Yiddish 101

Impress your family and friends

Yiddish Words and Phrases

A BI GEZUNT: So long as you’re healthy. Expression means, “Don’t worry so much about a problem, whatever it is. You’ve still got your health.”

A BROKH TSU DAYN LEBN: Your life should be a disaster.

A KHALERYE: A plague on you.

A SHAYNEM DANK DIR IM PUPIK: Many thanks in your belly button. (Thanks for nothing)

A SHVARTS YOR: A miserable year (you should have...)

ALTER COCKER, ALTER KAKER: An old and complaining person; Old fart

ALIVAY: It should only happen.

ALTER COCKER: An old and complaining person; an old fart.

AY-YAY-YAY: A joyous, or at times sarcastic, exclamation.

BALABUSTA: The wife of an important person or a bossy woman.

BEI MIR BIST DU SHAYN: To me you’re beautiful.

BERRYER: Denotes a woman who has excellent homemaking skills. Considered a compliment in the pre-feminist era.


BOBBEMYSEH: Old wive’s tales, nonsense.

BOYCHICK: An affectionate term for a young boy.

BROCHE: A prayer.

BUBBA: A grandmother.

BUBBALA: A term of endearment, darling.

BUPKES: Something worthless or absurd.

CHAYA: An animal. “Vilda Chaya,” a wild animal, is a term used to describe unruly children.

CHAZEREI: Food that is awful, junk or garbage.

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

DRECK: Can refer to the ugliness of objects or people.

ESS: Eat. (see ‘Fress’)

FARSHTINKENER: Rotten; awful person.

FAYGALA: A male homosexual (literally, ‘little bird’).

FERBLUNJIT: Lost, mixed up.

FERDRAYT: Dizzy, confused.

FARPITZS: All dressed up.

FERMISHT: All shook up, as in an acute disturbance.

FERSHLUGINA: Beaten up, messed up, no good.

FERSHTAY: Do you understand?

FERSHTINKINER: A stinker, a louse.

FERTUMMELT: Befuddled, confused.

FRESS: To eat like an animal, i.e., quickly, noisily, and in great quantity. (Compare with ‘ess’, to eat like a human being)

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, GEY GEZUNTERHEYT: Go in good health. Often said in parting but can be spoken with irony (“Go do your own thing. Yeah, go do whatever you like. Fine, don’t listen to me. See if I care anymore.”

GAY SHLAFEN: Go to sleep.

GELT: Money.

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

GORNISHT HELFN: Beyond help.

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

GREPSE: To belch.

GORNISHT, GUNISHT: Nothing. Often used in a sarcastic manner, as in, “What did you get from her? Gunisht.”

HAYMISH: Informal, friendly.
HAIMISHER MENSCH: 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, to tease or joke around. A kibitzer gives unasked for advice.

KINE-AHORA: A magical phrase to ward off the evil eye or to show one’s praises are genuine and not tainted by envy.

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

KLUTZ: An awkward, uncoordinated person.

KOSHER: Refers to food that it prepared according to Jewish law. Generally, kosher means “legitimate”.

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.

MACHER: An ambitious person; a schemer with many plans.

MAVEN: An expert, a connoisseur.

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

MEESA MASHEENA: A horrible death. The phrase “a messa mashee af deer” means “a horrible death to you”, and is used as a curse. Some have suggested that Masheena is the origin for a very old and extremely derogatory term for a Jewish person: Jews of Sheeny.

MEESKAIT: A little ugly one; a person or thing.

MEGILLAH: Long, complicated and boring.

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

MESHUGGE, MESHUGGINA: Crazy, refers to a more chronic disturbance.

MISHEGOSS: Inappropriate, crazy, or bizarre actions or beliefs.

MISHPOCHA: Family, extended family.

MOMZER: An untrustworthy person.

MOYL: The man who circumcises baby boys at a briss.

NACH A MOOL: And so on.

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

NARRISHKEIT: Foolishness, trivia.

NEBBISH: An inadequate person, a loser.

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

NOSH: To snack.
NOSHERYE: To snack on food.

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.

ONGEPOTCHKET: Messed up, slapped together without form, excessively and unesthetically decorated.

OY-YOY-YOY: An exclamation of sorrow and lamentation.

OY VEY: “Oh, how terrible things are”.
OH VEZ MEAR: “Oh, woe is me”.

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.

POTCHKA: To fool around; to be busy without a clear goal.

PUPIK: Belly button.

PUTZ: Most usually used as term of contempt for a fool, or an easy mark.

RACHMONES: Compassion.

SAYKHEL: Common sense.

SCHLOCK: A shoddy, cheaply made article, something thats been knocked around.

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

SCHMUCK: A strong putdown for a jerk, a detestable person.

SHADKHEN: a professional matchmaker.

SHANDA: A shame, a scandal. The expression, “A shanda fur die goy” means to do something embarrassing to Jews where non-Jews can observe it.

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

SHAYNER: Pretty, wholesomely attractive, as in shayner maidel (woman).


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. Can refer to a person, a “shlepper,” who is unkempt and has no ambition.

SHLIMAZL: A chronically unlucky person, a born loser. When a shlimazl sells an umbrella, the sun comes out.

SHMATTA: A rag, often used as a putdown for clothes of the unfashionably dressed.

SHMEER: To spread as in to “shmeer” butter on bread. Can also mean to bribe and can refer to the “whole package” (i.e. “I’ll accept the whole shmeer.”)

SHMEGEGGE: A petty person, an untalented person.

SHMENDRICK: A weak and thin pipsqueak. The opposite of mensch, a a physically small shlemiel.

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


SHNORRER: A begger, a moocher, a cheapskate, a chiseler.

SHNOZ: A nose. (Jimmy Durante was known as “the great shnoz”)

SHTETL: A Jewish ghetto village.

SHTIK: A stick or thing. Often refers to an individual’s unique way of presenting themselves. (i.e. “She is doing her shtik.”)

SHTUNK: A stinker, a nasty person or a scandalous mess.

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

SPIEL: To play, as in to play a game.

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

TOKHIS: Derriere.

TOKHIS OYFN TISH: Put up or shut up.


TSETUMMELT: Confused, bewildered.

TSIMMES: A side dish, a prolonged procedure, an involved and troubling business (i.e. “Don’t make a tsimmes out of it.”)

TSORISS: Suffering, woes.

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

TUCHES: Backside, ass.
TUCHES LECKER: ass kisser, one who shamelessly curries favor with superiors.

TUMMEL: Noise, commotion, disorder.

UNGABLUZUM: To look as if one is going to cry.

VER CLEMPT: All choked up.

VER DERHARGET: Get killed. (Drop dead)

VUS MACHS DA: What’s happening? What’s up?

YADDA YADDA: Using filler words (verbal replacement for “etc., etc.”)

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

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

ZIE GA ZINK: Wishing someone good health.

ZETZ: A strong blow or punch.

ZEYDE: Grandfather, or old man.

ZHLUB: An insensitive, ill-mannered person, a clumsy individual.

ZOLST LIGEN IN DRERD: You should lie in the earth! (Drop dead)


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