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For other uses, see Chutzpah (disambiguation).

Chutzpah (/ˈhʊtspə/ or /ˈxʊtspə/)[1][2] is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The Yiddish word derives from the Hebrew word ḥutspâ (חֻוצְפָּה), meaning "insolence", "cheek" or "audacity". The modern English usage of the word has taken on a broader meaning, having been popularized through vernacular use in film, literature, and television. The word is sometimes interpreted—particularly in business parlance—as meaning the amount of courage, mettle or ardor that an individual has.[citation needed]


In Hebrew, chutzpah is used indignantly, to describe someone who has overstepped the boundaries of accepted behavior. In traditional usage, the word expresses a strong sense of disapproval, condemnation and outrage.

Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts', presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to". In this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and condemnation. In the same work, Rosten also defined the term as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan". Chutzpah amounts to a total denial of personal responsibility, that renders others speechless and incredulous ... one cannot quite believe that another person totally lacks common human traits like remorse, regret, guilt, sympathy and insight. The implication is at least some degree of psychopathy in the subject, as well as the awestruck amazement of the observer at the display.

The cognate of chutzpah in Classical Arabic, ḥaṣāfah (حصافة), does not mean "impudence" or "cheekiness" or anything similar, but rather "sound judgment".[3]

Contemporary usage[edit]

Judge Alex Kozinski and Eugene Volokh in an article entitled Lawsuit Shmawsuit, note the rise in use of Yiddish words in legal opinion. They note that chutzpah has been used 231 times in American legal opinions, 220 of those after 1980.[4]

In the movie Haider (2014) by Vishal Bharadwaj, a modern-day interpretation of Hamlet set against the backdrop of Kashmir in the midst of political conflict, the protagonist uses the word chutzpah which they pronounce as /'tʃʊtspə/ instead of /ˈhʊtspə/ or /ˈxʊtspə/ to describe India's way of treating the people of Kashmir since the beginning of the conflict. This pronunciation sounds more like Indian slang.

The polish word "hucpa" (pronounced the same way) is also derived from this term, although its meaning is closer to a "scam" than a description of someone's audacity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "חוצפה chutzpah". 
  2. ^ "chutzpah". 
  3. ^ Wehr, Hans (1994) [1979]. J. Milton Cowan, ed. Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Urbana, Illinois: Spoken Language Services, Inc. ISBN 0-87950-003-4. 
  4. ^ Kozinski, Alex; Eugene Volokh (1993). "Lawsuit Shmawsuit". Yale Law Journal. The Yale Law Journal Company, Inc. 103 (2): 463. doi:10.2307/797101. JSTOR 797101. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 

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