A tchotchke (// CHOCH-ka) is a small bauble or miscellaneous item. The word has long been used by Jewish-Americans and in the regional speech of New York City and elsewhere. Tchotchkes are often given at Chanukkah as part of a game.
The word may also refer to free promotional items dispensed at trade shows, conventions, and similar large events. They can also be sold as cheap souvenirs in tourist areas, which are sometimes called "tchotchke shops".
A wide variety of spellings exist for the English usage of the term, e.g. tshotshke, tshatshke, tchachke, tchotchka, tchatchka, chachke, tsotchke, chotski, or chochke; the standard Yiddish transliteration is tsatske or tshatshke. In Israeli Hebrew it is often spelled צאצקע, [ˈtsats.ke], with a tsade instead of teth-shin, as in Yiddish.
Alternate meanings and context
A common confusion is between the terms tchotchke and tsatske or rather tsatskele, with the diminutive ending -le. Both terms have the same Slavic root, but the tch- version stems from Russian, while the ts- originates in Polish. Tchotchke usually references trinkets, while tsatskele is more likely to mean a young girl or woman who uses her charms in order to reach her goals. Being Yiddish, the meaning can change by the use of gestures and a change in tone, so that tsatskele can become the favorite child.
Leo Rosten, author of The Joys of Yiddish, combines the two main meanings and gives an alternate sense of tchotchke as meaning a desirable young girl, a "pretty young thing". Less flatteringly, the term could be construed as a more dismissive synonym for "bimbo", or "slut".
The word "tchotchke" derives from a Slavic word for "a trinket" (Ukrainian: цяцька, tsiats'ka, [ˈtsjɑts.kɑ]; Polish: Sg. cacko /Pl.cacka, [ˈtsats.ka]; Slovak: čačka, [ˈtʃatʃ.ka] CHACH-ka, Russian: цацки, tsatski, [ˈt͡sat͡s.ki])—adapted to Yiddish Sg. טשאַטשקע, tshatshke, "trinket".
- Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, tchotchke : /ˈtʃɒtʃkə/
- Merriam Webster Dictionary, tchotchke : \ˈchäch-kə, ˈtsäts-kə\
- The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, at "The Free Dictionary", tchotch·ke : chŏchˈkə
- Random House Unabridged Dictionary, at "Infoplease", tchotch•ke, pronunciation: chäch'ku
- Webster's New World College Dictionary, at "Your Dictionary", tchotchke : (sound file)
- "Tchotchke, chachka, tsatke ... whatever", Seaway News
- "Inside the Bernie Madoff Tchotchke Auction", Gawker
- J. Kačala et al.: Short Dictionary of Slovak Language. Veda, 2003.  (meaning: cheap decorative thing, trinket)
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- Tchotchke etymology on WorldWideWords.org