Some Yiddish words used in English


  • a schande (Yid., אַ שאַנדע): a disgrace; one who brings embarrassment through mere association, cf. German eine Schande, translated “a disgrace”, meaning “such a shame”joke
  • abi me lebt (Yid., אַבי מע לעבט): abi from Slavic, as in the previous entry; me lebt cognate to the German, man lebt,’ meaning “At least I’m alive”
  • aliyah (sometimes spelt “aliyos”): the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel; also defined as “the act of going up” — towards Jerusalem, “making Aliyah”, by moving to the Land of Israel is one of the most basic tenets of Zionism; from Hebrew, aliyah means “ascent” or “going up”.
  • alter kicker or alter kacker (Yid., אַלטער קאַקער): an old fart (from German Alter “old” and kacker “crapper”)[5]Also sometimes spelled phonetically (from the American point of view) as “alte kocker.”[6]

  • balabusta: a homemaker; usually applied with positive connotations
  • bench: to bless, commonly referred to saying Grace after meals (benching) or when lighting shabbat candles(bench-light), from Latin, “benedicere”, (to bless).
  • billig or billik: cheap, shoddy (said of merchandise); common expression “Billig is Teir” (cheap is expensive)
  • German: Bub for a boy-child,[7]lovingly used by Morticia Addams in the 1964 TV series with her husband
  • bubbameisse: Old wives’ tale, cock and bull story (often attributed by erroneous folk etymology to combination of bubbe, “grandmother”, and meisse, “tale”, but in fact derives from “Bove-meisse”, from the “Bove Bukh”, the “Book of Bove”, the chivalric adventures of fictitious knight Sir Bevys (“Bove”) of Hampton, first published in Yiddish in 1541 and continually republished until 1910.
  • bubkes (also spelled “bupkis”): emphatically nothing, as in He isn’t worth bubkes (literally “goat droppings”, in Polish “bobki”)


  • chalisch: literally, fainting (“I was chalishing from hunger.”), sometimes used as a term of desperate desire for something or someone (“After a thirty-six hour shift, I was chalishing to go home already.”)
  • chazerei (Yiddish, חזירײַ khazerai “filth” or, perhaps more literally, “piggery”, from חזיר khazer “pig” from Hebrew חזיר‬ “hazeer”, pig): junk, garbage, junk food
  • chesid: good deed or favor. “Do me a chesid and clean your room.”
  • chidush or chiddush: (from Hebrew חדש‬ hadash, meaning “new”) the point, upshot, or reason, of a discussion or argument; the conclusion drawn from two or more premises; more generally, innovation. For example: “I don’t get it, what’s the chidush?” Also used when you are making fun of someone for something entirely obvious. “Chidush! Chidush!
  • chutzpah: (Yid. from Heb. חצפה‬ hutspe, alt. sp. חוצפה‬) Courage, determination, daring; also audacity, effrontery. Similar in meaning to English slang gutsballs, or nerve. Can carry either a positive or negative connotation.


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