Yiddish is a wonderful, rich, descriptive, often onomatopoetic language. It has words for nearly every personality type known to humankind. Yiddish offers more ways of identifying various kinds of "idiots" (with all their subtle variations) than Carter has liver pills. It has a bountiful tradition of literature, film, theater and poetry, which reflect the collective Jewish experience in Europe, over centuries.
Yiddish arose around one thousand years ago from Middle High German, and spread throughout the ghettos of central and eastern Europe, borrowing words from the countries in which the Jews lived. Thus, it incorporates words from Hebrew, Russian, Polish and other Slavic languages, Romance languages, and later, English. Before WWII, Yiddish was spoken by more than 11 million people. Today, it is spoken by perhaps 1/10 that many.
Many assimilated Ashkenazi American Jews, whose grandparents or greatgrandparents only spoke Yiddish, or who spoke it as a first language, barely know any words at all. This is a shonda! (a shame, a pity.) Many Yiddish words have entered the American-English lexicon.
You will find maven (expert) and gonif (thief) in most dictionaries. Words such as shlep, shmata, nosh are regularly used in film, on TV and in books and magazines, without translation. The addition of a rhyme beginning with "shm" to denote something of little consequence ("Hospital, shmospital...So long as you're healthy!") is a purely "Yinglish" construct.
Inflection, too, is an important aspect to Yiddish. This from Leo Rosten's "The Joys of Yiddish": (The questioner as asking whether he/she should attend a concert being given by a niece. The meaning of the same sentence changes completely, depending on where the speaker places the emphasis:)
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--meaning:, "After what she did to me?"
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--meaning: "What, you're giving me a lesson in ethics?"
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--meaning: I wouldn't go even if she were giving out free passes!
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--meaning: I'm having enough trouble deciding whether it's worth one.
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--She should be giving out free passes, or the hall will be empty.
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--Did she buy tickets to our daughter's recital?
I should buy two tickets for her concert?--You mean, they call what she does a "concert"?
According to Rosten, there are other linguistic devices in English, derived from Yiddish syntax, which subtly "convey nuances of affection, compassion, displeasure, emphasis, disbelief, skepticism, ridicule, sarcasm, and scorn."
Mordant syntax: "Smart, he isn't."
Sarcasm through innocuous diction: "He only tried to shoot himself."
Scorn through reversed word order: "Already you're discouraged?"
Contempt through affirmation: "My partner, he wants to be."
Fearful curses sanctioned by nominal cancellation: "May all your teeth fall out except one, so that you can have a toothache, God forbid."
Derisive dismissal disguised an innocent interrogation: "I should pay him for such devoted service?"
It's a pity to let such a rich language die. Help keep Yiddish alive by learning new words and making them a part of your everyday conversation. This list is by no means complete, but it's enough to get you started sounding like a Member of the Tribe.
"ch" is pronounced like the "ch" in the Scottish "loch," as if you're cleaning a phlegm from your throat, unless otherwise specified..
"r" is gently rolled, as the single "r" in Spanish or French.
(pronunciation guide added only to words whose pronunciation might be questionable from the spelling. If no guide is given, it's pronounced as it looks.)
Note, too, that Yiddish is actually written with Hebrew letters, therefore, when used in English, words are transliterated, or spelled as they sound (as we write Chinese or Arabic words in English.) Since Yiddish was spoken by Jews all over Europe, accents and inflexions varied greatly. This leads to variations in spellings. For example, "ferdrayed" is the same as "fardrayed" is the same as "tsedrayd" etc. "Sh" words are often spelled with an "sch" and words which end in "er" might also be spelled with an "eh" "ah" etc. When there might be a question of a slight change of spelling giving a totally different meaning (i.e. "kibbitz" vs. "kibbutz") it has been noted.
This glossary is only Romanized Yiddish to English. To look up the ENGLISH word to find the YIDDISH), go to this site.
A bei gesunt: As long as you're healthy. "Hospital, shmospital. A bei gesunt!"
Alevai: (a-lev-eye) It should only happen! May it come to pass! "We're saving our money so when our daughter gets married, alevai, we can make her a nice wedding."
Alta Kocker: literally, an old shit; or as we say in English, an old fart. (sometimes called, simply, AK) Years ago, my mother was trying to convince my then 8-year old nephew that he actually knew quite a bit more Yiddish than he realized. "For instance, you know what an alta kocker is," she said, knowing she'd used the word around him often. His face lit up. "Yes! I know that one! It means a 'slow driver!'"
Alrightnik: (Yinglish) somebody who's done OK for themselves financially, i.e. nouveau riche.
Aroisgevofeneh: (uh-roys-geh-vof-en-uh) Thrown away, wasted. "They're giving that klutz ballet lessons? Aroigevofeneh gelt!" (wasted money)
Baleboosteh: (bal-a-boo-stah) an efficient, organized homemaker. "That Donna Reed was some baleboosteh!"
Beryiah: (berr-yah) a baleboosteh squared; a regular Martha Stewart. A homemaker who puts the rest of us to shame.
Bashert: (beh-sheert) destined, fated, meant to be. "Beshert is beshert" is the Yiddish equivalent of "Que sera, sera." When used as a noun, it means "soul mate" or the one with whom you were destined to be.
Bissel: (bis-sel) A little. "Give me a bissel lox on my bagel, would you, darling?" A biselleh is even less.
Boorivka: (burr-if-kah) literally, a blueberry. Colloquially used to refer to a large, dark mole. "That Robert Redford is so handsome, but oi! All those boorivkas!"
Brech: (rhymes with "yechhh!" which should make it easy to learn) to gag; to vomit. "Meh keyn brechen!" means "You can vomit from this!" "Go to your sister's house for dinner? Forget it! I don't know which makes me brech more… her food or her décor!"
Bruchah: a prayer. Almost all Jewish prayers begin with the words, "Baruch atah Adonoi" which means "Blessed art thou, O Lord" so "brucha" is the first few syllables of most prayers. See also: motsi
Bubba Meisah: (bubba meye-seh) literally, a "grandmother's story," or old wives' tale, such as "You'd better stop making that face! I knew a girl whose face froze like that!" Basically, a story of dubious truth, often based on rumor, gossip or stemming from a desire to impress others or keep the kids in line. Real B.S.. The original urban legend.
Bubbellah: (the "u" is pronounced like the "oo" in book) an affectionate way of refering to someone, much like "darling" or "sweetheart." Bubbies call their grandchildren "bubbellah." Close friends and long-time business partners might call each other "bubbellah," or boubbie, for short. (pronounced like "bookie" vs. the shorter "u" in Bubby, below.) Also, the nickname of a kosher-for-Passover pancake made with matzoh meal and eggs.
Bubby: (rhymes with cubby) (also spelled Bubbe, Bubbeh) Grandmother (you needed me to tell you this, after spending time on my website!?)
Bulvan: (bull-vahn) an ox; a strong, but unrefined man. Such a man might be a prize fighter or a piano mover.
Bupkis: (bup-kiss) literally, beans. Colloquially, nothing. "You're gonna sue me?! You know what you'll get!!?? Bupkis!"
Canardly: Used by my friends in the diamond district to describe some diamonds. "Wow! That's a genuine Canardly! Meaning you can 'ardly see it.
Chai kock: (impolite) literally, human doo-doo. Something that is worthless, beneath consideration. "She's divorcing me and she thinks she's going to get the house and half my money!? She'll get chai kock from me!"
Chaim Yankel :(khai-yam Yonk-l) a regular guy, nobody special, any Tom, Dick or Heshie.
:(khal-air-re-ah) A nasty, shrewish, somewhat psychotic woman, prone to wild outbursts of anger. Basically, a bitch.
Challah: (khal-lah) a delicious bread made with lots of eggs, usually braided, and served at Sabbath dinner or other holidays meals (except Passover where no bread is allowed). Has the consistency of an Italian panetone (without the add-ins) or French brioche. Makes the absolute BEST French toast. OK, my eyes are rolling back in my head just thinking about it!! Mmmmm!
Challish: (khall-ish) faint. Often used in reference to fainting from hunger. "If that waiter doesn't bring our dinner soon, I'm going to challish!"
Chalushes :(khal-ush-ess) Nausea or a feeling of sickness. Also, nauseating. "Did you see that dress she was wearing?! It was positively chalushes!"
Chamalyiah: (kham-al-yah) a mega-zetz. A real whack, a Joe Lewis punch. "If that kid upstairs doesn't stop practicing his drums, I'm gonna go up there and give him such a chamalyiah!"
Chassen: (khaz-zen) groom (also Chusn)
Chasseneh: (kha-zen-eh) Wedding
Chazzer: (khaz-zeh) a pig or anyone who behaves like one, either in their eating, financial or personal grooming habits. "Oi! What a chazzer! I don't think he's bathed in a week." "No wonder that chazzer went out of business. He kept all the profits and paid his employees bupkis."
Chazzerai: (khaz-zer-rye) literally, pig slop. Any kind of garbage, whether it's junk food, shoddy merchandise or stuff of little or no value. "No wonder my grandson is fat! All my daughter-in-law feeds him is chazzerai!" "I went to that big estate sale, but all they had was chazzerai." "I never watch TV any more. All they play is chazzerai."
Chinik: (chi-nik; the "ch" in this case is pronouced as in the English "church") a tea kettle. (see "hock meir en chinik") "Chai" means tea throughout most of Asia (that's all kinds of tea; not just that spiced, sweet stuff you get at Starbucks!) So a "chai-nik" is the thing into which the tea is put. "Nik" is a suffix which turns the root word into a new word generally meaning "one who does [the root word]" This ending is used often to create Yinglish words such as "nogoodnik" "beatnik" "peacenik" "alrightnik" "neatnik." Usually a "so-and-so-nik" refers to a person who is an adherent or practitioner of something; and there is generally something mildly derisive about such coined words. Chinik is one of the few exceptions.
This, from reader MG: "In my family, chinik was defined as a "teacup" (a small piece of china). People without manners would bang a spoon around in the teacup while they were stirring and then clatter it down on the saucer when done, creating a lot of annoying, unnecessary, rude noise, apparently much like my sisters and I made a lot of rude, unnecessary, and annoying noise on occasion. My bubby (from Warsaw, not Kishev) wouldn't have known from chai if it was slopped on her."
Chrain: (khrain) horseradish. "Whew! That fresh chrain on my gefilte fish really cleared out my sinuses!"
Chumitz: (khum-itz) Anything not kosher for Passover; i.e. bread, anything with leavening, anything that can be made into flour. Some people/sects also forbid rice and corn products as well. The list goes on... (and on...) (and on...) Technically, a Jewish home should be searched for and cleaned of all chumitz before the holiday begins. For more in this, go here.
Chuppah: (khup-ah, rhymes with "cuppa") Wedding canopy, under which the bride and groom and rabbi (and close family members) stand, during the ceremony. See shtup
Chutzpah:- Unmitigated gall, brazeness beyond imagination. Like the boy who killed both his parents, then threw himself on the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.
Cooch: OK, honestly? This word isn't really Yiddish. My Aunt Marion made it up. But it sounds Yiddish and it's become a favorite of all who've heard it because there is no other word like it. Cooching is a form of tactile shopping, hands-on examination of the merchandise, almost a caress as it were, before deciding to buy. One might cooch at a yard sale, a flea market, at a dollar store or even an upscale shop. It isn't necessary to actually BUY something for a cooching expedition to be successful. It's more about accessing the physical attributes of the merchandise -- feeling the fabric; picking up a tchatzkah to feel its heft; turning an object over in your hand to see where or how it was made. "I went to a few yard sales and cooched around, but I didn't find anything good." Also, one might cooch one's security blanket. (caress it between one's fingers to feel its texture.)
Daven: (dah-ven) a rhythmic, rocking motion done while praying. Which reminds me of joke: Ruthie marries Moishe, a very religious but sexually inexperienced young man. On their honeymoon night, he climbs on top of her then just lays there like lox. Ruthie, in frustration, finally cries out: "Daven, Moishe! Daven!"
Dibbuk: a folkloric creature -- the evil soul of a dead person which resides in the body of a living human being. The story of the Dibbuk is the Jewish version of "The Exorcist." Frankenstein's monster was loosely based on this Jewish folk tale.
Draycup: literally, a turned around head. ("dray" means "turn" as in "draydl," a spinning top used at Hanukkah) Someone who's perpetually confused. "That draycup didn't just lose her keys this time. She lost the whole car!"
Drek: ca-ca, both literally and in the same way we use the word in English, to denote crap. Somewhat stronger than chazzerai, but often used the same way. "A real designer bag? Yeah right! Look at this drek! Not only is the zipper already broken, but Vuitton is spelled "V-o-o-t-o-n!"
Eckveldt: lit, the end of the earth. The last town, before you fall off the edge of the planet. Nowheresville. "They bought a house in the country. Not even the Catskills! Seven hours we drove! I'm tell you, it's in eckveldt!" (Basically the same as yenemsvelt)
Eingeshparht: (ayn-geh-shpart) stubborn. "He is so eingeshparht, getting him to do anything is like trying to get a donkey up a ladder!"
Emmes: (em-mess) truth. Used often in the context of "I swear it's true" or "Really? Is that true? "Barbra Streisand was at that bar mitzvah I went to last week." "Emmes?" "Emmes!"
Eppes: (ep-pess) something. "You must be hungry. Ess a bisel eppis, tatelleh." (Eat a little something, my darling boy.)
Ess: eat. Often used invitationally. "Ess! Ess! The food is getting cold." (see also Fress)
Farbissenah: (Fer-biss-en-uh) sour, bitter. Generally used to refer to people (hence Frau Ferbissenah in the Austin Powers films.) "No wonder she's not married. With a ferbissenah punim (sour face) like that, a man should be afraid to talk to her!" Or "His wife ran off with his partner and he's been ferbissenah ever since."
Farblongjid :(far-blunge-jed) completely lost and confused, either in one's head or on the ground. "God forbid you should ask for directions! Now we're completely farblongjid!"
Farcockt: All crapped up. (see Alta Kocker) "It used to be a nice neighborhood, but now it's all farcockt." As an adjective, it's "farcockteh." "This is a farcockteh neighborhood."
Fardrai zich deyn kopf!: literally, "go turn your own head around." In other words, "Leave me alone and go make yourself crazy!" "Quit bugging me and get lost."
Farfel: crumbled up, broken matzoh bits put in soup or mixed with egg to make a sort of matzoh omelet called a matzoh brie. (br-eye) Topped with some sugar, maybe a bissel frucht, not too awful.
Farfoilt: (fur-foiled) spoilt, mildewed, rotten, decayed. "Marvin, you're 36 years old already. Time to get rid of that ferfoilteh shmata!" (rotten rag, or in this instance, lousy security blanket.)
Farklempt: all choked up, overwrought (all "clamped up" emotionally)
Farkrimpteh: twisted, crimped up. A "farkrimpteh punim" is a twisted up, scowling face.
Farmisht: confused, befuddled. "Is today Tuesday? This holiday weekend got me all farmisht."
Farpootzt: (fur-pootzt) all dressed up and/or all made up, often overly so. "Where do you think you're going, young lady, all ferpootzt? Wipe that makeup off! Take off that sequined dress! You're only 12 years old!"
Farprishteh punim: zit-face, pizza face
Farshikkert: drunk as a skunk, three sheets to the wind, s**t-faced. (a Shikker is a drunk)
Farshlepteh Krenk: (far-shlep-tah krenk) literally, a chronic illness. Used colloquially to mean something that just doesn't end. A long, drawn out issue, usually without resolve, rather like the Whitewater hearings.
Farshimmelt: (far-shim-elt) literally, rotten, moldy. When you say a person is "farshimmelt" it means they are confused, mixed up (i.e. their mind is old and moldy.)
Farshluggineh: (far-shlug-in-ah) crazy mixed up, wacky and worthless, silly/goofy. Mad Magazine's website proclaims: "This entire farshlugginer site is brought to you courtesy of www.HeritageComics.com"
Farshtaist? (far-shtayst) Understand? You got that? You dig, man? Comprende? Capisce?
Farshtunken: (far-shtunk-en) stinky, smelly, fetid, rotten. Used literally as well as figuratively. "This Iraq thing is a big, farshtunkeneh mess!"
Farshvitzt: (far-shvitzed) "shvitz" is sweat, also steambath. All sweated up.
Fartik: finished, ready, done. Often used as a question: Fartik? ("Are you finished yet?") or exclamation, "Fartik!" (I'm done with THIS!) "I've had enough of your narishkeit! Fartik! I want a divorce!"
Faygelah: (fay-geh-lah) literally, a little bird. Colloquially used to refer to a gay man. Depending upon its use, can be derogatory or affectionate. "My hairdresser, the faygelah, sure gave me a beautiful haircut!"
Feh! A visceral expression of disgust, either physical or emotional.
Fliegel: (rhymes with sea gull) a chicken or turkey wing, as in "Buffalo fliegels"
Forshpise: (for-shpeyes) hors d'ouvres, appetizers. The nosh you get when you first arrive so you don't challish before dinner is served.
Fonfer: to mumble, speak incoherently, to talk through the nose.
For gezinteh hait: "go in good health" And of course, is often used sarcastically. For instance, when someone walks out on you angrily, slamming the door behind them, you might call after them, "for gezinteh hait!" (the subtext being, "you should go in good health, but drop dead before you get to the bottom of the stairs!")
Fortzn zoffer:- A really nasty, malodorous fart which leaves a miasma of methane that could knock a buzzard off a dung heap
Frailech: (fray-lich) Happy (frailecheh is the adjective) The Hanukkah song refers to the holiday as "a lichtekeh, a frailecheh" -- "light/joyful and happy"
Fress: eat, referring to an animal, or a human who eats like one. "My last blind date was an animal! He fressed up his entire dinner before I even took a bite of mine!"
Frosk: a sharp slap in the face.
Frum: religious, observant
Fuftzikeh: fifty or $50. "I wanted a good table so I shmeared the maitre'd with a fuftzikeh."
Gantseh Makher: - Big shot, big man on campus. Usually sarcastic. Also, gantseh k'nocker.
Gay avek: - literally, Go away. Get lost!
Gay kocken offen yom: literally, go shit in the ocean. Get lost; hit the road; beat it; piss off.
Gay shlog dein kup en vant! - Go bang your head against the wall!
Gebrenteh tsoores - abject misery; grief like you wouldn't believe!
Gedaingst: (guh-dayngst) remember. "I told you he was no good! Gedaingst?!"
Gehockteh leber: (ge-hock-teh lay-beh) Chopped liver, both literally and in the sense of someone or something unworthy; beneath consideration. "She shook hands with everyone in the room except for me. What am I, gehockteh leber?" "She spent the whole night bragging about her jewelry. And what does she think I'm wearing? Gehockteh leber?"
Gelt: literally gold. Money. Hanukkah gelt is the chocolate coins traditionally given at the holiday.
Genug: (guh-nug) enough. "Genug es genug! (Enough is enough!) Stop with the kvitchering already!"
Geshrie: (geh-shreye) a scream. "It was just a little bug, but from the geshrie she let out, you'd think it was Alien."
Get: A Jewish divorce, separate from a civil divorce, which must be granted to the wife by the husband. Jewish women who have not been given a get, cannot be remarried in the Jewish faith, even though, according to civil law, they are divorced. Many a man has held this over a woman's head on spite or as a negotiating tool in civil court for custody or alimony. Dat's why you gotta getta get.
Gib a kick: literally, give a look. Check it out; take a gander; get a load of that.
Glick: luck "A glick ahf dir!" means "good luck to you" As usual, this phrase is often used sarcastically to mean "Big deal." or "THIS you call luck?"
Glitsch: (Oh, come on! This is practically English!) A bug in the ointment; an error in calculation; a screw-up that makes your plans go awry. A glitch, for G-d's sake!
Gonif: (gon-niff) thief, dishonest person, embezzler, unscrupulous businessman. "That gonif cooked my books and walked away with half a million dollars from my business!"
Gotkes: (got-kiss) long johns; warm winter underwear ("Shpatziring in Our Gotkes" is the Yiddish version of that favorite goyishe holiday carol, "Walking in Our Winter Underwear.")
Goyim: (goy-im) Gentiles, in general. One gentile is a goy. See also, shiksa
Goyishe: kupp (goy-ish-sheh kupp) literally, a gentile head. Said about someone who doesn't "think like a Jew" (Jews, for example, tend to think ahead, analyzing each situation, postulating contingency plans for every possible tragic outcome. This way, they're prepared for anything.)
Greps: belch. A mother burps her baby by patting him on the back and saying, "Greps, tatellah, greps." If the author of "Portnoy's Complaint" drank his selzer too quickly, you might hear "The Greps of Roth."
Grubber yung: (grub-beh yoong) a coarse, crude, gross, profane young man. "Did you hear the mouth on him? I thought my ears would bleed! What a grubber yung!"
Gutinue! (Gut-in-you!) Good heavens! Oh my goodness! An exclamation often denoting disbelief or surprise. "Gutinue! You've grown so big since I saw you last!"
Gutte neshumah: (goot-teh nesh-uh-mah): a good soul. A decent person with a good heart. "What a gutte neshumah, she is. When Ruthie was sick, she brought her soup every day!" (Also "zeiseh neshumah" - a sweet soul)
Haimish: down-to-earth, sympatico, approachable, a "haimisheh mensch" is a regular guy. "Haimish" and "Amish," both meaning "plain, simple" are from the same German root.
Hock mier en chinik: to "bang on my tea kettle." In other words, to make a lot of noise for no good reason, or yammering on about nonsense; beating a dead horse. "I told you no! I am not buying you Sugar-Frosted Chocolate Puff cereal. It's chazzerai. Now stop hocking me in chinik!" As children, this is often misheard as "hock me to China" which makes about as much sense, I suppose.
Hondl: to bargain. "I hondled him down from $500 to $250 and he still tripled his money, that gonif!"
Ibbergerblibbernis: (Ib-ber-ger-blib-er-ness) leftovers. "What's for dinner? Ibbergerblibbernis!" (If you have leftover blitzes, I guess that would be "ibbergeblibberneblintzes."
Ich vill nicht vesn: "I don't want to know!" It's like sticking your fingers in your ears and singing, "la la la laaaaaaaa" or Sargent Schultz of Hogan's Heroes saying, "I know NOTHINK!" Or, "I don't want to hear this...spare me the details."
Kadoches: (kad-o-chus) fever. "Kadoches mit koshereh fodem!" means "absolutely nothing!" (Lit., "fever with a kosher thread," whatever THAT means.)
Kapporeh: (kap-poor-reh) Atonement, sacrifice. Colloquially used to mean "good for nothing." See "Moishe Kapporeh"
Kasha: buckwheat groats. Sort of poor man's tabouli. Usually cooked with fried onions and bowtie pasta ("varnishkes") Back in Russia, groats were typically served to horses, and Jews were looked down upon for eating what the Russians considered animal feed (as if they needed to justify their anti-Semitism!) What did they know! Kasha varnishkes is delicious!!!
Kaynahorah: (kayne-a-hurr-rah) literally, the evil eye. Pronounced in order to ward off the evil eye, especially when speaking of one's good fortune. "Everyone is the family is happy and healthy, kaynahorah." "He'll be 86 in three weeks, kaynahorah." Another way to ward off the evil eye is to quickly spit three times (We're not talking hawking a big loogie. This is more like lightly spitting a poppy seed off the tongue.) "My daughter found a nice guy and it looks as if he's going to propose. Pthui, pthui, pthui."
Keppie: head, diminutive of keppellah. A child's head. "Here, tatellah. Put your keppie on my lap and gay shluffen (go to sleep.)"
Kibbitz: (kib-bits) to butt in, to mind other people's business, to watch over the shoulder of those playing cards and put your two cents in. Not to be confused with kibbutz (kib-bootz), which is a collective farm in Israel.
Kinder: (rhymes with Linda) children. "Shhh! Zug gornisht! The kinder are listening! (Shh! Say nothing! The children are listening!)
Kishka: guts, intestines, literally and figuratively. "I was so upset, I was eating my kishkas out!" "Some secret agent! After 10 minutes of questioning, he spilled his kishkas!" Also, a sort of thick meatless sausage made with matzo meal and spices, stuffed into a traditional sausage casing. The pieces are thickly sliced and fried, and often served with gravy. Mmmm. Heavenly! You used to get kishka at every Jewish wedding and bar mitzvah, but you rarely see it any more. Also known as "stuffed derma," (or, as it was called on my husband's fency, shmency bar mitzvah menu, which his aunt recently found in a box of old papers, "Derma Farci." Yeah. Like that's gonna fool anyone into thinking they're eating French food!)
Kish mier en toochis: Kiss my butt!
Klutz: (rhymes with "mutts") You don't know this one? It's practically English! A clumsy, uncoordinated person. "That klutz took up skiiing? He'll be lucky if he doesn't kill himself!"
Knaidl (the K is pronounced) matzo ball, matzo meal dumpling, usually served in chicken soup.
Knish: (the K is pronounced) A yummy treat consisting of any one of a number of fillings, often mashed potato or kasha, wrapped in a thin dough, and baked. If you're ever in Brighton Beach, visit Mrs. Stahl's Knishes on Coney Island Avenue and Brighton Beach Avenue, under the El. They have more varieties of knishes than Krispy Kreme has donuts.
K'nocker (the K is pronounced) a big shot (often used sarcastically) "He got elected president of the condo board and now he thinks he's a big k'nocker."
Kockeputzi: (ca-ca-poot-sie) a mish-mash, a bunch of stuff thrown together. "For dinner, I just opened a bunch of cans and made a kockeputzi."
Kockamayme: (kock-a-may-mee): ridiculous, silly, crazy. "Afghanistan for vacation!? You and your kockamayme ideas!" Kockamayme is also the Yinglish version of "decalomania" or temporary tattoos which were first popular in the early party of the 20th century. Since our grandparents and parents always referred to them that way, most Jewish baby boomers also call them that. (also Cockamayme) Read outside article on the etimology of this word.
Kaddish: (kah-dish) prayer for the dead, which close relatives of the deceased are obligated to say for a year after their loved one's death. Parents might also say Kaddish for a child who has done something so terrible that to the family, he or she is "dead." In the movie, The Jazz Singer, the father recites Kaddish for his son when he gives up his career as a cantor to pursue ragtime music. (Oi! You should never know such tsooris!!!) full prayer
Koorvah: a trollop, a hooker, a prostitute. Or a woman who trades on her sexuality for money, gifts or position.
Koyach: (KOY-akh) literally strength; usually inner strength, wherewithall, energy, the heart for something. "My house is a mess, but I just don't have the koyach to clean." "I hate being single, but I don't have the koyach to deal with dating."
Kreplach :(krep-lakh) Jewish ravioli filled with chopped meat, onions and a bissell shmaltz (a little chicken fat) served in chicken soup. (visit the link for the recipe.)
Krotz :- Literally, scratch. Most often heard in the expression "to krotz oneself out" meaning, to overcome inertia; to motivate oneself to action; to get off your butt and DO SOMETHING; get around to it. "I wanted to go to that big sale at Bloomingdales, but I just couldn't krotz myself out." "By the time she krotzed herself out buy a new bathing suit for the summer, it was already October." Also used thusly: "Are you going to krotz around all day or are you going to mow the lawn, like I asked?"
Kvell: to burst with pride from the achievements of your loved ones. "My son finally graduated from law school! Oi! I'm kvelling!" ("NYU?" "And why NOT me?")
Kvetch: complain. One can kvetch (complain) or be a kvetch (a complainer)Kvitcher: whine, whimper. "Quit kvitchering and eat your vegetables!" (A kvitcherer is one who kvitchers)
Lantsman: (lantz-man) a countryman. This word always reminds me of the very hilarious Gene Wilder film, "The Frisco Kid" in which he plays a Polish rabbi, sent to a congregation in San Francisco via Philadelphia in the 1890's. After being robbed and thrown from a carriage by some nogoodniks en route, he finds himself stumbling around, half-delirious from sun and hunger, in central Pennsylvania. He spots some Amish farmers who are dressed much like himself -- black coats, black hats, long beards -- and he runs toward them, thrilled to have found fellow Jews so far from home, yelling "Lantsmen! Lantsmen!" (He quickly keels over in a faint after seeing their Christian pocket bibles, but they nurse him back to health and give him money to help him continue on his journey.)
Lichticheh: (lich-tich-eh) literally, "lit up." Happy, shining, radiant, beaming. A big smiling face is a "lichticheh punim.
"Luch in kup (lukh in kup): a hole in the head. "I need more bad news like I need a luch in kup."
Luckshen: egg noodles. "I heard you were sick, so I made you a little chicken soup with some nice luckshen." A luckshen strap is a cat o'nine tails.
Luftmensch: (literally, an "air man") a space cadet, someone with their head in the clouds, someone who dreams big but never acts.
Luze zein shah: literally, "Let there be quiet!" "Shut up, already!" "Silence!"
Machareikeh (mach-ar-ri-keh)- a real Rube Goldberg contraption; something held together with spit and glue, a gimmick.
Machashafeh: (mach-uh-shay-feh): a witch, a conjurer, someone with psychic or supernatural powers.
Machatainisteh: (mach-uh-tain-nist-ah) Your son or daughter's mother-in-law; your grandchildren's OTHER grandmother. Yiddish is one of the few languages with a word for this relationships. "My machatainisteh is such a balleboosta!"
Machatunim: (mach-ah-toon-im) in-laws
Mashgiach :-(mash-gi-ach) the person who makes sure everything is Kosher in restaurants, hotels, catering halls, etc.
Matzoh: Passover "bread" -- aka "The Bread of Affliction" (according to the Passover story) and if you've ever eaten a lot of matzoh, you know why they call it that. It looks like perforated cardboard and tastes about the same. It is also constipating like you wouldn't believe! After eight days of matzoh, matzoh balls, matzoh bries, etc etc. you feel as if you're never going to be able to use the bathroom again. I'm certain that's what Moses meant when he said "Let My People Go!"
Maven: (rhymes with raven) an expert, often used sarcastically (as are many Yiddish words.) "He told me he'd do me a favor and fix this little problem I was having with my car. When he was finished with it, I had to have it towed to the garage where they charged me $1200 to undo his damage. Some car maven he is!"
Mechaiyeh: (meh-khi-yah) a great pleasure. "What a terrible day I had! So I took a nice, hot bath. Oi! What a mechaiyeh!"
Megillah: (like Magilla Gorilla) literally, the story of Esther, told at Purim, which goes on and on and on. A long-winded story. "Just give me the facts. I don't need the gantzeh (whole) megillah."
Meiskeit: (mees-kite) ugly, funny-looking, geeky, unattractive person. "Oi, did you see the meiskeit he's dating? A fashion model, she isn't!"
Meisseh Meshina: (mee-seh mesh-ee-nah) literally, a horrible death. It's a curse to put on your enemies. Some etimologists believe the derogatory word for Jews, "sheeny" came from this phrase. When Jews were tormented by anti-Semites, they would often curse their oppressors under their breath with a "meisseh meshina." The bullies misheard, and/or only remembered the "...shina" part, and mocked the Jews with it.
Mekki: (see Shmeckel)
Mensch: a decent human being, a good person who always takes the high road. Being called a mensch is the ultimate compliment.
Metziah: (metz-see-yah) bargain, often used sarcastically. "They were having a sale on shoes, marked down from $800 to a mere $600. They call that a metziah? When they're $25 a pair, then I'll buy them!"
Mishegoss: (mish-uh-goss) neurosis, craziness, psychological shtick, insanity, wacky idea, idée fixée, foolish notion. "Did you hear his latest mishegoss? He's quitting law school to become a drummer in a heavy metal band!"
Mishpucheh: (mish-pooch-hah) family. "For the holidays, I invited the gansah mishpucheh." (The whole family)
Mishuggah: (mish-shug-uh) crazy, nuts, loony-tunes, bats in the belfry. "Boy, she is really mishuggah!" Someone who's mishuggah is a mishuggenah (noun). When modifying a noun, it's: mishuggeneh. "That's a mushuggeneh idea."
Mittendrinen: (mitten-drin-nin) in the middle of everything. "We're having a serious conversation about our relationship, and, mittendrinen, he starts to talk about baseball!"
Mitzvah: (mitz-vah) A good deed. Giving to charity is a mitzvah. Caring for someone who's sick is a mitzvah. Rubbing your partner's feet is a mitzvah.
Moishe Kapoyr: (kap-OY-yer) Kapoyr means "backwards." A Moishe Kapoyr is "Mr. Contrary" Everyone goes left, Moishe Kapoyr goes right. "Everybody wants to go out for Italian but he insists on Chinese! What a Moishe Kapoyr!" (for more variations on this theme, see this article) (not be be confused with Moishe Kapporeh, see next)
Moishe Kapporeh: (kap-OR-rah) A worthless, good-for-nothing; a slacker. Based on the idiom, "darfn af kappores" -- to need [whatever] like a hole in the head. "Shlug kappores" is the Yom Kippur ritual during which one swings a sacrificial chicken over one's head in a circular motion, as atonement for one's sins. (This is an Old World tradition, so no, I don't do this, nor do I know ANYONE who ever did...not even my great grandmother!) "Bubby" calls this "poultry in motion." [To read sweet, short essay on Shlugging Kappores, outside link, click here.]
Moishe Mekhuyev: a high-class shnorror; a guy who lives off the patronage or favors of others and is thus obligated to them for his existence.
Mommellah: literally, "little mother." An affectionate way of referring to a little girl.
Momzer: a bastard, used in the same literal and figurative senses as it is used in English. "My boss is such a momzer!"
Motsi: (MOW-tsee) The daily prayer over bread (or other food that springs from the earth vs. food that is "fruit of the vine" or "fruit of the tree.") Derives from a word within the prayer, "hamotsi," which means "to bring forth." (The full prayer is: "Baruch atah adonoy, elohanu melach ho'olum, hamotsi lechem min ha'aretz" = "Blessed art though, Our Lord, Our God, King of the Universe who brings forth bread from the earth.") While many families might ask "Who's going to say the motsi tonight?," in my family, we always called it the "Minnie Horowitz" from "min ha'aretz" part of the prayer. (The blessing over the wine, which is "fruit of the vine" is: "Baruch...ho'olum, barei pree ha'gofin.") See also: bruchah
Mutcheh: (rhyme with "butcher") bother, annoy, harass, needle, pick on. "He mutches me night and day. The man won't let me live!" When my nephew was little, I used to tickle and rough-house with him. My mother would say, "Stop mutchering him, already!!" but the instant she'd walk away he whisper to me, "Come on! Mutcher me some more!" Obviously, HE didn't consider it mutchering!
Nachas: (rhymes with "loch S") joy, pleasure, gratification, especially from loved ones such as children and grandchildren. "Oi! That boychik (little boy) is so smart! Three years old and already he can read! He gives me such nachas!" Nachas makes you kvell.
Nafka: a loose woman, a tart, a slut, a whore. Although it means the same as "koorvah," it's generally less severe. A "koorvah" probably does it for money and is more a "professional," whereas a nafka might do it just for fun or for psychologicial or emotionally needy reasons (i.e. she thinks it will make her popular.) "Kiki, you nafka, you!" -- Lenny Bruce.
Narishkeit: (nar-ish-kite) foolishness (a nar is a fool) "An artist, you want to be? Never mind this narishkeit! Better you should go to college and get a real job!"
Nayfish: a weak, pathetic, ineffectual person of little or no consequence. A human doormat. Nebish: a nothing, a nobody. Woody Allen, the early years.
Nechtiker tog: literally, "yesterday's day. Colloquially, "Forget it! It's not going ot happen!"
Nextdoorikeh: (next-door-ik-keh) a next-door neighbor, of course! And an upstairs neighbor is, voo den? --- an "opstairsikah" (Yinglish, obviously)
Nisht duggehdacht: (nisht dug-geh dacht) literally, "May in never happen here!" Said after speaking of the misfortune of others. "Did you hear? Selma's son married a shiksa! Nisht duggehdacht!"
Nisht geferlich (nisht ge-fer-lich) Literally, not so terrible. (Nisht means "not," in case you didn't pick that up already ) I've seen worse or could be worse. "You broke your arm climbing a tree? Nisht geferlich! You could have broken your skull!"
Nisht gefloygen: literally, "It's not going to fly" Nobody is going to buy/believe that!
Nisht gut: Not good. "How ya doin'?" "Oi! Nisht gut!"
No-goodnik: This "Yinglish" word is pretty self-explanatory. Someone who's on the wrong side of the law; somebody with low morals; a trouble-maker.
Noodnik: (nood-nik) an annoying pain in the butt. A noodnik is one who nudjes (annoys); someone who is always "hocking" you "en chinik." "Fifteen times already you asked me that question and the answer is still no! You are such a noodnik!"
Nosh: snack, nibble. Both a verb and a noun. One can nosh between meals or have a little nosh between meals.
Nuchshlepper: (nuch-shlep-per) a hanger-on, sidekick, a groupie. The kid who always tagged along with the popular kids hoping some of that popularity would rub off on him.
Nudje: a pest or to pester, badger. If you nudje relentlessly you, yourself, become a nudje. "Stop nudjing me! I'll take out the garbage after the ballgame! You are SUCH a nudje!"
Oi! Gevalt! - Ach! Heaven forbid!
Oif Tsalochis: (oyf tsal-luch-is) on spite, often as used as if G-d or Fate were doing the spiting. "I drove around the block for an hour looking for a parking place. Finally, I paid the twenty bucks and put it in a lot. Then, oif tsalochis, when I get to the restaurant, there's a spot right in front!" Also used, colloquially as "As luck would have it."
Ongeblussen: (on-geh-bluss-en) "all puffed up." An over-inflated sense of self-worth. To misquote Carly Simon, "He's so ongeblussen, he even thinks this song is about him."
Ongepatchket (un-geh-potch-ked): overly decorated, fussy, too busy (in the style sense) "Did you see those bridesmaid's dresses! Gevalt! Were they ongepatchket!"
Oysgematert: (OIS-ga-mat-urt) totally, thoroughy, completely, drop-dead exhausted
Oysvorf: an outcast, an unliked, unpopular person. A regular Osama bin Laden at a B'nai Brith meeting.
Pareve: (pahr-rev) Containing neither milk nor meat, and thus table to be eaten with either. For example, bread, fruit, vegetables.
Paskudnyak: (pas-kud-nyak) a disgusting, revolting, dishonest, unscrupulous, corrupt person.
Peckel: little package. Can be a C.A.R.E. package to a kid at camp, a backpack, a hunchback's hump or even a "bun in the oven" (i.e pregnant).
Pesach: (pay-sakh) Passover.
Pilpul: Talmudic debate, or any discussion which goes off into ridiculous hair-splitting tangents, to the point of completely losing the main thrust of the original argument.
Plotka-macher: a gossipy troublemaker; the person who can't wait to tell nasty tales about other people. Far worse than a mere yenta, the malicious plotka-macher takes pleasure in stirring up a wasp's nest, causing bad feelings among people, being the bearer of scandalous news. They are not above telling lies to foment ill-feelings and break up relationships.
Plotz: explode, from overeating, from excitement, from anticipation. "If I eat one more piece of cheesecake, I'm going to plotz!" "You got us tickets for Barbra's come-back concert!? I'm plotzing!" (most likely comes from the same root as explode.)
Potch: a generally painless, light, cup-handed slap. "If you don't stop kvitchering, I'm going to give you a potch on your toochis!"
Potchki: (potch-key) experiment, dabble, mess around, play around with. "I don't really paint. I just potchki." "I was just potchki-ing around in the kitchen but it turned out pretty good."
Poulkie: (pull-key) thigh, either human or animal. "I'm carving the turkey! Who wants a poulke?" or "You want to know why I don't wear a bathing suit? Because my poulkies look like pantihose filled with wet oatmeal!"
Punim: (poo-nim) face. A "shana punim" is a pretty or beautiful face. A "lichtikeh punim" is a happy, "lit up" face. A"zeiseh punim" is a "sweet face." Usually these expressions are accompanied by much cheek-pinching by elder relatives. A"mieseh punim" is an "ugly face." A "farbissenah punim" is a "sour face." (visualize Leona Helmsley.)
Pupik: (poup-ik) belly button. "It's bad enough you got your nose pieced, but now your pupik? Feh!"
Pushke: a little tin or jar used to collect money for charity. You might see several of these at the cash-register of Jewish-owned businesses, which collect donations for planting trees in Israel or Jewish orphans and widows (although they are not much different in purpose from those cards into which you slip quarters for Muscular Dystrophy or cans which collect change for Make A Wish.) Many Jews keep a pushke in their home, adding loose change each day. When it's full, the money is given to charity.
Putz: literally, a diminutive form of penis; a prick. Used, as we do in English to describe a nasty, unlikable man. A putz generally has no real power, except to make your life miserable or at least unpleasant, often in a passive-aggressive way. See also Shmuck.
Rachmonis: (rach-mo-nis) sympathy, empathy, pity. "Look, my wife left me. My kid died his hair blue. Business is lousy. I know you're a landlord, but, please, have a little rachmonis and give me an extra week for the rent!"
Rebbitzen: (reb-bet-sin) the rabbi's wife.
Richtikeh: (rikh-tik-ah) real, right, correct, proper, legal. "Me? Wear cubic zirconia? I'll have you know this bracelet is the richtikeh thing!"
Riter: knight. I just learned this word, which is not exactly something that pops up in conversation very often, unless you play chess or are recounting the story of King Arthur in Yiddish. I just thought it was funny, 'cause who knew that "Knight Rider" was a Jewish program?
Shabbos or Shabbat: (shab-bis, or shab-bat) Sabbath. Friday night sundown to Saturday night sundown. (Observance of Jewish holidays begin at sundown the night before the first actual day, thus you would light the first Hanukkah candle the night before the first day of Hanukkah.) Traditionally, on Friday night, the lady of the house lights the Shabbos candles and says the blessing, before the whole family sits down for a nice dinner over which she's been slaving all day.
Shana: beautiful, pretty. A "shana maidel" is a pretty girl./
Shaygitz: a non-Jewish man. See "shiksa"
Shiddach: a fix-up, an arranged marriage; these days, even an arranged blind-date. There is some speculation that the term "shotgun wedding" actually derives from "shiddach."
Shikker: a drunk. see Farshikkert
Shiksa: a non-Jewish woman. A "Shiksa Goddess" is a blond beauty, the type of woman who instills a deep longing in dark, short, swarthy Jewish men, (probably because she is the polar opposite of his mother.) Grace Kelly was the quintessential "Shiksa Goddess."
Shiveh: literally, seven, (in Hebrew) The seven days of mourning following the death of a close relative (spouse, parent, child, sibling.) During that period, mourners must sit on low boxes or crates, cover all the mirrors in their homes, rend (rip) their clothing (now reduced to a small, torn, black ribbon) and much more. (For additional info, go to this outside link)
Shlemiel: (shleh-meel) a clumsy, inept, pathetic, oaf. Trips over his own shoelaces and knocks over the $1000 vase.
Shlep: haul, carry, drag, either something or oneself. "I feel naked if I'm not shlepping at least 15 bags." "I shlepped all the way up to their new house in Westchester and she didn't even offer me lunch!"
Shlimazel (shlim-mazz-el) a bad luck Charlie, the guy with the rain cloud always over his head. When the shlemiel spills his soup, it's the shlimazel he spills it on.
Shlock: worthless junk, cheaply made goods. "The new 99c store in my neighborhood is open 24/7. It's called 'Shlock Around the Clock.'
Shlong: literally, snake, but colloquially used to mean penis (vulgar)
Shluff: sleep. "Shluff, now, mamellah." ("Sleep, little girl.") "Gai shluffen" or, more familiarly, "gai shluffie" means "Go to sleep."
Shlump: (both a noun and a verb) sag; lounge around in an unkempt manner, i.e. hang out in your sweats. Or, a person who drags along, stoop-shouldered and unkempt.
Shmaltz: literally, chicken fat or rendered cooking fat. Also, thick, insincere praise; over-the-top, overdone, glitzy theatrics; gross sentimentality. Something shmaltzy is kitschy, overblown, overdone, rather tasteless, unctuous. "Madame X" with Lana Turner, is the classic shmaltzy movie. Cher's costumes are rather shmaltzy.
Shmata: (shmah-tah) a rag, either literally or in reference to clothing. The garment industry is known as the "shmata business." "This old shmata? I picked it up on sale at Loehmann's two years ago, half price!" "Marvin shlepped around his shmata until he was 7." (In this case, it would mean a tattered security blanket, in which baby talk is often abbreviated to "motti.")
Shmear: dollop, smear (n or v) "I'll have a bagel with a shmear" (meaning a shmear of cream cheese) Also bribery; grease the palm. "If you want a good table, you're going to have to shmear the maitre d'."
Shmeckel: a little penis, as on a young boy. (Or, in baby talk, "mekki.")
Shmeggegie: (shmeh-geg-gee) a doofus, an idiot, a silly, foolish dolt. A hapless fool who's maybe not quite playing with a full deck. There's a whiff of emotional instability about such a person.
Shmendrik: a pathetic loser, hapless soul, an inept nincompoop; a schlemiel. (We Jews have a lot of words for such people!) Think of Jerry Lewis doing his "Ladieeeeeeeeeeesss!" bit.
Shmie :(shm-eye) Stroll aimlessly about, with no particularly important place to go, other than, perhaps doing the occasional minor errand or meeting up with friends. Also, windowshopping. Having a "walk-about." "Where have you been?" "Nowhere. I was just shmying around..."
Shmoe: a patsy, a sucker, hopelessly naive idiot.
Shmoonie: a woman's private parts (not actually Yiddish, but since I have yet to find a Yiddish word for this, I hereby submit this one, created by a childhood schoolmate. It is used now throughout my extended circles of friends and family, and it sounds like Yiddish so I say, let's call it "Yinglish" and use it often, spreading its use far and wide!)
Shmootz: (rhymes with "foots") dirt, filth. "It never fails. Thirty seconds after I put on a white blouse, I'm covered in shmootz."
Shmootzik: dirty, filthy. "I don't what my cleaning woman does here. I pay her $100 for the day, and when she leaves, my house is still all shmootzik." "I can tell you've been eating chocolate ice cream because your face is all shmootzik."
Shmooze: to talk socially, network, shoot the breeze, chat up, kaffee-klatsch.
Shmuck: another of the many Yiddish words for "penis." Although it has the same basic meaning as putz, a shmuck often refers to someone with greater power or social/emotional status; someone who's intentionally nasty or uses their power for ill, whereas a putz is more ineffectual, easier to dismiss because he's beneath consideration or has no real effect on your life. (It's the difference between "jerk" and "total a$$hole.") (It's a very subtle difference, I grant you, and the line is often blurry...)
Shnook: a gullible fool, a patsy, someone easy to take advantage of, a con man's mark. (Yinglish)
Shnorror: (shnor-ror) A begger; someone who always looking for a handout or a free ride; the guy who's always in the bathroom when the check comes; the person who's constantly borrowing but never returning; someone who's continually sponging off others.
Shpatzir: (shpotz-ear) to walk, to stroll, to hike. Much like "shmie."
Shpiel: game or play (as in a game or as a musical instrument) Also, colloquially, a story, a sales pitch, a speech. "Don't give me the whole shpiel. Just tell me how much this is going to cost me." The word is similar in German."Mad" King Ludwig built a "wasser spiel" (water game) in his castle in Bavaria. Hidden sprays of H2O would unexpectedly drench his unwitting party guests. At a large, outdoor table, the stone seats had design cutouts, from which water would spray up while his guests were dining. I'm sure the nobles of Europe found it wildly hilarious having their knickers soaked as the shnitzel was served.
Shpilkes: (shpill-kiss) literally, pins. Ants in the pants, pins and needles, impatience. That feeling you have when you can't sit still from anticipation and/or anxiety. As Mike Myer's Linda Richman character would say, when she gets all worked up, "I have shpilkes in my genecktigazoink." (not a real word)
Shondah: (rhymes with Honda) a shame, a pity. A "shonda for the goyim" means to do something shameful, publicly witnessed by non-Jews, thus bringing shame upon Jews in general (because, the theory goes, we are all held accountable for the worst deeds of the worst of us.) Also, "Such a smart girl like that. It's a shonda she's such a meiskeit (physically unattractive person)."
Shrek: monster. (It's no coincidence that everyone's favorite green ogre has a Yiddish name. After all, the book was written by William Steig, whose father was an Austrian immigrant to Brooklyn, NY) I always thought a great double feature would be: "Shrek," and "Godzilla" (which literally means "monster" in Japanese" Actually, it's "goh-ji-ra" ...but apparently Hollywood felt Americans couldn't pronounce that.)
Shtetl: a small village, usually all or mainly Jewish, in Eastern Europe; such as Anatefka, the setting of "Fiddler on the Roof." Most, if not all, of these villages are long gone, the inhabitants either wiped out by pogroms, killed by the Nazis or emigrated to the U.S. or Israel.
Shtick: piece, thing, bit, part. Also, an act (as in comedy or vaudeville.) A "shtick drek" is a piece of ca-ca (literally or figuratively.)
Shtummie: a dummy; one who doesn't say much. ("shtum" mean silent) "Look at him! At home, he doesn't shut up, but the minute a pretty girl walks into the room, suddenly, he's a shtummie!!"
Shtup: literally, "push" but used colloquially to refer to the act of sex. It's the cleaner, Yiddish equivalent of f*$%. Madeline Kahn's Marlene Dietrich-character in "Blazing Saddles" was Lily Von Shtup. "No chuppie, no shtuppie" means "No wedding, no sex." (In other words, "You ain't gettin' any 'til you put that ring on my finger!" Of course, it's the butt of many jokes that Jewish wives don't put out much after marriage, either.) A shtupvegl is a pushcart.
Shvanz: (rhymes with "swans") Penis. (vulgar)
Shvartze: (adjective) Black, used in many of the same ways the word is used in English -- the color -- as well as dark, ominous, gloomy. Also in reference to contraband (i.e. black market goods).
Shvartzer: (noun) A black person. While in and of itself, no more derogatory than "Negro," the word is now similarly considered archaic and politically incorrect.
Shveyr arbiter: hard worker. My mother always called me this, sarcastically, when I was goofing off.
Shvigger: mother in law
Shvitz: sweat. "Oi! It must be 106 on this subway platform! I'm shvitzing!"
Shvitzbad: steambath or Turkish bath. Often, simply called "the shvitz."
Simcha: a joyous occasion, a cause for rejoicing. A wedding, a bar mitzvah or any happy holiday.
Svet gornisht helfen: literally, it wouldn't help. "She's going to have a full makeover? Svet gornisht helfen! She first needs to lose 100 pounds!" (see also Toyten Bankes)
Tatelleh: (tot-ell-lah) literally, little father, or little man. An affectionate way of refering to a boy or man. "Come here, tatellah, and let bubby kiss your zieseh punim!" (Come here, sweetheart, and let grandma kiss your sweet face!")
Tchatzkah: (chotch-kah, with the ch, in this case, pronounced like the ch in "child") literally, "treasure." A trinket, a bauble, a coveted object, a knick-knack. "My cleaning woman quit when she saw all the tchatzhahs she'd have to dust." Grandma might call her precious grandchild "Tchatzhkellah" which is the diminuative and means, "my little treasure."
Toochis: (toukch-uss) rear end, behind, tush. "If I don't go on a diet, my toochis is going to need its own zipcode!"
Toochis Lecher: (remember, the CH is gutteral!) vulgar. Literally, ass-licker, or ass-kisser. Often appreviated to the less offensive, T.L.
Toochis ofn tish: literally, ass on the table. " Put your money where your mouth is." "Put up or shut up." "Stop talking and act, already." "Stop wasting my time and make the deal already!"
Tokka: (or takkeh) really, truly. (While this word adds emphasis to nouns, it may technically be an adverb.) Cranks the meaning of the word the nth degree. "That, tokka, is a metziah!" ("That is some bargain!" Not just 10% off, but "Buy one, they give you the rest of the store free." ) "She's a gutteh neshumah, but she is, tokka, a meiskeit!" ("She's a good-hearted soul, but man-oh-man, is she ugly!" ) Note, the word is used BEFORE the article [a or an] and sometimes before the verb, as well. Thus, you wouldn't say, "She is a tokka meiskeit" but always "She is, tokka, a meiskeit" or even "Tokka, what a meiskiet!" or perhaps, occasionally, "What a meiskeit, tokka!")
Toyten Bankes: (toy-ten bohnk-ess) Bankes are the heated cups, used therpeutically to bring blood to the surface of the skin. It's an old-world remedy which has recently regained New Age popularity. ((Remember Gwyneth Paltrow in the tabloids with all those "hickeys"?) Toyt means "dead." The full phrase is: "Es vet helfen vi a toyten bankes" which means, "It'll help, like bankes will help a dead person." In other words, not at all. In Yinglish, it's "that'll help vi a toyten bankes." (see also Svet Gornisht Helfen)
Treyf: Unkosher food, either because it is not kosher by its very nature (i.e. pork or shrimp) or because it mixes meat and dairy together. Although a hamburger might be made of kosher meat and a milkshake might be made under the strictest rabbinical supervision, eaten together, they would be treyf.
Trombenik: one who blows his own trombone. A blowhard, a braggart. A parasite. Also a lazy slacker. A no-goodnik. A worthless piece of humanity.
Tsimmis: a stew made with meat, carrots, prunes and more, cooked for a long time until the flavors have melded and everything is nearly falling apart. Colloquially, it also means a big stew, or a big fuss. A tempest in a teacup. "So, you both wore the same dress to the party! Don't make a big tsimmis about it."
Tsooris: (tsoor-riss) grief, heartache. "You think you've got tsooris? My daughter joined the Moonies. My wife is having an affair with the gardener. And I just lost $10,000 in the stock market!" (note: "Who's Got Bigger Tsooris" is a competitive sport in the Jewish Olympics.)
Tsucheppenish: (see tzheppah) An annoying pain in the butt who doesn't take a hint, and whom you can't get rid of. The boring office nerd who you made the mistake of being nice to once, and who now corners you every morning at the coffee machine to tell you the intricate details of his bug collecting hobby. Also, an irritating obsession such as those which plague TV detective, Adrian Monk.
Tzheppah: to bait. goad or provoke to a fight; to annoy or badger. More than irritating than mere nudjing or hocking, it's the kind of obnoxious behavior that might promp a backhanded zetz.
Utz: to goad annoyingly, to bother; like a pebble in a shoe. "Quit utzing me or I'm gonna give you such a chamalyiah!"
Varf: throw. Used mainly in the same varied way the word is used in English. If a child is throwing a tantrum, a mother might scold, "Stop varfing yourself! I am NOT buying you that toy!" My husband is a very restless sleeper, and many a night I an awakend by his elbow in my back or his arm across my face. If this goes on too long, I will jab him in the ribs and and say, in great frustration, "Will ya quit varfing yourself and let me sleep already!" Many years ago, my grandmother was passing through Boro Park, a neighborhood of Hasidic and ultra-orthodox Jews. She overheard a funny little bit that our family still laughs about: Two little yeshiva buchers were playing catch in a park. Ordinarily such boys are very polite, so imagine her surprise when she heard one yell impatiently to the other, from across the playground: "Varf the f*%@ing ball, Moishe!!"
Vildeh chiyah: (vil-dah chi-yah) a wild animal, or someone who behaves like one. "That's the last time I'm letting her bring her kids to my house. They ran around like vildeh chiyahs and broke three of my favorite tchatzhahs!
Voo den?: literally, what then? In context, often means, "Well, what the heck did you expect"? or "You expected something different?" For example, "Your son is going to college? Where? Harvard?" "Voo den?"
Vonce: bedbug. And a bedbug in a test tube is...? A "vonce in a vial." (Voo den?)
Yenemsvelt: literally, someone else's world. Far, far away; miles from anything remotely familiar; the suburbs of nowheresville; "They're moving to Kansas? Who moves to Kansas? It's yenemsvelt!"
Yenta: a busybody; a gossip; a walking, talking National Enquirer. "I wouldn't tell that yenta anything. In twenty minutes, the whole world would know my business!"
Yeshiva bucher: (don't forget the gutteral chhhh!) Yeshiva (or Jewish school) boy. Typically, such teen-age boys are very studious, shy, sheltered, somewhat naive, and not at all into the "pop culture" things most typical American boys their age are into.
Yuchna: a coarse, loud-mouthed, boorish woman. A fish wife. A classless broad prone to making scenes and embarrassing and/or annoying everyone within earshot. (One needn't be poor to be a yuchna. There are plenty of well-dressed, monied yuchnas out there. Spend a little time in Bloomingdales and you'll definitely meet a few.)
Yutz: a hapless, clueless, annoying socially clumsy guy. "You want to fix me up with Stanley? Forget it! I went out with that yutz last year and once was quite enough!"
Zadnitze: vagina. Although Yiddish has dozens of common words for a man's private parts (shmuck, shmeckel, putz, etc.) it took me YEARS to find this word! I've never actually heard it used in conversation, and even fluent Yiddish speakers I've asked never heard of it. UPDATE: This from a Russian reader: "Zadnitze is not vagina, which is why nobody knew the word. This word (correct form - zadnitza) means an ass (from zad - backside) in Russian." OK, so we're back to square one. See shmoonie
Zayer naytik: very necessary. Often used sarcastically. "New shoes? Zayer natik! You already have 20 pair you never wear!" "Zayer naytik! You needed that like you needed a hole in the head." There used to be a large chain of very shlocky discount stores throughout New England called Zayre's. They were based in Natick, MA. Driving up the Mass. Pike, heading into Boston, you'd pass the sign for Natick, then the big Zayre's HQ. I always wondered whether this was some sort of inside joke, perpetrated by whoever named the store (it was, after all, a Jewish-owned company), or if it was purely serendipidous. In any case, anything you bought at Zayre's was "zayer naytik" in its most sarcastic sense!
Zaytik: unnecessary, extraneous, unimportant, irrelevant. (not to be confused with zayer naytik, above, which only has the same meaning when used sarcastically, which it often is.)
Zeiseh: (zee-suh) sweet. "A zeisen Pesach" is how you wish someone a "sweet Passover." A zeiseh punim is a sweet face.
Zetz: a smack or whack. Less than a chamalyiah but more than a frosk (slap.) "If you don't stop that carrying on, I'm going to give you such a zetz!" Or, "I hit my head on the shelf in the closet and gave myself some zetz!"
Zie Gezunt!: Be healthy, be well. Used as a farewell.
Zoftig: literally, "juicy." Although it has come to mean fat, it is really a compliment, meaning a buxom, lush, "juicy." Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith were/are zoftig. Audrey Hepburn and Callista Flockhardt were/are decidedly NOT zoftig.
Zshlub: (the "zsh" is pronounced like the G in Gigi) a sloppy, disgusting, unkempt, lazy slob.
Zug gornisht: say nothing. "Keep in under your hat" or "Shhhh, I think others are listening." As children, we'd often walk into a room and suddenly, our parents' conversation would stop cold, and one of them would say: "Zug gornisht....der kinder!" ("Shhh! The kids [can hear us]!") We knew, whatever they'd been talking about, it had to be juicy! Some kind of forbidden adult talk. Casually, we'd leave the room, feigning innocence, then try to eavesdrop once their conversation resumed.