Yiddish Words Defined

What Is a
The Yiddish word for “expert,” maven (or mayven), is derived from the Hebrew word mayvin (מבין), which means “understands.”
What Is
The mourners typically gather in a single home to observe shiva together.
What Does
It’s an ancient Jewish tradition, dating back to Abraham himself.
What Is a
Anyone can be a shadchan. Just make the suggestion. Even if it does not work the first time, keep on trying.
What Does
“Please bentch me that I should ace this test.”
What Is a
Despite the social challenges that a mamzer faces, he is recognized as a full member of the Jewish nation and able to achieve spiritual greatness.
What Does
You can also halt (hold) a shmues, or even chap (catch) a shmues with them.
What Is
Oy! That joke was schmutzik!
What Does
All humor aside, Jewish communities have historically done the honorable work of accommodating and supporting schnorrers with dignity.
What Does
“On Yom Kippur, the synagogue was so stuffy, I was schvitzing buckets.”
What Are
Served in chicken soup, matzo balls are dumplings made of matzo meal (ground matzo), egg, oil, water and flavoring
What Does
Klutz is Yiddish for “piece of wood,” and refers to a person who is clumsy.
What Does
Yahrzeit refers to the anniversary (on the Hebrew calendar) of the date of a person’s passing.
What Does
Treif is the Yiddish word that means “unkosher.”
What Does “Yarmulke” Mean?
The boring answer is that it is just the generic Slavic word for “skullcap,” which Eastern-European Jews borrowed from their non-Jewish neighbors
What Does
“Goniff” is Hebrew and Yiddish for “thief,” and has come to refer to anyone who is a swindler, a cheat or just plain dishonest.
What Does
Meshuga means “crazy” in Yiddish. A person who is meshuga is called a meshuganer.
What Does
Get schlepped in as we tackle this Yiddish word!
What Does
Both meanings of the Yiddish word chazer—“pig” and “review”—have their source in the Hebrew language.
What Does
Many see this word is a built-in insult. It’s really anything but.
What Does
This Yiddish word (of Polish provenance) has taken on meanings in various areas of Jewish life.
What Does
It's based on the Yiddish word heim, which means “home,” it describes things that are homey or familiar.
What Is a Shtetl? The Jewish Town
The beginnings of shtetl life go back hundreds of years, to before the 17th century.
What Does
The first is biblical hebrew, the second Aramaic
What Is a
Consciously or sub-consciously, we all identify as "human." Does that inspire us to strive higher, to be a mentsch? Or does it allow us to relax our standards, recognizing that we're "only human"?
What Does
What exactly is “glatt”? Is it Yiddish for “super-kosher”? And how does one receive such a designation?
How well do you know Yiddish? Would it make your bubby kvell? Test your Yiddish skills with this 10-part quiz!
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