You might have heard Yiddish or Jewish slang without knowing it. You might even have used it without knowing it. These terms have become an everyday part of English language dialogue. Since the English language is always interested in extending its family of words, the charm of Jewish and Yiddish sayings and idioms has proven to be irresistible.
A-M List of Jewish Slang Words
There are a number of Jewish or Yiddish terms considered to be slang. Be a mensch and learn them all!
- baleboste - female homemaker; efficient, effective and in charge of the household
- bubbe - term of endearment for one’s grandmother
- bubeleh - this is a term of endearment for women; technically means little grandmother but is used for women of all ages
- bupkis - nothing, zero, none at all
- chutzpah - extreme self-confidence or audacity; behaving in a way considered nervy or brash
- drek - rubbish, trash, a piece of dirt
- glitch - minor malfunction; originates from Yiddish term for a place that is slippery
- goy - a person who isn’t Jewish
- beppie - a person’s forehead
- klippeh - a naggy, shrewish woman
- klutz - a person who is clumsy
- knadle - means dumpling; used as slang term of endearment for a chubby woman or a child
- kolboynick - Yiddish insult for a person who is a know-it-all
- kvell - having feelings of extreme pride
- kvetch - complaint; a person who complains way too much
- mensch - a good decent or honest person, someone who would be considered to be a stand-up person
- meshugas - something that is nonsense; crazy behavior
- meshuggeneh - a crazy, insane or nonsensical person
- mishpokhe - family (including extended family); a person who is not related but is considered to be like family
N-Z List of Jewish Slang Words
There are more Yiddish slang words than there are letters in the alphabet. No matter what feeling you’d like to express, chances are that there’s a Jewish slang word that will get your point across.
- nosh - a snack (food)
- plotz - to explode with laughter or collapse from exhaustion
- punim - a sweet face
- schlep - to drag or lug something; to move slowly or tediously; a person who is boring or tedious
- schmoe - a stupid or naive person
- schmatte - means a rag used to clean; slang reference to worn out, raggedy clothing
- schmooze - to chat up a person in order to gain some kind of benefit
- schvitz - to perspire or sweat
- schmuck - Yiddish insult for a person who is obnoxious
- shagetz - this is a non-Jewish (gentile) male
- shiksa - this is a non-Jewish (gentile) girl or woman
- shmendrik - a foolish person or nincompoop; someone who is a jerk
- shtick - a person’s particular areas of interest or expertise
- spiel - a long story or speech told in the hopes of persuading listeners to do or buy something
- tachlis - the practicalities of a matter; the basics or bottom line
- tchotchke - trinkets that don’t serve a practical purpose
- tsuris - troubles, woes; things that one finds distressing or aggravating
- tuches - a person’s rear end
- yutzi - this refers to something or someone that is stupid
- zayde - one’s grandfather
Yiddish Slang Sayings and Expressions
Not all Jewish slang is limited to solo words. There are a number of interesting Yiddish slang phrases.
- goyishe kup - means “non-Jewish head,” used to express that people who aren’t Jewish are stupid or naive
- kocke putzi - a hodgepodge; mixture of mismatched things
- kokh lefel - means cooking ladle; used to refer to a person who is a gossip and/or enjoys stirring the proverbial pot to cause trouble
- mazel tov - congratulations, best wishes for success
- oy vey - an expression of frustration or irritation
- yiddishe kup - means "Jewish head;" refers to the Jewish mindset or way of thinking
Check out these funny Jewish sayings for more ideas of commonly used phrases and expressions.
Brief History of Jewish and Yiddish Slang
The usage of Hebrew or Yiddish as an everyday speaking language has not always been as prevalent as it has come to be today. Many people of the Jewish faith were already fluent in other languages and then took on the language of their religion afterwards.
Origin of Yiddish
Yiddish started in the streets. Eastern European Jews spoke with one another in ways that incorporated the words and languages of their surroundings. It became a creole of numerous Eastern European languages and Hebrew.
- The word Yiddish is an English transliteration of juedisch, which means Jewish in German. Yiddish is almost all transliteration.
- Usually written with Hebrew script, Yiddish is entirely phonetic and boasts an extensive word bank whose hazy etymologies perplex, impress and generally enthrall scholars.
Origin of Jewish Slang
There are many Jewish slang words in the Yiddish language. The advent of Jewish slang words is a fairly recent occurrence. Many of the old-school, devout Jews believe that it is a sin to use slang mixed with the Hebrew language, the language of God. For this reason, most of the slang words used today are imported from other foreign languages. Most Jewish slang comes directly from the Israeli, Arabic and English languages.
Learn More About the Impact of Yiddish on English
Some Jewish slang terms tend to be used only by people who are Jewish or strongly linked to Jewish traditions or culture, while others are commonly used by English language speakers who are not part of the Jewish faith or culture. Now that you are aware of some of the most commonly used Yiddish slang, expand your knowledge even more by exploring this list of English words of Yiddish origin.