As soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul
— Yiddish Proverb

Yiddish Glossary

Yiddish is a rich and colorful language with many wonderful words that sound much 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. An entirely unique approach to the language is available through Rabbi Ilene Schneider's How to Talk Dirty in Yiddish.

  •  Aliyah – an honor granted in 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
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