Mensch (Yiddish: מענטש mentsh, cognate with German: Mensch "human being") means "a person of integrity and honor." 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, "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." The term is used as a high compliment, expressing the rarity and value of that individual's qualities.
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) are 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 to describe what characterizes a "better human being" in Humanism. The concept goes back to Cicero's Humanitas. It was literally translated into the German word Menschlichkeit and then adapted as mentsh in Yiddish use.
|Look up mensch or Mensch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|