Glossary of Yiddish Words & Phrases

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Yiddish is a hybrid language and takes much of its vocabulary from 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 Glossary 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 Glossary are not the same as either of the parent languages.

Yiddish went through a decline in popularity over the past 100 years but has found a resurgence in recent times and is taught at several prominent universities around the world. Next time you use a word of Yiddish origin, remember that you are speaking a foreign language.


A bisel – A little
A biseleh – A very little
A breyre hob ich? – I have no alternative
A breyte deye hob’n – To do all the talking (To have the greatest say or authority)
A broch! – Oh hell! Damn it!! A curse!!!
A broch tzu dir! – A curse on you!
A broch tzu Columbus – A curse on Columbus
A brocheh – A blessing
A chazer bleibt a chazer – A pig remains a pig
A chorbn – Oh, what a disaster (Oh S**T! an expletive)
A choleryeh ahf dir! – A plague on you! (Lit., wishing someone to get Cholera.)
A deigeh hob ich – I don’t care. I should worry.
A farshlepteh krenk – A chronic ailment
A feier zol im trefen – He should burn up! (Lit., A fire should meet him.)
A finstere cholem auf dein kopf und auf dein hent und fiss –  (a horrible wish on someone) A dark dream (nightmare) on your head, hands and feet!
A foiler tut in tsveyen – A lazy person has to do a task twice
A gesheft hob nicht – I don’t care
A gezunt ahf dein kop! – Good health to you (lit., Good health on your head)
A glick ahf dir! – Good luck to you (Sometimes used sarcastically about minor good fortunes) Big thing!
A glick hot dich getrofen! – Big deal! Sarcastic; lit., A piece of luck happened to you.
A groyser tzuleyger – A big shot (sarcastically.)
A grubber yung – A coarse young man
A kappore – A catastrophe.
A khasuren die kalleh is tsu shayn – A fault that the bride is too beautiful
A klog iz mir! – Woe is me!
A klog tzu meineh sonim! – A curse on my enemies!
A langer lucksh – A tall person (a long noodle)
A leben ahf dein kepele – A life on your head (A grandparent might say to a grandchild meaning “you are SO smart!”)
A leben ahf dir! – You should live! And be well!
A lung un leber oyf der noz – Stop talking yourself into illness! (Lit., Don’t imagine a lung and a liver upon the nose)
A maidel mit a vayndel – A pony-tailed nymphet.
A maidel mit a klaidel – A cutie-pie showing off her (new) dress.


A mentsh on glik is a toyter mensh – An unlucky person is a dead person.
A mentsh tracht und Gott lacht – A person plans and God laughs.
A metsieh far a ganef – It’s a steal (Lit., A bargain for a thief.)
A nahr bleibt a nahr – A fool remains a fool
A nechtiker tog! – Forget it! (Lit., “A day that’s a night.”)
A nishtikeit! – A nobody!
A pish un a fortz iz vi a khasene un a klezmer! – A pee without a fart, is like a wedding without a band!
A piste kayleh – A shallow person (an empty barrel)
A ritch in kop – Crazy (in the head.)
A schwartz yor – Bad luck. (LIT., A black year)
A schwartzen sof – A bad end.
A shandeh un a charpeh – A shame and a disgrace
A shittern mogn – Loose bowel movement
A shtik fleish mit tzvei eigen – A piece of meat with two eyes (insult)
A shtik naches – A great joy
A shtyfer mogn – Constipated
A sof! A sof! – Let’s end it ! End it!
A tuches un a halb – A person with a very large backside. (Lit., A backside and a half.)
A volf farlirt zayne hor, ober nit zayn natur – A wolf loses his hair but not his nature. “A leopard cannot change his spots.”
Abi gezunt! – As long as you’re healthy!
Achrahyes – Responsibility
Afn gonif brennt das hittel – “He thinks everyone knows he committed a crime.” (a thief’s hat burns)
Ahf mir gezogt! – I wish it could be said about me!
Ahf tsores – In trouble
Afh yenems tukhes is gut sepatchen – Someone else’s ass is easy to smack.
Ahf zu lochis – Spitefully (Lit: Just to get (someone) angry.)
Ahntoisht – Disappointed
Ahzes ponim – Impudent fellow
Aidel – Cultured or finicky
Aidel gepotchket – Delicately brought up
Aidim – Son-in-law
Ainikle – Grandchild
Aitzeh – Advice
Aiver butelt – Absent minded; mixed up


Alaichem sholom – To you be peace. Used in response to the the greeting Shalom aleichem.
Alef-bais – Alphabet; the first two letters of the Jewish alphabet
Alevei! – It should happen to me (to you)!
Alle ziben glicken – Not what it’s cracked up to be (all 7 lucky things)
Alles in einem is nisht do bei keine – All in one (person) is to be found in no one.
Alrightnik – One who has succeeded
Alrightnikeh – Feminine form of “alrightnik.”
Alteh moid – Spinster, old maid
Alter bocher – Bachelor
Alter bok – Old goat
Alter Kocker – An old man or old woman.
An alteh machashaifeh – An old witch
An alter bakahnter – An old acquaintance
An alter trombenick – An old bum
An emmisse meisse – An (absolutely) true tale
Apikoros – An unbeliever, a skeptic, an athiest
Arbit – Work
Arein – Come in!
Aroisgevorfen – Thrown out, wasted, (wasted opportunities)
Aroisgevorfene gelt – Thrown out money (Wasted money)
Arumgeflickt! – Plucked! Milked!
Arumloifer – Street urchin; person who runs around 
Aydem – Son-in-law
Ayn klaynigkeit – Ya, sure!! (very derogatory)
Az a yor ahf mir. – I should have such good luck.
Az di bobe volt gehat beytsim volt zi geven mayn zeyde! – If my grandmother had testicles she would be my grandfather.
Az mir vill schlugen a hunt, gifintmin a schtecken – If one wants to beat a dog, one finds a stick.
Az och un vai! – Tough luck! Too bad! Misfortune!
Az tzvei zuggen shiker, leigst zich der driter shloffen – If two people say you’re drunk, the third one goes to sleep. If two people confirm something, it’s true.
Azoy? – Really?
Azoy gait es! – That’s how it goes!
Azoy gich? – So soon?
Azoy vert dos kichel tzekrochen! – That’s how the cookie crumbles!


Babka – Coffee cake style pastry
Badchan – Jester, merry maker or master of ceremonies at a wedding; at the end of the meal he announces the presents, lifting them up and praising the giver and the gift in a humorous manner
Bagroben – To bury
Baitsim – Testicles
Balebatim – Persons of high standing
Balbatish – Quiet, respectable, well mannered
Balebatisheh yiden – Respectable Jews, people of substance and good standing in the community
Baleboosteh – Mistress of the house. A compliment to someone who is a terrific housekeeper. “She is some baleboosteh!”
Balegoola – Truckdriver or sloppy person of low standing.
Balmalocha – An expert (sometimes used sarcastically- Oy, is he an expert!)
Balnes – Miracle-worker
Bal Toyreh – Learned man, scholar
Balt- Sure
Bandit – Menace, outlaw, pain-in-the-neck
Bankes – Small suction cups, usually the size of a common shot glass, used to cure many ills in the past.  Some people still swear by the effectiveness of this treatment.
Bareden yenem – To gossip
Baren (taboo) – Fornicate: bother, annoy
Barimer – Braggart, show-off
Bashert – Fated or predestined
Bas-yekhide – A female only child
Bashert zein – To be destined
Batampte – Tasty , delicious


Batlan – Someone without a trade or a regular means of livelihood
Baysn zikh di finger vos – Regret strongly that……..
Becher – Wine goblet
Behaimeh – Animal, cow (when referring to a human being, means dull-witted)
Bei mir hust du gepoylt – You’ve gotten your way with me.
Ben-yokhid – A male only child
Benken – “To yearn for” or “to long for.”
Benkshaft – Homesickness, nostalgia
Bentsh – To bless, to recite a blessing
Bentshen lecht – Recite prayer over lit candles on Sabbath eve or Holy Day candles
Beryeh – Efficient, competent housewife
Bes medresh – Synagogue
Bialy – Named for the Polish city of Bialystock, the bialy is of Jewish origin. A Bialy is a fairly large (about 6 inches) chewy round yeast roll. Somewhat similar to a bagel, it has a depression rather than a hole in the centre, and is sprinkled with chopped sauteed onion before baking.
Bikur cholem – Visiting the sick
Billik – Cheap, inexpensive
Bist meshugeh? – Are you crazy?
Biteh – Please
Blondjen – To wander, be lost
Boarderkeh – A female boarder
Boch – A punch
Bohmer – Bum (masc.)
Bohmerkeh – Bum (fem.)
Boorvisser fiss – Barefoot
Boreke borsht – Beet borsht which the wealthy could afford.
Borekes – Pastries with cheese inside


Borsht – Beet soup

Borsht circuit – Hotels in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, with an almost entirely Jewish clientele, who are fond of borsht; term is used by entertainers

Borviss – Barefoot

Botvenye borsht – Borsht made from beet leaves for the poor.

Boychik – Young boy (term of endearment)

Boykh – Stomach, abdomen

Boykhvehtig – Stomachache

Breeye – Creature, animal

Breire – choice

Bris – Circumcision

Bristen – Breasts

Broitgeber – Head of family (Lit., Bread giver)

Bronfen – Whiskey

Broygis – Not on speaking terms

B’suleh – Virgin

Bubbeh – Grandmother

Bubbe maisse – Grandmother’s tale.

Bubbee – Friendly term for anybody you like

Bubeleh – Endearing term for anyone you like regardless of age

Bulvan – Man built like an ox; boorish, coarse, rude person

Bupkis – Nothing. Something totally worthless (Lit., Beans)

Butchke – chat, tete-a-tete, telling tales


Chai – Hebrew word for LIFE, comprised of the two Hebrew letters, Chet and Yod. There is a sect of Jewish mysticism that assigns a numeric value to each letter in the Hebrew alphabet and is devoted to finding hidden meanings in the numeric values of words. The letter “Chet” has the numeric value of 8, and the letter “Yod”, has the value of 10, for a total of 18.
Chaider – Religious School
Chaim Yonkel – any Tom, Dick or Harry
Chaimyankel kooternooz – The perennial cuckold
Chaleria – Evil woman. Probably derived from cholera.
Chaleshen –  Faint
Challa – Ceremonial “egg” bread. Either round or shaped long. Used on Shabbat and most religious observances with the exception of Pesach (Passover)
Chaloshes – Nausea, faintness, unconsciousness
Chamoole – Donkey, jackass, numbskull, fool
Chamoyer du ainer! – You blockhead! You dope, You ass!


Chanukah – Also known as the “Festival of Lights”, commemorates the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Chanukah is celebrated for 8 days during which one additional candle is added to the menorah on each night of the holiday. 
Chap a gang! – Beat it! (Lit., Catch a way, catch a road)
Chap ein a meesa meshina! – “May you suffer an ugly fate!”
Chap nit! – Take it easy! Not so fast! (Lit., Don’t grab)
Chaptsem – Catch him!
Chassene – Wedding
Chassene machen – To plan and execute a wedding.
Chas v’cholileh! – G-d forbid!
Chavver – Friend
Chaye – Animal 
Chazen – Cantor
Chazenteh – Wife of chazen (cantor)
Chazzer – A pig (one who eats like a pig)
Chazzerei – Swill; pig’s feed; anything bad, unpalatable, rotten. In other words, “junk food.” This word can also be used to describe a lot of house hold or other kinds of junk.
Chazzershtal – Pigpen; slovenly kept room or house.


Chei kuck (taboo) – Nothing, infinitesimal, worthless, unimportant (Lit., human dung)
Chev ‘r’ mann – Buddy
Chmalyeh! – Bang, punch; Slam! Wallop!
Chochem – A wise man (Slang: A wise guy)
Chochmeh – Wisdom, bright saying, witticism
Choleryeh – Cholera; a curse, plague
Choshever mentsh – Man of worth and dignity; elite person; respected person
Chosid – Rabid fan
Chossen – Bridegroom
Chossen-kalleh – Bride and groom; engaged couple
Choyzik machen – Make fun of, ridicule
Chrain – Horseradish
Chropen – Snore
Chub Rachmones – “Have pity”
Chug – Activity group
Chupah – Canopy under which a bride and groom stand during marriage ceremony.
Chutzpeh – Brazenness, gall, baitzim
Chutzpenik – Impudent fellow
Chvalye – Ocean wave
Columbus’s medina – It’s not what it’s cracked up to be. (Columbus’s country.


Danken Got! – Thank G-d!
Darf min gehn in kolledj? – For this I went to college? Usually said when describing a menial task.
Davenen – Pray
Deigeh nisht! – Don’t worry!
Der mensch trakht un Gott lahkht – Man thinks (plans) and God laughs
Der oyg – Eye
Der oylam is a goylem – The world is stupid
Der tate oysn oyg – Just like his father
Der universitet – University
Der zokn – Old man
Derech erets – Respect
Derlebn – To live to see (I should only live to see him get married, already!)
Der oysdruk – Expression
Dershtikt zolstu veren! – You should choke on it!
Di khemye – Chemistry


Di skeyne – Old woman
Di Skeynes – Old women
Di skeynim – Old men
Die goldene medina – the golden country
Die untershte sheereh – the bottom line
Dine Essen teg – Yeshiva students would arrange to be fed by various householders on a daily basis in different houses. (Lit., Eat days)
Dingen – Bargain, hire, engage, lease, rent
Dis fayntin shneg – It’s starting to snow
Dis fayntin zoraiganin – It’s starting to rain
Dos gefelt mir – This pleases me
Dos hartz hot mir gezogt – My heart told me. I predicted it.
Dos iz alts – That’s all.
Dos zelbeh – The same
Drai mir nit kain kop! – Don’t bother me! (Lit., Don’t twist my head)
Drai zich! – Keep moving!
Draikop – Scatterbrain
Dreidal – Spinning top used in a game that is associated with the holiday of Chanukah.


Drek – Human dung, feces, manure or excrement; inferior merchandise or work; insincere talk or excessive flattery
Drek auf dem teller – Mean spirited, valueless Lit.crap on a plate. 
Drek mit Leber – Absolutely nothing; it’s not worth anything.
Druchus – The sticks (way out in the wild)
Du fangst shoyn on? – Are you starting up again?
Du kannst nicht auf meinem rucken pishen unt mir sagen class es regen ist. – You can’t pee on my back and tell me that it’s rain!
Dumkop – Dumbbell, dunce (Lit., Dumb head)
Durkhfall – A flop or failure
Dybbuk – Soul condemned to wander for a time in this world because of its sins. (To escape the perpetual torments inflicted upon it by evil spirits, the dybbuk seeks refuge in the body of some pious man or woman over whom the demons have no power. The dybbuk is a Cabalistic conception)


Ech – A groan, a disparaging exclamation
Ech mir (eppes) – Humorous, disparaging remark about anything.  e.g. “American Pie ech mir a movie?”
Efsher – Maybe, could be
Ei! Ei! – Yiddish exclamation equivalent to the English “Oh!”
Eingeshpahrt – Stubborn
Eingetunken – Dipped, dunked
Einhoreh – The evil eye
Eizel – Fool, dope
Ek velt – End of the world
Emes – The truth
Emitzer – Someone
Enschultig meir – “Well excuuuuuuse ME!” (Can also bu used in a non-sarcastic manner depending on the tone of voice and situation.)
Entoisht – Disappointed
Eppes – Something
Er bolbet narishkeiten – He talks nonsense
Er drayt sich arum vie a fortz in russell – He wanders around like a fart in a barrel (aimless)
Er est vi noch a krenk. – He eats as if he just recovered from a sickness.
Er frest vi a ferd. – He eats like a horse.
Er hot a makeh. – He has nothing at all (Lit., He has a boil or a minor hurt.)


Er hot nit zorg. – He hasn’t got a worry.
Er iz a niderrechtiker kerl! – He’s a low down good-for-nothing.
Er iz shoyn du, der nudnik! – The nuisance is here already!
Er macht a tel fun dem. – He ruins it.
Er macht zack nisht visindicht – He pretends he doesn’t know he is doing something wrong. Example: Sneaking into a movie theatre, or sneaking to the front of a line.
Er toig (taig) nit – He’s no good, worthless
Er varved zakh – Lit: He’s throwing himself. Example: He’s getting angry, agitated, pissed-off.
Er zitst oyf shpilkes. – He’s restless. (Lit., He sits on pins and needles.)
Er zol vaksen vi a tsibeleh, mit dem kop in drerd! – He should grow like an onion, with his head in the ground!
Eretz Yisroel – Land of Israel
Es brent mir ahfen hartz. – I have a heartburn.
Es gait nit! – It doesn’t work! It isn’t running smoothly!
Es gefelt mir. – I like it. (Lit., It pleases, me.)
Es hot zich oysgelohzen a boydem! – Nothing came of it! (Lit., There’s nothing up there but a small attic.)


Es iz a shandeh far di kinder! – It’s a shame for the children!
Es iz (tsu) shpet. – It is (too) late.
Es ken gemolt zein. – It is conceivable. It is imaginable.
Es macht mir nit oys. – It doesn’t matter to me.
Es iz nit dayn gesheft – It’s none of your business.
Es past nit. – It is not becoming. It is not fitting.
Es tut mir a groisseh hanoeh! – It gives me great pleasure!(often said sarcastically)
Es tut mir bahng. – I’m sorry. (Lit., It sorrows me)
Es tut mir vai – It hurts me.
Es vert mir finster in di oygen. – This is a response to receiving extremely upsetting information or news. (Lit., It’s getting dark in my eyes.)
Es vet gornit helfen! – Nothing will help!!
Es vet helfen vi a toiten bahnkes! – It won’t help (any)! (Lit., It will help like blood-cupping on a dead body.)
Ess vie ein foygl sheise vie ein feirt! – Eat like a bird, shit like a horse!
Ess, bench, sei a mensch – Eat, pray, don’t act like a jerk!
Ess gezunterhait – Eat in good health
Essen – To eat
Essen mitik – Eating midday or having dinner.


Fahrshvindn – Disappeared
Faigelah – Bird (also used as a derogatory reference to a gay person).
Fantazyor – Man who builds castles in the air
Farbissener – Embittered; bitter person
Farblondzhet – Lost, bewildered, confused
Farblujet – Bending your ear
Farbrecher – Crook, conman
Fardeiget – Distressed, worried, full of care, anxiety
Fardinen a mitzveh – Earn a blessing or a merit (by doing a good deed)
Fardrai zich dem kop! – Go drive yourself crazy!
Fardross –  Resentment, disappointment, sorrow
Farfolen – Lost
Farfoylt – Mildewed, rotten, decayed
Farfroyren – Frozen
Fargessen – Forgot
Farklempt – Too emotional to talk.  Ready to cry. (See “Verklempt)
Farklempt fis – Not being able to walk right, clumsy as in “clumsy feet.”
Far Knaft – Engaged
Farkakte (taboo) – Dungy, shitty
Farmach dos moyl! – Shut up! Quiet. (Lit., Shut your mouth.)
Farmatert – Tired
Farmisht – Befuddled
Farmutshet – Worn out, fatigued, exhausted
Farpitzed – To get all dressed up to the “nines.”


Farschimmelt – Moldy or rotten. An analogous meaning could be that a person’s mind has become senile.
Farshlepteh krenk – Fruitless, endless matter (Lit., A sickness that hangs on)
Farshlugginer – Refers to a mixed-up or shaken item. Generally indicates something of little or dubious value.
Farshmeieter – Highly excitable person; always on the go
Farshnickert – Drunk, high as a kite
Farshnoshket – Loaded, drunk
Farshtaist? – You understand?
Farshtopt – Stuffed
Farshtunken – Smells bad, stinks
Farshvitst – sweaty
Fartik – finished, ready, complete
Far-tshadikt – Confused, bewildered, befuddled, as if by fumes, gas
Far zikher – For sure
Fayeke (F) Fayeker (M) – Capable
Feh! – Fooey, It stinks, It’s no good
Feinkochen- Omelet, scrambled eggs
Feinshmeker – Hi falutin’
Fendel – pan
Ferd – Horse, (slang) a fool
Ferkrimpter ponim – Twisted-up, scowling face
Ferprishte punim – pimple-face
Fet – Fat, obese
Fetter – Uncle (also onkel)
Finster un glitshik – Miserable (Lit., Dark and slippery)


Fisfinger – Toes
Fisslach – (chickens’/duck’s) feet, often in ptsha
Fliegel – Fowl’s wing
Focha – Fan
Foigel – Smart guy (Lit: bird)
Foiler – Lazy man
Foilishtik – Foolishness
Folg mikh! – Obey me!
Folg mikh a gang! – Quite a distance! Why should I do it? It’s hardly worth the trouble!
Fonfen – Speak through the nose
For gezunterhait! – Bon voyage! Travel in good health!
Forshpeiz – Appetizer
Fortz – Fart
Fortz n’ zovver – A foul, soul-smelling fart.
Frageh – Question
Frailech – Happy
Frassk in pisk- Slap in the face
Freint – Friend,
Mr. Fremder – Stranger
Fress – Eat….pig out.
Fressen – Eat like a pig, devour
Fressing – Gourmandizing (By adding the English suffix “ing” to the Yiddish word “fress”, a new English word in the vocabulary of American Jews has been created.)
Froy – Woman,
Mrs. Frum, (frimer) – Pious, religious, devout
Funfeh – Speaker’s fluff, error
My Yiddishe Bubbie

Toy Vey Toys
5400 Eadom Street, W-23
Bridesburg, PA 19137
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