The following Yiddish words were selected for their elasticity of use. These are the words you can safely pop into your conversation for emphasis with little fear of messing up, since it is hard to misappropriate them. Yet, like a good dose of garlic in chicken soup, they add tremendous flavor to your conversations. Use them to wow your friends and show your Yiddish bona fides.

1. Shmitchik

Shmitchik is somewhat like doodad, a good word to describe something small whose name is unknown. So if you are cleaning your sink for Passover and wish to store the aerator safely, you can put it in an envelope and label it “faucet shmitchik.” You can be sure that you—and anyone snooping in your kitchen—will know exactly what you are referring to. Pronounce it: SHMIT-shik

2. Gradeh

Gradeh means “precisely” or “actually.” So even if you are not gradeh sure how to use this word, you can gradeh insert it into any sort of statement, and you’ve managed to emphasize your point, gradeh, just by adding a single word. Pronounce it: GRAH-deh

3. Mamosh

Mamosh is a Hebrew word that means “substance,” and denotes that something is really, really real. You can use this word wherever you’d use the English word “really.” It’s mamosh not a big deal if you overuse this one, since (like gradeh) it can fit in just about anywhere. Now in Judaism there are all kinds of things that exist on a spiritual plane. For example, a person’s good deeds can be seen as spiritual children, and blessing can be manifest in ways not apparent to us. But that's not enough. We want the real deal. So when you give someone a blessing, specify that you want it to mamosh be so, in a tangible reality. Pronounce it: MAH-mish

4. Vee Heist Es

Vee Heist Es is Yiddish for “how is it called?” and is the equivalent of “whatchamacallit.” So if you do not recall the name for that pesky aerator, but don’t want to display your ignorance by calling it a shmitchik, you can just call it a vee heist es. A bit longer, but more sophisticated. Pronounce it: VEE hayst ess

5. Nu

Nu is like “um,” “ahem,” and “argh” all wrapped into one. It’s especially useful at meal times. We wash our hands in a special way before we eat bread, and are careful not to talk between washing and eating, lest we unthinkingly soil our hands before tucking in. So what do you do if you need to impart a message during that time between washing and the blessing over bread? You say “nu.” It can also be a filler in speech, when you are not sure what to say. Note that “nu nu” (with an emphasis on the first “nu”) has an entirely different meaning, along the lines of “oh well.” Pronounce it: NEW

6. Avadeh

Avadeh is a Yiddishization of the Hebrew word vadai, which means “certain.” So when your prospective Shabbat guest asks if she can bring along a friend, just answer with an expansive “avadeh!” (unless, of course, you have already washed your hands, in which case, you’ll need to make do with an expressive “nu”). Pronounce it: ah-VAH-deh

7. Takeh

Takeh means “indeed,” and it’s takeh true that this is also one of those words you can sprinkle liberally into your conversation without much fear of misuse. This is takeh the truth, mamosh! Pronounce it: TAH-keh

8. Feh

Feh is an expression of disgust. It is an appropriate reaction to something you find repulsive (“Feh, I hate the way the fish store smells!”). You can also use it to react to an activity you find distasteful or unbecoming (“You want me to shake hands with that lowlife? Feh!”). Pronounce it: Feh

9. Nebach

Nebach can be inserted to show sympathy for the unfortunate subject of your conversation, whom you can also refer to as a nebach. So you can say, “Her sister, nebach, has failed her nursing exam four times in a row. What a nebach!” Pronounce it: NEH-bakh

10. Aderaba

Aderaba is Aramaic for “au contraire,” and is frequently used in Talmudic parlance when questioning a stated premise. “You think you’ll get ahead by selecting the pay-as-you-go option? Aderaba! You’ll end up paying an extra percentage every month!” Pronounce it: AH-der-abba