A Bissel Yiddish 77 Words You Probably Know

As a child, I knew when my parents mentioned the “Kindella”, I knew they were talking about me, and not the app on my Ipad.  Yiddish was always the secret language in my house.  The language that my parents spoke went they didn’t want the Kindella (me) to know what they saying.  Amazingly, enough I seem to know more yiddish than my parents thought.

1. baleboste
A good homemaker, a woman who’s in charge of her home and will make sure you remember it.
2. bissel
Or bisl – a little bit.
3. bubbe
Or bobe. It means Grandmother, and bobeshi is the more affectionate form. Bubele is a similarly affectionate word, though it isn’t in Yiddish dictionaries.
4. bupkes
Not a word for polite company. Bubkes or bobkes may be related to the Polish word for “beans”, but it really means “goat droppings” or “horse droppings.” It’s often used by American Jews for “trivial, worthless, useless, a ridiculously small amount” – less than nothing, so to speak. “After all the work I did, I got bupkes!”
5. chutzpah
Or khutspe. Nerve, extreme arrogance, brazen presumption. In English,chutzpah often connotes courage or confidence, but among Yiddish speakers, it is not a compliment.
6. feh!
An expression of disgust or disapproval, representative of the sound of spitting.
7. glitch
Or glitsh. Literally “slip,” “skate,” or “nosedive,” which was the origin of the common American usage as “a minor problem or error.”
8. gornisht
More polite than bupkes, and also implies a strong sense of nothing; used in phrases such as “gornisht helfn” (beyond help).
9. goy
A non-Jew, a Gentile. As in Hebrew, one Gentile is a goy, many Gentiles are goyim, the non-Jewish world in general is “the goyim.” Goyish is the adjective form. Putting mayonnaise on a pastrami sandwich is goyish. Putting mayonnaise on a pastrami sandwich on white bread is even more goyish.
10. kibbitz
In Yiddish, it’s spelled kibets.  It can mean verbal joking,. It
o11. klutz
Or better yet, klots. Literally means “a block of wood,” so it’s often used for a dense, clumsy or awkward person. See schlemiel.
12. kosher
Something that’s acceptable to Orthodox Jews, especially food. Other Jews may also “eat kosher” on some level but are not required to. Food that Orthodox Jews don’t eat – pork, shellfish, etc. – is called traif.In English, when you hear something that seems suspicious or shady, you might say, “That doesn’t sound kosher.”
13. kvetsh
In popular English, kvetch means “complain, whine or fret,” but in Yiddish, kvetsh literally means “to press or squeeze,” like a wrong-sized shoe. Reminds you of certain chronic complainers, doesn’t it? But it’s also used on Yiddish web pages for “click” (Click Here).
14. maven
Pronounced meyven. An expert, often used sarcastically.
15. Mazel Tov
Or mazltof. Literally “good luck,” (well, literally, “good constellation”) but it’s a congratulation for what just happened, not a hopeful wish for what might happen in the future. When someone gets married or has a child or graduates from college, this is what you say to them. It can also be used sarcastically to mean “it’s about time,” as in “It’s about time you finished school and stopped sponging off your parents.”
16. mentsh
An honorable, decent person, an authentic person, a person who helps you when you need help. Can be a man, woman or child.
17. mishegas
Insanity or craziness. A meshugener is a crazy personor someonewith unacceptable society views.
18. mishpocheh
Or mishpokhe or mishpucha. It means “family,” as in “Relax, you’re mishpocheh. I’ll sell it to you at wholesale.”

19. nosh
Or nash. To nibble; a light snack, but you won’t be light if you don’t stop noshing.
20. nu
A general word that calls for a reply. It can mean, “So?” “Huh?” “Well?” “What’s up?” or “Hello?”
21. oy vey
Exclamation of dismay, grief, or exasperation. The phrase “oy vey iz mir” means “Oh, woe is me.” “Oy gevalt!” is like oy vey, but expresses fear, shock or amazement. When you realize you’re about to be hit by a car, this expression would be appropriate.
22. plotz
Or plats. Literally, to explode, as in aggravation. “Well, don’t plotz!” is similar to “Don’t have a stroke!” or “Don’t have a cow!” Also used in expressions such as, “Oy, am I tired; I just ran the four-minute mile. I could just plotz.” That is, collapse.
23. shalom
It means “deep peace,” and isn’t that a more meaningful greeting than “Hi, how are you ?” It can also mean goodbye.
24. shlep
To drag, traditionally something you don’t really need; to carry unwillingly. When people “shlep around,” they are dragging themselves, perhaps slouchingly. On vacation, when I’m the one who ends up carrying the heavy suitcase I begged my wife to leave at home, I shlep it.
25. shlemiel
A clumsy, inept person, similar to a klutz (also a Yiddish word). The kind of person who always spills his soup.
26. schlock
Cheap, shoddy, or inferior, as in, “I don’t know why I bought this schlocky souvenir.”
27. shlimazel
Someone with constant bad luck. When the shlemiel spills his soup, he probably spills it on the shlimazel. Fans of the TV sitcom “Laverne and Shirley” remember these two words from the Yiddish-American hopscotch chant that opened each show.
28. shmendrik
A jerk, a stupid person, popularized in The Last Unicorn and Welcome Back Kotter.
29. shmaltzy
Excessively sentimental, gushing, flattering, over-the-top, corny. This word describes some of Hollywood’s most famous films. From shmaltz, which means chicken fat or grease.
30. shmooze
Chat, make small talk, converse about nothing in particular. But at Hollywood parties, guests often schmooze with people they want to impress.
31. schmuck
Often used as an insulting word for a self-made fool, but you shouldn’t use it in polite company at all, since it refers to male anatomy.
32. spiel
A long, involved sales pitch, as in, “I had to listen to his whole spiel before I found out what he really wanted.” From the German word forplay.
33. shikse
A non-Jewish woman, all too often used derogatorily. It has the connotation of “young and beautiful,” so referring to a man’s Gentile wife or girlfriend as a shiksa implies that his primary attraction was her good looks. She is possibly blonde. A shagetzor sheygets means a non-Jewish boy, and has the connotation of a someone who is unruly, even violent.
34. shmutz
Or shmuts. Dirt – a little dirt, not serious grime. If a little boy has shmutz on his face, and he likely will, his mother will quickly wipe it off. It can also mean dirty language. It’s not nice to talk shmutz about shmutz. A current derivation, “schmitzig,” means a “thigamabob” or a “doodad,” but has nothing to do with filth.
35. shtick
Something you’re known for doing, an entertainer’s routine, an actor’s bit, stage business; a gimmick often done to draw attention to yourself.
36. tchatchke
Or tshatshke. Knick-knack, little toy, collectible or giftware. It also appears in sentences such as, “My brother divorced his wife for some little tchatchke.” You can figure that one out.
37. tsuris
Or tsores. Serious troubles, not minor annoyances. Plagues of lice, gnats, flies, locusts, hail, death… now, those were tsuris.
38. tuches
Rear end, bottom, backside, buttocks. In proper Yiddish, it’s spelledtuchis or tuches or tokhis, and was the origin of the American slang wordtush.
39. yente
Female busybody or gossip. At one time, high-class parents gave this name to their girls (after all, it has the same root as “gentle”), but it gained the Yiddish meaning of “she-devil”. The matchmaker in “Fiddler on the Roof” was named Yente (and she certainly was a yente though maybe not very high-class), so many people mistakenly think that yentemeans matchmaker.
40. yiddisher kop
Smart person. Literally means “Jewish head.” I don’t want to know whatgoyisher kop means.
41: Shtup
Literaly “to stuff.” Used as a euphemism for sex. “He stopped shtupping his shiksa after she gain)
41) Gonif – thief
42) Shnorren – to beg or mooch, someone who takes more than they need, wants something for nothing.
43. gonif- thief, someone who over charges.
44 Macher – a “hot shot” or “big wig”
45) Zaftig – buxom or hefty (but in a good way) weight. “Ruebenesque”
46. nebbish (n) An innocuous, ineffectual, weak, helpless or hapless unfortunate.”
47.Farshtunken (stinky, smelly)
48.Shlufen, as in “The kids are shlufen in the back seat.”
49.Pisher (a litle squirt, a nobody)
50.Pupik – bellybutton
51.Purimshpieler -a very amateur entertainer(derogatory)
52.Chalish – expire, pass away
53.Nachas – pride/happiness over particular event or person
54.Nuch besse! – even better! (Sarcastically used)
55.Hak meir ein chainik – literally, bang on a tea kettle, used for “nagging” – “quit hakking me already!”
56.Shlep – long inconvenient journey
57.Keppy or keppelah – head
58.Dray – to drone on and on… draykup- one who rants on and on.
59.Lozzem gemacht – leave ‘em alone
60.Shtimmer bebik – a stupid person
61.Yachne – an annoying gossip or talker, won’t shutup
62.Tatelah or mamelah – show  affectionate to a child (male or female respectively).
63.Yoiner – a dense person, a clod (often used ina derogetory way for a fat person, a “fat yoiner”)
64.Shlong – penis
65.Shmekel – penis
66.Shtarker – a big bruiser.
67.Emmis – the truth
68.Neshtuggidacht – It shouldn’t happen to you.
68.Rachmunis – pity, sympathy
69.Nudnik – stupid, annoying but ultimately harmless fellow
70.Kvel – to swell with pride
71.Lukshen – noodles
72.Shander – a public shame or sin – “a shander fur der goyim” a “shame before the gentiles” a disgrace for the whole “jewish” community
73. Bobbemeintze – nonsense, obviously false stories
74. Gezuntheit-after someone sneezes, G-d bless ypu”.
75.Schvitzing – Sweating profusely.
76-Gornitsch –Nothing.
77-Meiskeit-  Ugly

What are your Favorite Yiddish words?  Add them to the comment box.



This post was inspired by https://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-yiddish-handbook-40-words-you-should-know/

2 thoughts on “A Bissel Yiddish 77 Words You Probably Know

  1. Survivor says:

    Isn’t it “schvitzing”, not “schchitzing”– for sweating? The latter sounds too much like something else. Thanks for this, though. I knew about 85% of them.

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