Yiddish is the language of
the Jewish people of Europe. It's origin is found in the waves of Jewish
people who migrated from the Middle East to Europe during the years
spanning 700 - 1000 C.E. They initially settled in an area of Germany
called Ashkenaz, picked up the local Germanic language but wrote it out
using Hebrew characters. Thus the Yiddish language consists of three
Old German 80%, Hebrew 10%, and Slavic and other tongues 10%.
There are other languages
developed by Jewish people in specific localities. Best known is
"Ladino", the language of many Jews who lived in southern
Europe (Spain, Greece, Italy, etc), the Middle East and North Africa. It
is mostly medieval Spanish written in Hebrew characters. Jewish people
from these areas who speak Ladino are known as "Sephardim".
Yiddish is a highly plastic and assimilative language, rich in idioms,
and possessing remarkable freshness, pithiness, and pungency. Since it
was spoken by ordinary people rather than by scholars, its vocabulary is
weak in abstractions.
It has a wealth of words and expressions descriptive of character and of
relations among people. It makes liberal use of diminutives and terms of
endearment and exhibits a variety of expletives. The use of proverbs and
proverbial expressions is considerable. These qualities and usages give
Yiddish a uniquely warm and personal flavor.
In the early years of the 20th century Yiddish was spoken by an
estimated 11 million people living mainly in eastern Europe and the U.S.
The use of the language has been declining since then. The initial cause
was the extermination of the Jewish communities in Poland and other
eastern European countries during World War II. An important factor that
also contributed to the decline in usage was the adaptation by Jews to
the languages predominant in the United States and in the Soviet Union.
In Israel the Hebrew language is predominant, and Yiddish is a second
language, cultivated largely by members of the older generation who have
an eastern European background; only a few modern Israeli poets write in
Yiddish. In an effort to ensure its preservation, the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem teaches Yiddish, as do certain American schools and
Contributed by: Nahum Norbert Glatzer "Yiddish Language,"
Microsoft (R) Encarta.
Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk &
All 4 of my Grandparents were
from Jewish communities in eastern Europe and spoke Yiddish as their
'Mama-Loshan' (mother-tounge). As both Grandmothers continued to speak
mostly Yiddish, my parents understood Yiddish well, but would answer in
English. I grew up hearing many Yiddish words in our house, and so have
a warm feeling for this expressive language, even though my own
vocabulary is limited. And so, with affection, I present this list of
common Yiddish words, many of which have found their way into current
use in American English, especially around certain neighborhoods in New
York ! May it's use continue in our Messianic Jewish Community !
BALEBOOSTEH (feminine) - an excellent and praise worthy
homemaker, Baleboss is the masculine, the head of the household, owner
of a store, one who assumes authority
BISSELE - a little bit
BUBBE-MYSEH - old wives tale; nonsense; something patently silly
BOPKES/ BUBKES - something trivial, worthless, absurd, foolish,
BROCHA - blessing; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise
BUBEE, BUBELEH - affectionate term of endearment, is widely used
for darling, dear child, honey, sweetheart, good friend
BUBBE - grandmother
CHUTZPA - brazen nerve, gall, self-centered boldness, incredible
EPPES - a little something. A somebody
FARMISHT - confused, befuddled
FEH - an exclamation of disgust
GANTSE MAGILLAH - a whole big story
GELT - money
GEVALT - a cry of fear, astonishment, trouble, a cry for help.
GOYIM - a Gentile, anyone who is not Jewish
KIBBITZ - to chat, joke, light conversation
KINDER, KINDERLACH - children, little children
KLUTZ - clumsy, graceless person
KVETCH - to complain, a chronic complainer, fuss, fret
MENCH - a human being, upright, honorable, decent person, someone
MISHPOCHEH - family, including relatives
NACHES - proud pleasure, special joy particularly from the
achievement of a child
OY - pain, a lament, a protest, a cry of dismay ,a reflex of
delight. The most expressive exclamation in Yiddish.
OY VAY - 'oh pain', but it's an all purpose expression from minor
iritation to abysmal woe.
PLOTZ - to burst , to explode, to be aggravated beyond bearing
POTCH - a slap, a smack and insult, a blow to one's pride, a
setback to one's hopes
PUSHKE - the little can or container kept in the home in which
money is to be donated.
Usually, a charitable organization would provide its own pushke.
SEYCHEL - common sense, wisdom, good judgment
SCHMALTZ - 1. cooking fat-usually chicken 2. overly
emotional mush, luxury, wealth, fancy
SHMOOZ - friendly talk, heart-to heart prolonged talk.
SHLEP - to drag, or pull
SHUMUTS/SCHMUTZ - dirt
SHUL - Synagogue or School
TSIMMES - 1. a side dish of mixed cooked vegetables slightly
sweetened, usually carrots,
prunes, sweet potatoes 2. A prolonged procedure, involved
business, a mix-up, troubles
TSURIS - problems, trouble, grief, aggravation or heartache.
TUCHUS - your bottom,
buttocks. By the 1940's, a slang version in use was 'tushee',
which later was shortened to 'tush', now in regular use
throughout American culture,
thanks to Jewish film makers. Now, aren't you
glad you've read this far down ?!!
TUMMEL - noise, commotion, noisy disorder
YENTA - a female gossiper
ZAYDE - Grandfather, or an old man
ZETZ - a strong blow or punch