List of English words of Yiddish origin
This is a list of words that have entered the English language from the Yiddish language, many of them by way of American English. There are differing approaches to the romanisation of Yiddish orthography (which uses the Hebrew alphabet) and the spelling of some of these words may therefore be variable (for example, schlep is also seen as shlep, schnoz as shnozz).
Many of these words are more common in the American entertainment industry (initially via vaudeville), the Catskills/Borscht Belt, and New York City English. A number of Yiddish words also entered English via large Jewish communities in Britain, particularly London, where Yiddish has influenced Cockney English.
Most 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. 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 Latin 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
This section has an unclear citation style.March 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)(
These English words of Yiddish origin, except as noted, are in the online editions of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (AHD), or the Merriam-Webster dictionary (MW).
- Bagel: A ring-shaped bread roll made by boiling or steaming, and then baking, the dough (from בײגל beygl) (OED, MW).
- Blintz: A sweet cheese-filled crepe (Yiddish בלינצע blintse from Belarusian блінцы blincy 'pancakes' (plural)) (AHD).
- Bris: The circumcision of a male child. (from Hebrew ברית brith 'covenant') (OED, MW)
- Boychik: Boy, young man. (English boy + Eastern Yiddish טשיק -chik, diminutive suffix (from Slavic)) (AHD)
- Bupkis (also Bupkes, Bupkus, Bubkis, Bubkes): Emphatically nothing, as in He isn't worth bupkis (באָבקיס, of uncertain origin (OED); perhaps originally meaning '[goat] droppings', from a word meaning 'beans', of Slavic origin) (MW, OED)
- Chutzpah //: Nerve, guts, balls, daring, audacity, effrontery (Yiddish חצפּה khutspe, from Hebrew) (AHD)
- Daven: To recite Jewish liturgical prayers (Yiddish דאַוונען davnen) (AHD)
- Dreck: Worthless, distasteful, or nonsensical material (Yiddish דרעק drek, from Middle High German drec 'rubbish'; cognate with German Dreck 'dirt, filth'.) (AHD)
- Dybbuk: The malevolent spirit of a dead person that enters and controls a living body until exorcised (from Hebrew דבּוק dibbuk, 'a latching-onto') (AHD)
- Fleishig: Made with meat (Yiddish פֿליישיק fleyshik 'meaty', from fleysh 'meat', cf. German fleischig 'meaty') (MW)
- Ganef or Gonif: A thief, scoundrel, rascal (Yiddish גנבֿ ganev or ganef 'thief', from Hebrew גנב gannav). (AHD)
- Gelt //: Money in general; also the chocolate coins given to children on Hanukkah (געלט gelt 'money'; cognate with German Geld 'money') (AHD); related to gold.
- 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 (Yiddish גלם goylem, from Hebrew גלם gōlem) (OED, MW)
- Goy: A gentile, term for someone not of the Jewish faith or people (Yiddish גוי, plural גויים or גוים goyim; from Hebrew גויים or גוים goyim meaning 'nations', plural of גוי goy 'nation') (AHD)
- Haimish (also Heimish) //: Home-like, friendly, folksy (Yiddish היימיש heymish, cf. German heimisch) (AHD).
- 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: A clumsy person (from Yiddish קלאָץ klots 'wooden beam', cf. German Klotz 'block') (OED, MW)
- Knish //: A doughy snack stuffed with potato, meat, or cheese (Yiddish קניש, from Polish knysz) (MW, AHD)
- Kosher: Correct according to Jewish law, normally used in reference to Jewish dietary laws; (slang) appropriate, legitimate (originally from Hebrew כּשר kašer, kasher) (AHD)
- Kvell: To express great pleasure combined with pride (Yiddish קװעלן kveln, from an old Germanic word; cognate with German quellen 'swell') (OED, MW)
- Kvetch //: to complain habitually, gripe; as a noun, a person who always complains (from Yiddish קװעטשן kvetshn 'press, squeeze'; cognate with German quetschen 'squeeze') (OED, MW) There is also a connection[vague] to the Hebrew and Aramaic radix "k.w.z", meaning "squeeze".
- Latke //: Potato pancake, especially during Hanukkah (from Yiddish לאַטקע, from either Ukrainian or Russian латка meaning "patch") (AHD)
- Litvak: A Lithuanian Jew (OED)
- Lox: Cured salmon, sometimes referred to as Nova (from Yiddish לאַקס laks 'salmon'; cf. German Lachs), often used loosely to refer to smoked salmon (OED, MW)
- Mamzer: Bastard (from Yiddish or Hebrew ממזר) (OED)
- Maven: Expert, aficionado (from Yiddish מבֿין meyvn, from Hebrew mevin 'understand') (OED, MW)
- 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 מגלה megile 'lengthy document, scroll [esp. the Book of Esther]', from Hebrew מגלה məgillā 'scroll') (OED, MW). Usually used in American English as "the whole Megillah" meaning an overly extended explanation or story.
- Mensch: An upright man; a decent human being (from Yiddish מענטש mentsh 'person'; cognate with German Mensch 'human') (OED, MW)
- Meshuga, also Meshugge, Meshugah, Meshuggah //: Crazy (Yiddish משגע meshuge, from Hebrew məšugga‘) (OED, MW). Also used as the nouns meshuggener and meshuggeneh for a crazy man and woman, respectively.
- 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)
- 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 //: relative or extended family member (Yiddish משפּחה mishpokhe, from Hebrew משפּחה mišpāḥā) (OED)
- Naches //: The feeling of pride and/or gratification in 1: the achievements of another(s); 2. one's own doing good by helping someone or some organization; (Yiddish נחת nakhes, from Hebrew נחת naḥath 'contentment') (OED)
- Narrischkeit //: Foolishness, nonsense; literally "foolish-hood" (Yiddish נאַרישקייט, from nar 'fool'; cf. German närrisch 'foolish') (OED)
- Nebbish, also Nebbich: 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: A multipurpose interjection analogous to "well?", "so?", or "so what?" (Yiddish נו nu, perhaps akin to Russian ну (nu), Polish nu) (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: An interjection of grief, pain, or horror (Yiddish אוי וויי oy vey 'oh, pain!' or "oh, woe"; cf. German oh weh 'oh, woe!') (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 פּאַטשן patshn; cf. German patschen 'slap') (OED)
- Plotz: To burst from strong emotion; often used humorously to express minor shock or disappointment (from Yiddish פּלאַצן platsn 'crack', cf. German platzen) (OED)
- Putz: (vulgar) A penis, term used as an insult (from Yiddish פּאָץ pots) (AHD)
- Schav: A chilled soup made of sorrel. (Yiddish שטשאַוו shtshav, from Polish szczaw) (AHD)
- Schlemiel //: An inept clumsy person; a bungler; a dolt (Yiddish שלעמיל shlemil from Hebrew שלא מועיל "ineffective") (OED, MW) The word is widely recognized from its inclusion in the Yiddish-American hopscotch chant from the opening sequence of the American sitcom Laverne & Shirley.
- Schlep: To drag or haul (an object); to walk, esp. to make a tedious journey (from Yiddish שלעפּן shlepn; cf. German schleppen) (OED, MW)
- Schlimazel also Schlemazl: A chronically unlucky person (שלימזל shlimazl, from Middle Dutch slimp 'crooked, bad'—akin to Middle High German slimp 'awry', or schlimm 'poor or lacking'—and Hebrew מזל mazzāl 'luck', cf. German Schlamassel) (M-W;OED). The difference between a schlemiel and a schlimazel is described through the aphorism, "The schlemiel spills his soup on the schlimazel." In June 2004, Yiddish schlimazel was one of the ten non-English words that were voted hardest to translate by a British translation company. The word is widely recognized from its inclusion in the Yiddish-American hopscotch chant from the opening sequence of the American sitcom Laverne & Shirley.
- Schlock: something cheap, shoddy, or inferior (perhaps from Yiddish שלאַק shlak 'a stroke', cf. German Schlag) (OED, MW)
- Schlong: (vulgar) A 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)
- Schmatte: A rag (from Yiddish שמאַטע shmate, from Polish szmata) (OED)
- 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)
- Schmo: A stupid person (an alteration of schmuck; see below) (OED)
- 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')
- Schmutter: Pieces of 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: (can be derogatory) A Black person (from Yiddish שוואַרץ shvarts 'black'; cf. German schwarz) (OED).
- Shabbos, Shabbas, Shabbes: Shabbat (Yiddish שבת Shabes, from Hebrew Šabbāth) (AHD).
- Shammes or Shamash //: The caretaker of a synagogue; also, the ninth candle of the Hanukkah menorah, used to light the others (Yiddish shames, from Hebrew שמש šammāš 'attendant') (OED, MW).
- Shamus: a detective (possibly from שאַמעס shammes, or possibly from the Irish name Seamus) (OED, Macquarie)
- Shegetz: (derogatory) a young non-Jewish man (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 television commentator Miceal O'Hehir who commentated on hurling from the 1940s to the 1980s.
- Shikker, Shicker, Shickered: Drunk (adjective or noun) (Yiddish שכּור 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 or Shmendrick: 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)
- Shtibl: A small synagogue or place of prayer (Yiddish: שטיבל shtibl 'little room'; cf. German Stüberl) (OED)
- Shtick: Comic theme; a defining habit or distinguishing feature or business (from Yiddish שטיק shtik 'piece'; cf. German Stück 'piece') (AHD).
- Shtup: (vulgar slang) To have sexual intercourse (from Yiddish שטופּ "shtoop" 'push,' 'poke,' or 'intercourse'; cf. German stupsen 'poke') (OED)
- Shul: a synagogue (from Yiddish שול shul literally 'school'; from Middle High German schuol 'school'; cf. German Schule 'school') (MW)
- Shvitz: to sweat (v.), a sauna or steam bath (n.) (From Yiddish שװיץ, cf. German schwitzen) (OED)
- Spiel or Shpiel: A sales pitch or speech intended to persuade (from Yiddish שפּיל shpil 'play' or German Spiel 'play') (AHD)
- Tchotchke: A knickknack, trinket, curio (from Yiddish צאַצקע tsatske, טשאַטשקע tshatshke, from Polish cacko) (OED, MW)
- Tref or Trayf or Traif //: Not kosher (Yiddish טרייף treyf, from Hebrew טרפֿה ṭərēfā 'carrion') (AHD)
- Tsuris //:Troubles, grief (from Yiddish צרות tsores or tsoris, from Hebrew צרות tsarot 'troubles') (AHD)
- Tuchus (also Tuches, Tuchis, or Tukhus) //: The 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 טומלער Tumler, from טומלען tumlen 'make a racket'; cf. German (sich) tummeln 'go among people, cavort') (OED, MW)
- Tush (also Tushy): The buttocks, bottom, rear end (from תּחת tokes) (OED, MW)
- Tzimmes: A sweet stew of vegetables and fruit; a fuss, a confused affair, a to-do (Yiddish צימעס tsimes) (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 (Yiddish פֿאַרקלעמט farklemt 'depressed, grieving', originally 'pressed, gripped') (MW)
- Yarmulke: A 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 (jacket), cf. German Jacke 'jacket.' Its most common usage derives from the British Mandate period to describe Fifth Aliyah German Jews, who were perceived to be more formal in dress and manners. (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 (possibly derived from putz) (NPD, AHD)
- Zaftig, also Zaftik //: Pleasingly plump, buxom, full-figured, as a woman (from Yiddish זאַפֿטיק zaftik 'juicy'; cf. German saftig 'juicy') (OED, MW)
- List of English words of Hebrew origin
- List of German expressions in English
- Lists of English words by country or language of origin
- Yiddish words used in English
- "Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and hundreds more". www.bartleby.com. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007.
- Horwitz, Bert (19 August 2005). "A Hill of Bupkis". The Jewish Daily Forward. New York. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- See also Wex, Michael. Born to Kvetch. St. Martin's Press, New York, 2005.
- Even-Shoshan, Avraham. HaMilon HeHadash (The New Dictionary) (in Hebrew). Kiriat-sefer. ISBN 978-9651701559.
- "World Wide Words: The whole megillah". World Wide Words.
- 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.
- Conway, Oliver (22 June 2004). "Congo word 'most untranslatable'". BBC News. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- Carr, David, "Abramson’s Exit at The Times Puts Tensions on Display", The New York Times, May 18, 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-19.
- Mottel Baleston, "Common Yiddish Words", The Messianic Association website
- Jeffrey Goldberg, "Words That the New York Times Will Not Print", The Atlantic, 2010-06-09. "'Joe Lieberman is too polite to complain, but the Gore questions are getting to be a pain in the tuchis.' ... Though Leibovich's copy editors allowed tuchus to be spelled incorrectly, the Washington Post is obviously more tolerant of Jewish flamboyance ..."