Yiddish is a rich and onomonopoeic language, in that so many of the words sound like what they mean. There’s a certain finality to the hard t that ends the second syllable of “bashert,” suggesting fate is, indeed, inevitable, while the word “shmuck” sounds like someone spitting from the back of their throat in contempt. Pop the term “Yiddish glossary” in your search engine and you’ll find plenty of other words. Also check out The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten. Born to Kvetch by Michael Wex explores the evolution of the language and is worth buying just for the adorable cover photo.
Aliyah – an honor granted in the synagogue, such as reading from the Torah or opening the ark.
Alter cocker – colloquially, a crotchety old man
Babushka - a headscarf tied under the chin
Bashert - fate
Baleboosteh – an excellent homemaker
Bema – the platform where services are conducted in a synagogue
Bubkis – trivial, worthless. Literally, goat droppings
Faygeleh - small bird. Colloquially homosexual man
Flanken - a cut of short ribs
Forward – The Jewish Daily Forward, a newspaper launched in Yiddish in 1897.
Gonif – thief, criminal
Goyim. - plural for non-Jew
Halachic – in accordance with Jewish (Talmudic) law
Hock – “hak a chainik” or strike a teakettle. Colloquially, to talk nonsense or pester.
Kaddish – a prayer praising God. The mourner’s kaddish is said in memory of the dead.
Kibitz – to fool around and wisecrack
Kvell – to feel immense pride
Macher – big shot
Mishpucha - family
Momser – bastard. Often used affectionately for a clever person or scalawag
Pisher – young person
Putz – penis. Colloquially, a jerk or an easy mark
Rotseyekh - murderer
Schmaltzy – overly sentimental. Derived from schmaltz, or chicken fat
Shabbos – sabbath
Shammus – synagogue caretaker
Sheygits – non-Jewish male
Shmuck – penis. A jerk or bumbling fellow.
Shtetl - village
Shtik – piece. Colloquially, idiosyncratic behavior such as that used in a comic routine.
Shul – synagogue
Shvartzeh – female black
Shvitz - sweat
Tallit – prayer shawl
Yiddishe - Jewish