Yiddish Words and Expressions Adopted Into English

Pimsleur Approach • May 10, 2012 • Foreign LanguageComments (2)
Yiddish Words and Expressions Adopted Into English
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Think English is the only language you know? If you’ve ever eaten a bagel, done something with schmaltz, or referred to someone’s schnoz (nose), it turns out you speak a little bit of Yiddish.

Yiddish is a language that is a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew, Aramaic, and Slavic influences spoken by the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and written in the Hebrew alphabet. It it spoken by a number of Orthodox Jewish communities around the world. Prior to World War II, an estimated 11 to 13 million people spoke Yiddish; today approximately 1.7 million people speak Eastern Yiddish and less than 200,000 speak Western Yiddish in the United States.

Although Yiddish may not be your first language, chances are you’ve used or heard some of the following words and expressions, many of which have been adopted into the English language:

Bupkis: Nothing or practically nothing (“That isn’t worth bupkis“)

Chutzpah: Nerve, guts, daring, confidence (“That girl is a go-getter with a lot of chutzpah“)

Glitch: Minor setback or malfunction (“There was a small glitch in our plan and we left an hour later”)

Kibitz: To offer unwanted advice (“My mother and aunts like to sit around and kibitz about why I’m not married”)

Kvetch: To complain or gripe all the time; person who always complains (“My grandmother likes to kvetch about the prices at that restaurant”)

Mazel tov!: Congratulations (“Mazel tov! You got a new job!”)

Meshuga: Crazy (“Anyone who would go outside in this weather without a coat is a little meshuga“)

Nosh: Snack (“We put out chips and pretzels so the guests could nosh until dinner was ready”)

Schlep: To drag or haul; to make a long and tedious journey (“We schlepped all around the city looking for the perfect dress”)

Tchotchke: Knickknack, trinket (“My great-aunt’s house is filled with tchotchkes from all of her trips”)

2 Responses to “ Yiddish Words and Expressions Adopted Into English ”

  1. jake Mchale says:

    I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I’m very familiar with Yiddish. When I say familiar I don’t mean I speak it, But this is interesting. I wonder how difficult is it to learn?

  2. Tabitha says:

    if you learn the words with humor, you’ll learn them faster. Get the Joys of Yiddish (by Leo Rosten, and his 1st book is better than his second)…you’ll pick up the words more easily and laugh while you’re doing it.

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