Yiddish Glossary

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

From my bashert to my zaide

An amalgam of medieval German dialects, Yiddish was first used in the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe. By the 20th century over 11 million people spoke Yiddish. It is now spoken by at least 5 million Jews worldwide.

Note: Yiddish is written in the Hebrew alphabet thus the spellings in this glossary are transliterations.

Bashert (n.)
One's beloved; fiance(e): My bashert and I are soon to be married.
Bubbie (n.)
Grandmother: My bubbie knits the cutest sweaters for me.
Bissel (n.)
A little: Don't add more than a bissel of salt.
Bupkis (n.)
Nothing: I was disappointed that I got bupkis for my birthday.
Chazari (n.)
Anything bad or rotten; junk: That TV show is total chazari.
Chutzpah (n.)
Nerve: It took a lot of chutzpah for Michael to stand up to his father.
Farfalen (adj.)
Hopeless; doomed: His haggard look made him seem farfalen.
Fahrblunget (adj.)
Mixed up: This messy house makes me feel so fahrblunget that I don't know where to start.
Feh (interj.)
Indicates disapproval or displeasure: Feh, don't touch that dirty thing.
Ferklempt (adj.)
Choked up; overwhelmed: The mother of the bride became ferklempt when she saw her daughter walk down the aisle.
Gelt (n.)
Money: I got a lot of gelt for my bar mitzvah.
Glitch (n.)
A minor malfunction: A glitch in the plan caused a short delay.
Goy/Goyim (n.)
A person who is not Jewish: The goyim do not attend temple.
Heymish (adj.)
Homey; warm: I long for my heymish house on cold winter days.
Kibitz (v.)
Meddle: We like to kibitz about everyone's affairs.
Klutz (n.)
Clumsy person: The klutz spilled wine all over the tablecloth.
Kvetch (v.)
Complain: My mother kvetches about my cooking.
Mazel tov (interj.)
Congratulations: Mazel tov on the new baby!
Megila (n.)
Long drawn out story: She is sure to have a megila about her grandchildren.
Mensch (n.)
One who does good deeds: He is a real mensch, the kind of guy you can always count on.
Meshugina (n.)
Crazy person: Only a meshugina would climb Mount Everest.
Mezuzah (n.)
A scroll inscribed on one side with Biblical passages, and inserted in a small case that is attached to the doorpost of the home: We have to get a mezuzah for the new back door.
Mish mash (n.)
Combination, mess, hodgepodge: I made this casserole out of mish mash I had in the refrigerator.
Mishegas (n.)
Craziness: The fact that she refused to go to college is mishegas.
Mitzvah (n.)
Good deed: Walking the blind woman across the street was quite a mitzvah.
Nebish (n.)
Unfortunate person: His uncle is a lazy, unmotivated nebish.
Nosh (v.)
Eat: I've been trying to stick to my diet, but instead I find myself all day long at the refrigerator noshing.
Oy! Oy gevald! (interj.)
Oh, no!; expression of dismay, pain, grief: Oy! Why did you launder the lights with the darks!
Schmaltz (n.)
Chicken fat: I cook meat with schmaltz instead of butter to keep a kosher kitchen.
Schmaltzy (adj.)
Sentimental; corny: The schmaltzy soap opera needs an original story line.
Schlep (v.)
Drag around: We had to schlep all over town to find the right dress.
Schmatta (n.)
Rags: Don't go out of the house wearing that schmatta.
Shul (n.)
A synagogue: We go to shul every Friday night.
Shabbas (n.)
Sabbath; which for Jews is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday: She lights the candles every shabbas.
Shabbas goy (n.)
A person who is not Jewish who performs tasks some Jews are forbidden from doing on the Sabbath, like turning on electrical devices: The shabbas goy turns on the lights every Friday night.
Shmutz (n.)
Dirt: After a day outside the children had shmutz all over their hands and faces.
Sheyner ponim (n.)
Pretty face: We melt when we see the baby's sheyner ponim.
Shaygetz (male)/Shikse (female) (n.)
Non-Jewish man or woman: The rabbi wouldn't allow his son to marry a shikse.
Shtetl (n.)
Village: His grandparents lived in a shtetl in Poland before immigrating to the U.S.
Shiva (n.)
Seven days of mourning: After his death we sat shiva.
Shlameil (n.)
Hapless bungler: He didn't even offer her a ride after the party—what a shlameil!
Shoah (n.)
The holocaust: We remember victims of the shoah each spring.
Shlemazel (n.)
A person with very bad luck: Don't let that shlemazel buy the lottery tickets.
Shmooze (v.)
Chat; network: There was a lot of shmoozing at the company cocktail party.
Shtick (n.)
Routine: Don't listen to his complaining; that's his shtick.
Tallis/tallit (n.)
Prayer shawl: The boy wore his tallis over his shoulders when he read the torah portion.
Tante (n.)
Aunt: My mother's best friend is my tante Marcia.
Tchotchke (n.)
Gadget, knickknack: The child kept all of her tchotchkes on a shelf over her bed.
Tefillin (n.)
Leather cubes containing scriptural texts inscribed on parchment; worn on the head and arm during morning prayers by males over thirteen years old: He puts on his tefillin before prayers.
Tochus (n.)
Bottom: The baby's tochus waddled as she took her first steps.
Yartzeit (n.)
Anniversary of the day of death of parents or other relatives; yearly remembrance of the dead: The yartzeit of my father's death occurs in February.
Yenta (n.)
Busybody; gossiper: Don't tell that yenta anything you don't want everyone to know.
Yeshiva (n.)
Religious school; rabbinical school: She was just accepted to yeshiva and will spend her first year studying in Israel.
Zayde/zaide (n.)
Grandfather: My zayde taught me how to throw a baseball.
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