on the schlimazel." In pop culture, George Costanza from Seinfeld is the archetype of a schlimazel. Also, the words schlemiel and schlimazel appear prominently in the Laverne & Shirley theme song.
  7. ^ Conway, Oliver (22 June 2004). "Congo word 'most untranslatable'". BBC News. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • List of English words of Ukrainian origin — English words of Ukrainian origin are words in the English language which were borrowed or derived from the Ukrainian language. Some of them may have entered English via Russian, Polish, Yiddish, or some other language. They may have originated… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Polish origin — This is a list English words of Polish origin, that is words used in the English language that were borrowed or derived, either directly or indirectly, from Polish. Several Polish words have entered English slang via Yiddish, brought by Ashkenazi …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of German origin — There are a number of German terms for which there are no useful English equivalents. Because of their usefulness, these terms – called loan words – have entered the English lexicon.This list (with nearest synonyms) includes: *Ablaut (the… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Hebrew origin — This is a list of English words of Hebrew origin. Transliterated pronunciations follow Sephardic/Modern Israeli pronunciations as opposed to Ashkenazi pronunciations, with the major difference being that the letter tav (ת) is transliterated as a… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Russian origin — Including English, contain words most likely borrowed from the Russian language. Not all of the words are truly fluent Russian or Slavic origin. Some of them co exist in other Slavic languages and it is difficult to decide whether they made… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Irish origin — This is a list of English language words from the Celtic Irish language. For English words which originated in Ireland from other sources see Hiberno English. Expand list|date=August 2008Dictionary abbreviations: * AHD : The American Heritage… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Welsh origin — This is a list of English language words of Welsh language origin. As with the Goidelic languages, the Brythonic tongues are close enough for possible derivations from Cumbric, Cornish or Breton in some cases.Words that derive from Welsh ; bard …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Turkic origin — This is a list of words that have entered into the English language from the Turkic languages. Many of them came via traders and soldiers from and in the Ottoman Empire. There are some Turkic words as well, most of them entered English via the… …   Wikipedia

  • List of English words of Romanian origin — These are words in the English language which come from Romanian.*pastrami a type of cured meatUsually cited as being from the Romanian verb a păstra , to keep or preserve, which entered into Yiddish and hence into English. [http://www.etymonline …   Wikipedia

  • English words with uncommon properties — For the purposes of this article, any word which has appeared in a recognised general English dictionary published in the 20th century or later is considered a candidate. For interest, some archaic words, non standard words and proper names are… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.