So many online Yiddish word lists are stuffed with insults, witty rejoinders, and bathroom words. They are good grist for the social media mill, but how does that reflect on Yiddish, the beloved language of the Chosen People? Yiddish is such a beautiful language, replete with compliments, terms of endearment, and gentle wisdom. Here are our top 13 Yiddish words to use when you want to be nice.

1. Please

Official Yiddish uses the German word bitte for “please.” Real, earthy Yiddish speakers, however, will much more commonly say zei azoy gut, which means “be so good.” So next time you want to ask for something nicely, zei azoy gut and use this phrase.

2. Thank You

Thanks is ah dank. So you can tell your bus driver ah dank for getting you home in one piece. You can spice this one up by putting an adjective before the dank. Ah sheinem dank (“a nice thanks”) and ah groisen dank (“a big thanks”) both work well.

In some circles, people may say yasher koach, which is often translated as “more power to you” and can also be a term of congratulation and encouragement for a job well done.

3. You’re Welcome

After someone thanks you, the proper Yiddish response is “ni[sh]t do kein farvos” (“there is no why”), humbly denying that there is any reason for the thanks. This is similar to the Spanish de nada. (Some people may also say tzu gezunt, which we will get to below.)

4. Excuse Me

To excuse in Yiddish is tzu antshuldigen. Thus the Yiddish term for “excuse me” is antshuldikt mir or simply antshuldig.

5. What’s Up?

A common Yiddish term to ask someone how they are would be vos hertz zich, which translates clumsily as “what’s being heard?” Another variation would be vos tut zich, which means “what’s happening?” Alternatively you can ask vee geit es, which means “how’s it going?”

6. Zeeskeit

Literally “sweetness,” zeeskeit is a term of endearment you can use exactly as you’d use “sweetie” or “honey” in English.

7. Tattele and Mammele

Tatte and Mamme are Dad and Mom respectively. A tattele is a little father, and a mammele is a little mother. These words are used to refer lovingly to small children just like Hispanics may refer to kids mami and papi.

Mammele and tattele also denote an obedient and well-behaved child. Thus, you can say, “After Joel’s mother threatened to keep him home from Hebrew school if he wouldn’t stop sneaking gefilte fish, he behaved like a tattele for the rest of the afternoon.”

8. Gezunterheit

Gezunterheit means “with health” and it can be used in a variety of ways.

If you want to tell someone that you have no objection to something, you can tell them to do it gezunterheit. “Go ahead and try skiing down the black diamond with your hands tied behind your back gezunterheit; just don’t complain to me when you fall.”

When serving food, you can tell your diners to ess gezunterheit, literally “eat with health.” It is the Yiddish equivalent of bon appétit.

When someone is going to sleep, wish them to shlof (“sleep”) gezunterheit.

When someone is about to embark on a trip, you tell them to for gezunterheit, which means “travel with health,” and you can send someone off on a shorter trip with a well-placed gei (“go”) gezunterheit. Often you also wish them to kum gezunterheit, to return in good health as well.

When someone gets a new piece of clothing, you wish them trog gezunterheit, wear the new garment in good health. Oddly enough, when someone gets a pair of shoes, it is customary to wish them tzureis gezunterheit, tear the shoes in good health.

9. No, We Don’t Say Gesundheit

English speakers often use the German gesundheit (“health”) in the place of “bless you” after they hear someone sneeze. In Yiddish, we say tzu gezunt, which means “to health.” Some people add on even more blessings. One person I know says, tzu gezunt, tzu leben, un tzu mazal (“to health, to life, and to fortune”). Fun fact: Wishing someone good health following a sneeze is an old Jewish custom. In the Talmudic era, people would say “asuta,” which is Aramaic for “health.”

10. Zei Gezunt

While we are on the subject of gezunt, we must mention zei gezunt (“be healthy”), which is a common way to say goodbye. When speaking to more than one person, you say zeit gezunt, and you can always add un shtark (“and strong”) if you are feeling particularly generous with your parting blessings.

11. Gezunt zolstu zein

Literally “healthy you should be,” this one is the rough equivalent of “don’t ever change kid, you are amazing!” Another variant that expresses the same sentiment is laing zolstu leben, “long should you live.”

12. Choshuv

A loan word from Hebrew, choshuv means important or notable. If you are hosting important guests, you can refer to them as choshuve gest (gest is plural and gast is singular for “guest”). The mitzvah of hosting guests is very choshuv in Judaism. In fact, we are told that Abraham interrupted a meeting with G‑d to greet three wayfarers who showed up outside his tent. Now that’s choshuv!

13. Sheifale

Literally “lamb", sheifale is an endearing term for your nearest and dearest, especially children, who are soft, cuddly, and gentle as lambs (some of the time, at least).

Did you enjoy learning these words? Tzu gezunt, it was our pleasure!