The Best Yiddish Words

"If you don't have anything nice to say, say it in Yiddish!" ~ Yiddish Proverb

Yiddish is arguably the most fun language ever. It's both humorous, dark, and largely insulting. Spoken by Ashkenazi Jews, Yiddish is similar to German, with some Hebrew and other Slavic languages thrown in for kicks. How many ways to call someone an “idiot” does one person need? Apparently a lot! Here are some of the best Yiddish words ever:

  • Balaboosta: The ultimate Jewish homemaker – she cooks, she cleans, she fries latkes. She's the best!
  • Bubbe: Grandmother. We love our Bubbe!
  • Bubbeleh: A term of endearment, darling. Bubbe often calls her Grandkids “bubbelehs”.
  • Bupkis: Worthless or nada. As in, “I can't believe you got me bubkis from ModernTribe for Hanukkah”

    • Chutzpah: Nerve. As in, “It took a lot of chutzpah for you to take the last bagel!” (Not a compliment.)
    • Klutz: A clumsy person. 
    • Kvell: To beam with pride. As in, “Bubbe was kvelling when I started my own online Judaica store!”

    shvitz it out

    • Kvetch: To complain. As in, “If Mordechai had studied as much as he kvetched about the MCTs, he would have gotten into Med School!”
    • Mazel Tov: Literally means “good luck” but it is an expression used to express “congratulations”. 
    • Mensch: A good person. As in, “What a mensch you are for getting me a present from ModernTribe!”

    mensch mug

    • Meshugina: Craziness. 
    • Nosh: To snack. As in, “Oy vey, I can’t stop noshing on bagels!"
    • Oy vey: An expression of dismay. As in, “Oy vey, I can't believe you ate the last bagel!”

    yiddish gifts

    • Plotz: To collapse. As in, “I just ran all the way to Ess-a-Bagel to pick up bagels before they closed. I am so tired I could plotz!”
    • Putz: A vulgar word for a part of the male anatomy, or an idiot. Ironically it means both.
    • Schlep: To drag. As in, “I schlepped these bagels all the way home from NYC, the least you could do is toast me one with some schmear!
    • Shlemiel: A clumsy person, similar to a klutz. As in, “You shlemiel! You knocked the last bagel onto the floor!:
    • Shlimazel: Someone with bad luck. As in the person whose bagel got knocked over! Fun fact: On “Laverne and Shirley”, they sing “shlemiel” and “shlimazel” in the show opening hopscotch chant.
    • Shmooze: To make small talk. You would often shmooze at a cocktail party.
    • Schmuck: See putz.
    • Schmutz: Dirt. As in, “You have a little schmutz on your face.”
    • Shtup: To have sex with. I don’t think you need a sample sentence…
    • Shvitz: Sweat. As in, "I ran home to see if my ModernTribe package came and now I'm shvitzing!"
    • Tchatchke: A knick-knack, or a young floozy. Either way!
    • Yenta: A female gossip. As in, “She yaps non-stop about who is shtupping who. What a yenta!

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    I want to find out what some of the meanings of Yiddish proverbs and slang mean form the book I have. For instance: Thunder in winter is a sign of plenty.
    Do you know? Or do know where I can glean such information? Thanks Sophia


    Wonderful language, very coloful.

    Sheree Loftus

    I grew up in Yididhkite. It’s my first language. Unfortunately, I don’t read neither Yiddish or Hebrew. But my oral Yiddish isn’t that bad. I have lots of fave Yiddishe words. As an example: a mihae, tanykea nahes, cheripanivke ( variation of gossiper). I can go on and on.


    Hocking my chinik.

    Elaine Lazar

    Funny as one would expect even if some are Yinglish-it’s how a language changes, but lots of fun none the less

    Russian Jewess

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