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10 Great Yiddish Words Everyone Should Know

Updated on May 1, 2012

B Shairt - predestined

B'shairt - predestined or predetermined Eg: The romance between Brad and Angelina was b'shairt.
B'shairt - predestined or predetermined Eg: The romance between Brad and Angelina was b'shairt.

10 Great Yiddish words everyone should know

Yiddish is a rich amalgamation of Hebrew, German, and other Ashkenazic languages. Once used extensively by immigrant Eastern European Jewish people in the United States, it is slowly disappearing as the older generations pass away. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the language – and in conjunction the culture – of Yiddish. There are a number of scholars who are working to preserve and even revive the use of Yiddish in daily life. These words and phrases are terrifically expressive and are pronounced just as they’re written.

1. Shmutz

Dirt or mess

Eg: The kids made cookies and left shmutz all over the kitchen.

2. Bubbelah

Originally meaning “grandmother,” this word is now used in the same way as the word “dear” or “darling.”

Eg: Stevie, bubbelah, come on in for dinner

3. Meshuga/Meshugena


Eg: That meshuga dog with his barking, oy he’s making me meshugena!


Confused, discombobulated

Eg: The amount of paperwork on my desk has me all fermisht.

5. Kvell

To beam with pride, to brag a little (or a lot).

Eg: I must kvell – my granddaughter, she got into Harvard!

7. Zaftig

Juicy, plump, ripe. Can refer to an idea, or a food, but most often used in reference to a curvaceous woman.

Eg: Queen Latifah is a gorgeous zaftig woman

8. Shmatta

A dress, usually unfashionable and/or sloppy.

Eg: When she comes home from work, Jane throws on a shmatta so she can get comfortable, much to her husband’s chagrin.

10. Mensch

A man of good character – respectable and likable.

Eg: I kvell over my son the doctor, he is such a mensch with all of his volunteer work.

11. Kvetch

Annoying or complaining. Can be a noun or a verb

Eg: My neighbor is such a kvetch – always kvetching about the kids playing in the street.

12. Bupkes (bup-kiss)

Nothing, worthless, useless.

Eg: Those beanie baby dolls we saved are worth bupkes since they don’t have any tags.


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    • profile image 

      10 months ago

      I love your remarks on words that are said in Yiddish. I use a lot of these words. I was brought up in a home where they spoke Yiddish. I use many of the above words when I speak to my grandchildren.

    • sharongreenthal profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks Robie. There are so many great Yiddish words. It would be a shame if they disappeared!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      I livedin Brooklyn for 27 years, and you can't live in Brooklyn without learning the difference between a Schlemiel and a Schlimazel. Thanks for a great trip down memory lane and welcome to Hubpages.

    • jacobkuttyta profile image

      Siny J 

      6 years ago from Delhi, India


    • elenox profile image


      6 years ago from Missouri

      It's interesting how these words just have a funny connotation when they are uttered. This is an interesting article. Thanks and good job


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