The English language has many terms from other languages that have been integrated into common speech, including English words which have a Yiddish origin. You will probably be amazed at some of the Yiddish words or expressions that are common in English.
Perhaps the most widely known Yiddish word which has become a part of everyday English language is the exclamation of “Oy Vey,” proclaimed by a person who is in a predicament or facing pain, horror or grief. Many times this exclamation is shortened to be simply “Oy.” This word has become such a commonplace expression, that almost no one is ignorant of its meaning.
Even though, oy, may be the widest known Yiddish word in English, it certainly isn’t the only word. Some of the words used from Yiddish are derogatory in nature; but, they are used to avoid typical English vulgarities.
Many Yiddish words may ring a few bells for most people. A list of English words with Yiddish origins includes:
Most Americans have heard all of these more common words in their lives, but may not know that each comes from Yiddish. The topics of these words range from foods- bagels and lox- to body parts like tush and sales tools like spiel.
While many words are used in both English and Yiddish, they often have very different connotations. For example:
Yiddish went through a decline in popularity over the past 100 years but has found resurgence in recent times and is taught at a number of prominent universities around the world. Next time you use a word of Yiddish origin, remember that you are speaking a foreign language.
Yiddish should not be confused with the Hebrew language. Yiddish comes from the Jews that inhabited Central and Eastern Europe. The earliest record of Yiddish as a language dates back to the 10th century. It was a universal language to aid the Jews in communicating with each other from geographically diverse areas.
Yiddish is a hybrid language and takes much of its vocabulary from the medieval German and Hebrew, but with a smattering of words from Aramaic, Slavic and Romance languages as well. Many of the words come from the specific cultures within Central and Eastern Europe.
Yiddish has a structure all its own. While the language is based on a mixture of Hebrew and medieval German, its alphabet is based on the Hebrew alphabet. The rules of Yiddish are not the same as either of the parent languages.
The United States has been called the "Great Melting Pot" due to the huge influx of immigrants during the early part of the 20th century. As people poured into America from all over the globe, many new words began to creep into the English language. Almost a century later, the origins of some of these words has been lost, but the words remain part of every day speech. The globalization of the English language in this century has further introduced words from other countries and cultures.
Many of the people who have immigrate to the U.S. are of Jewish heritage. These Jewish immigrants have came from many countries, but often still hold strong cultural ties to their native land and language. Stepping into a Jewish neighborhood will introduce you to the Yiddish language.