Mensch

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For other uses, see Mensch (disambiguation).

Mensch (Yiddish: מענטשmentsh, cognate with the German word Mensch meaning a "human being") means "a person of integrity and honor".[1] The opposite of a "mensch" is an "unmensch", meaning an utterly unlikeable or unfriendly person. According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of The Joys of Yiddish, a "mensch" is "someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being 'a real mensch' is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous."[2] The term is used as a high compliment, implying the rarity and value of that individual's qualities.

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In Yiddish, mentsh roughly means "a good person". The word has migrated as a loanword into American English, where a "mensch" is a particularly good person, similar to a "stand-up guy", a person with the qualities one would hope for in a friend or trusted colleague. Mentshlekhkeyt (Yiddish מענטשלעכקייט, German Menschlichkeit) refers to the properties which make a person a "mensch".

During the Age of Enlightenment, in Germany the term Humanität, in the philosophical sense of "compassion", was used in Humanism to describe what characterizes a "better human being". The concept goes back to Cicero's humanitas, which was literally translated as Menschlichkeit in German, from which the Yiddish word mentsh derives.

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