Learn a Little Yiddish
Selected Yiddish Words and Phrases – impress your friends and family
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.”
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.
BISSEL, BISSELA: A little.
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: Shit. Can refer to the ugliness of objects or people.
FAYGALA: A male homosexual. (literally, little bird.)
FERBLUNJIT: Lost, mixed up.
FERCOCKT: All fucked 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: Go in good health. Often said in parting but can be spoken with irony to mean, “go do your own thing.”
GAY SHLAFEN: Go to sleep.
GONIF: A thief, a tricky clever person, a shady character.
GOY: A derogatory term meaning gentile, goyim is the plural, and goyisher is the adjective.
GREPSE: To belch.
GORNISHT: Nothing. Often used in a sarcastic manner, as in what did you get from her? Gunisht.
HAYMISH: Informal, friendly. A haimisher mensch is 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. More 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 the insulting name for 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 or MESHUGGINA: Crazy, refers to a more chronic disturbance.
MISHEGOSS: Inappropriate, crazy, or bizarre actions or beliefs.
MISHPOCHA: Family, usually extended family.
MOMZER: A bastard, an untrustworthy person.
MOYL: The man who circumcises baby boys at a briss.
NACH A MOOL: And so on.
NACHES: Joy. To “shep naches” means to derive pleasure. Jewish children are expected to provide their parent with naches in the form of achievement.
NAFKA: A whore.
NARRISHKEIT: Foolishness, trivia.
NEBBISH: An inadequate person, a loser.
NOODGE: To bother, to push, a person who bothers you.
NOSH: To snack. NOSHERYE refers to 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 means “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: A vulgarism for penis but most usually used as term of contempt for a fool, or an easy mark.
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 vulgarism for penis, 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 umbrella the sun comes out.
SHMENDRICK: A weak and thin pipsqueak. The opposite of mensch, a a physically small shlemiel.
SHMEGEGGE: A petty person, an untalented person.
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”, as in I’ll accept the whole shmeer.
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 a the great shnoz.
SHTETL: A Jewish ghetto village.
SHTIK: A stick or thing. Often refers to an individual’s unique way of presenting themselves, as in “She is doing her shtik.”
SHTUNK: A stinker, a nasty person or a scandalous mess.
SHTUP: An expression for sexual intercourse, to “screw.”
SHVITZ: To sweat, also refers to a Turkish bath house. A shvitzer means a braggart, a showoff.
SHVANTZ: A word for penis.
SPIEL: To play, as in to play a game.
TCHOTCHKA: An inexpensive trinket, a toy. Can also mean a sexy but brainless girl. The affectionate diminutive is tchotchkala.
TSETUMMELT: Confused, bewildered.
TSIMMES: A side dish, a prolonged procedure, an involved and troubling business, as in the phrase, “don’t make a tsimmes out of it.”
TSORISS: Suffering, woes.
TSUTCHEPPENISH: Something irratating that attaches itself like an obsession. She has a tsutcheppenish that is driving everyone crazy.
TUCHES: Backside, ass, “tuches lecker” means 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.
VUS MACHS DA: What’s happening? What’s up?
YENTA: A busybody, usually refers to an older woman.
YENTZ: Course word for sexual intercourse. Also means to cheat or screw someone. Yentzer is the noun.
ZAFTIG: Juicy, plump. 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.
Marty Fiebert Department of Psychology CSULB
Gai feifen afenyam/Gai kakhen afenyam
go whistle in the ocean/go shit in the ocean
(Go jump in a lake. I think the second version is more common, but try telling that to a skittish editor.)
Zolst ligen in drerd! :You should lie in the earth! (Drop dead.)
Ver derharget: Get killed (Drop dead)
Gey gezunterheyt: Go in good health
(Yeah, go do whatever you like. Fine, don’t listen to me. See if I care anymore.)
Gornisht helfn: Beyond help
Lokh in kop: Hole in the head
Tokhis oyfn tish: Put up or shut up
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. Say it fast and it sounds delightfully insulting.)
Ikh hob dir in drerd: Go to hell
A shvarts yor: A miserable year
(you should have…)
Alter kaker: Old shit
Tokhis leker: Ass-kisser
Shtup: Have sex. Screw. Boink.
Alivay: It should only happen