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Yiddish Phrases

Yiddish Phrases

Yiddish is such a rich and descriptive language. Many words and phrases have made it into the mass culture but others are not as well known.

Have fun browsing these expressions. Be a mensch and send us any others you may know of.

ALTER COCKER: An old person that complains a lot.

BISSEL, BISSELA: A little.

BOBBEMYSEH: Old wive's tales, nonsense.

BOYCHICK: An affectionate term for a young boy.

BUBBA: A grandmother.

BUBBALA: A term of endearment, darling.

BUPKES: Something worthless or absurd. I fold - I've got bupkes.

CHUTZPAH: Nerve; gall, as in a person who kills her parents and asks for mercy because she is an orphan.

DRECK: Shoddy or inferior.

FERBLUNJIT: Lost, mixed up.

FARPITZS: All dressed up.

FERSHLUGINA: Beaten up, messed up, no good.

FERSHTINKINER: A stinker, a louse.

FERTUMMELT: Befuddled, confused.

FRESS: To eat like an animal, i.e., quickly, noisily, and in great quantity

GAVALT: A cry of fear or a cry for help. Oy Gevalt is often used as expression meaning "oh how terrible."

GAY AVEK: Go away, get out of here.

GAY GA ZINTA HATE: Go in good health. Often said in parting but can be spoken with irony to mean, "go do your own thing."

GELT: Money.

GONIF: A thief, a tricky clever person, a shady character.

GOY: A derogatory term meaning gentile, goyim is the plural, and goyisher is the adjective.

GORNISHT: Nothing. Often used in a sarcastic manner, as in what did you get from her?

HAYMISH: Informal, friendly. A haimisher mensch is someone you feel comfortable with.

HOK A CHAINIK: To talk too much, to talk nonsense.

KIBITZ: To offer comments which are often unwanted during a game.

KISHKA: Intestines, belly. To hit someone in the "kishka" means to hit him in the stomach or guts.

KLUTZ: An awkward, uncoordinated person.

KVELL: To beam with pride and pleasure, Jewish parents are prone to kvell over their children's achievements.

KVETCH: To annoy or to be an annoying person, to complain.

LOCH IN KOP: Literally a hole in the head, refers to things one definitely does not need.

LUFTMENSH: A dreamer, someone whose head is in the clouds.

LUZZEM: Leave him be, let her or him alone.

MACH SHNEL: Hurry up.

MAVEN: An expert, a connoisseur.

MAZEL TOV: Good luck, usually said as a statement of support or congratulations.

MENSCH: A person of character. An individual of recognized worth because of noble values or actions.

MOMZER: An untrustworthy person.

NACH A MOOL: And so on.

NACHES: Joy. To "shep naches" means to derive pleasure. Jewish children are expected to provide their parent with naches in the form of achievement.

NAFKA: A woman of ill repute.

NEBBISH: An inadequate person, a loser.

NOODGE: To bother, to push, a person who bothers you.

NOSH: To snack.

NU: Has many meanings including, "so?; How are things?; how about it?; What can one do?; I dare you!"

NUDNIK: A pest, a persistent and annoying person.

OY VEY: "Oh, how terrible things are".

PISHER: A bed-wetter, a young inexperienced person, a person of no consequence.

PLOTZ: To burst, to explode, "I can't laugh anymore or I'll "plotz." To be aggravated beyond bearing.

SCHLOCK: A shoddy, cheaply made article, something that's been knocked around.

SCHMALTZ: Literally chicken fat. Usually refers to overly emotional and sentimental behavior.

SHAYGETS: A gentile boy and man, also means a clever lad or rascal.

SHIKSA: A gentile girl or woman.

SHLEMIEL: A dummy; someone who is taken advantage of, a born loser.

SHLEP: To carry or to move about.

SHLIMAZL: A chronically unlucky person, a born loser.

SHMENDRICK: A weak and thin pipsqueak. The opposite of mensch.

SHMEGEGGE: A petty person, an untalented person.

SHMEER: To spread as in to "shmeer" butter on bread. Can also mean to bribe and can refer to the "whole package", as in I'll accept the whole shmeer.

SHMOOZ: To hang out with, a friendly gossipy talk.

SHNOZ: A Nose.

SHTIK: A stick or thing. Often refers to an individual's unique way of presenting themselves, as in "She is doing her shtik."

SHVITZ: To sweat, also refers to a Turkish bath house. A shvitzer means a braggart, a showoff.

TCHOTCHKA: An inexpensive trinket, a toy. Can also mean a sexy but brainless girl. The affectionate diminutive is tchotchkala.

TSORISS: Suffering, woes.

TSUTCHEPPENISH: Something irritating that attaches itself like an obsession. She has a tsutcheppenish that is driving everyone crazy.

TUCHES: Backside, rear-end.

TUMMEL: Noise, commotion, disorder.

VER CLEMPT: All choked up.

YENTA: A busybody, usually refers to an older woman.

ZAFTIG: Juicy, plump. Can refer to food, ideas or people. A buxom woman.

ZIE GA ZINK: Wishing someone good health.


Thanks to Marty Fiebert, Jim Evans, Carolyn Javitch and others for their input.







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