Yiddioms for Yiddiots (or Yiddish for Mormons)

Yiddioms for Yiddiots (or Yiddish for Mormons)

Vee geyts? The other night I attended a medical lecture given by an Israeli friend who now lives in LA. While we were chatting before the meeting, he asked me if I knew any Hebrew.  I said “No, but I do know a few Yiddish words, like k’vetch.” His reply was “that’s a very good word to know.” It’s proof positive that my post’s are relevant . . . and valuable! I feel validated. 

It seems to be no small coincidence that my recent posts (here and here) got me so intrigued by Yiddish that it must seem like I’m moving my practice to the Borsht belt. In the process, I came across this glossary of Yiddish words by Alan Emrich and found it quite interesting. Who knew Yiddish words were so common in the English vernacular? I’ve supplemented Alan’s list with selections from an even more exhaustive list of words and phrases (with pronunciations) at a fascinating website on Hebrew for Christians.

It takes a lot of chutzpah for a kolboynik goy like me to throw this stuff up on his blog and act like some kind of maven on Yiddish. In reality I know bupkis! But I’ve been a life-long fan of the Stooges and their shtik is loaded with yiddioms. That’s got to be worth something.


A shaynem dank: “thank you very much”
Borsht belt: A term used by entertainers to describe hotels in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, with an almost entirely Jewish clientele, who are fond of borsht.
Bortchen: to grumble, growl, bellyache; to k’vetch
Boych: belly, especially a protuberant one
Boychik: A young boy (term of endearment).
Brech: vomit, barf
Bris: Circumcision.
Broygis: Being sullen, morose, quiet. Not on speaking terms; estranged.
Bubbe: Grandmother.
Bubbee: A friendly term for anybody you like.
Bubeleh: “Little grandmother”. Endearing term for anyone you like regardless of age.
Bupkis: Nothing. Something totally worthless. (Literally “Beans”)
Chanukah: Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” commemorates the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Chanukah is celebrated for eight days during which one additional candle is added to the menorah on each night of the holiday.
Chutzpah: Brazenness, gall.
Cockamamie: Crazy; ludicrous
Drek: Human dung, feces, manure or excrement; inferior merchandise or work; insincere talk or excessive flattery
Farshlugginer: Refers to a mixed-up or shaken item. Generally indicates something of little or dubious value.
Feh!: Fooey, It stinks, It’s no good.
Gelt: Money
Gevalt!: Heaven Forbid!  (Exclamatory in the extreme.)
Glick: Luck, piece of luck
Glitch: A minor malfunction:
Goy: Any person who is not Jewish
Goyeh: Gentile woman
Goyim: Group of non-Jewish persons
Ipish: Bad odor, stink
Kapporah: atonement; forgiveness; Scapegoat. Also: a catastrophe; a disaster.
(To) Kibbitz: To offer unsolicited advice as a spectator
Kibbitzer: Meddlesome spectator
Klutz: Ungraceful, awkward, clumsy person; bungler
K’nishes: Baked dumplings filled with potato, meat, liver or barley
Kolboynik: Rascally know-it-all
Kosher: Jewish dietary laws based on “cleanliness”. Also referring to the legitimacy of a situation. “This plan doesn’t seem kosher”.
Kvell: to gush with pride; to rejoice
K’vetch: Whine, complain; whiner, a complainer
L’chei-im, le’chayim!: To life! (the traditional Jewish toast); To your health
Maven: expert; authority. often used sarcastically.
Mazel Tov: Good Luck (lit) Generally used to convey “congratulations”.
Mentsh: A special man or person. One who can be respected.
Meshugeh: Crazy
Meshugeneh: Mad, crazy, insane female.
Meshugener: Mad, crazy, insane man
Mish mash: Combination, mess, hodgepodge:
Mitzvah: Good deed; a gift to help one in get started in their career or future
Moyel: Person (usually a rabbi) who performs circumcisions.
Nebbish: A nobody, simpleton, weakling, awkward person
Nosh: Eat, snack
Nudnik: Pesty nagger, nuisance, a bore, obnoxious person
Nudje: Annoying person, badgerer (Americanism)
Oy!!: Yiddish exclamation to denote disgust, pain, astonishment or rapture
Oy, gevald: Cry of anguish, suffering, frustration or for help
Oy, Vey!: Dear me! Expression of dismay or hurt
Phooey! fooey, pfui: Designates disbelief, distaste, contempt
Putz: Perjorative term for a nasty, petty, small-minded man; describing someone someone as being “a jerk.”
Rabbi: Teacher
Rav: Rabbi, religious leader of the community
Reb: Mr., Rabbi; title given to a learned and respected man
Shikseh: Non-Jewish girl
Shiva: Mourning period of seven days observed by family and friends of deceased
Shlemiel: Clumsy bungler, an inept person, butter-fingered; dopey person
Shlep: Drag, carry or haul, particularly unnecessary things, parcels or baggage; to go somewhere unwillingly or where you may be unwanted
Shlimazel: Luckless person. Unlucky person; one with perpetual bad luck (it is said that the shlemiel spills the soup on the shlimazel!)
Shlub: A jerk; a foolish, stupid or unknowing person, second rate, inferior.
Shlump: Careless dresser, untidy person; as a verb, to idle or lounge around
Shmaltz: Grease or fat; (slang) flattery; to sweet talk, overly praise, dramatic
Shmaltzy: Sentimental, corny
Shmeer: The business; the whole works; to bribe, to coat like butter
Shmendrik: nincompoop; an inept or indifferent person; same as shlemiel
Shmoe: Naive person, easy to deceive; a goof (Americanism)
Shmooz: Chat, talk, flatter; to network
Shmuck:  Self-made fool; derisive term for a man
Shmuts: Dirt, slime
Shnook: A patsy, a sucker, a sap, easy-going, person easy to impose upon, gullible
Shnorrer: A beggar who makes pretensions to respectability; sponger, a parasite
Shnoz: nose
Shpiel: Play
Shtik: Piece, routine: a special bit of acting
(A) Shtunk: A guy who doesn’t smell too good; a stink (bad odor) a lousy human
Shtup: Push, shove; vulgarism for fornication
Talmud: The complete treasury of Jewish law interpreting the Torah into livable law
Tchotchkes: Little playthings, gadgets, ornaments, bric-a-brac, toys; the kind of cheap trinkets you’d pick up for free as a promotion item at a booth in a Trade Show
Vat: what
Vee geyts?: How goes it? How are things? How’s tricks?
Verklempt: Extremely emotional.  On the verge of tears. (See “Farklempt”)
Vos iz?: What’s the matter?
Yarmelkeh: Traditional Jewish skull cap, usually worn during prayers; worn at all times by observant Orthodox Jews.
Yenta: Gabby, talkative woman; female blabbermouth
Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement (the most holy of holy days of the Jewish calendar)
Zayde: grandfather

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