Glossary of Terms
These are the words your grandparents and parents used when they wanted to talk behind your back and in front of your face at the same time.
Abba , father, also a cult singing group from the 70s
a biseleh – a very little
A broch! – Oh hell! Damn it!
A broch tsu mir! – Oy! I’ve been cursed.
A chazer bleibt a chazer! – A pig remains a pig!
a dank – thanks, thank you
A deigeh hob ich? – Is it my worry?
A feier zol im trefen – He should burn up!
A gezunt dahf dein kop! – Good health to you!
ahf tsores – in trouble
aidel – cultured
aliya – return to Israel, being called to the Torah, literally “going
alter kucker – old person, very derogatory
Am Yisroel – The people of Israel (all Jews).
azoy? – really?
bagels – Invented in Chelm, nothing like the doughy globs sold in North
American supermarkets/hard circular roll with a hole in the center.
balebatisheh yiden – Respectable Jews of good substance and standing.
balebosteh – housewife/hostess/capable homemaker/matriach
balnes – miracle worker
balshem – Term applied to a faith healer/performer of miracles.
Bar Mitzvah – A boy who, on completion of his l3th year, accepts the
responsibility of fulfilling the religious law/also the celebration of
this event (of becoming a man).
bas – daughter
Bas/Bat Mitzvah – A girl who has reached the age when she is required
to fulfill certain mitsvos (commands, obligations).
ben zona – Son of a prostitute.
bialys – like bagels, more gluten flour
Birkat hamazon – grace after a meal
blintses/blintzes – crepes filled with cheese and perhaps fruit
bobbeh/bubbee – grandmother
bocher – bachelor/unmarried man/young man
borsht – beet or cabbage soup
boychik – young boy
brech a fus – break a leg
bris or brit – circumcision of Jewish male
brocha – a prayer
bupkas – (Lit “beans”) nothing
challah – Sabbath twists of egg-yolk colored bread/made in a variety of
shapes for various holidays.
chavurah , group of friends, prayer group
Chassid – a very orthodox Jew who dresses in a particular kind of black
suit and black hat with a black yarmulke underneath the hat. Chassidism
was founded in Poland in the 1700s by the Baal Shem Tov.
Chazen – Cantor
chazer/chazzer – pig
chazerai – junk (lit. “pig stuff”)/unpalatable/rotten
chochem – wise man (slang) – a wise guy
chosser daieh – feeble-minded
chozer bitshuvah – a Jew who has become religious
chupeh – bridal canopy/ Its 4 poles signify the 4 corners of the world,
and a cloth “roof”, sometimes blue, symbolic of the heavens.
chutzpah – audacity/utter nerve
Danken G-t! – Thank G-d!
daven – pray
Dershtikt zolstu verem! – You should choke on it!
draikop – Scatterbrain; one who tends to confuse you; one who connives
and twists the facts to serve his own purpose.
Drai zich! – Keep moving!
drek – trash/manure or excrement
Drek ahf a shpendel! – As unimportant as dung on a piece of wood!
Du bis a Yid? Gey gezunt! – Are you Jewish? Go in good health!
dumkop – dumbell/dunce
dybbuk – Soul condemned to wander for a time in this world because of
its sins. The dybbuk seeks refuge in the body of some pious person over
whom the demons have no power. The dybbuk is a Cabalistic conception.
ech – A groan/a disparaging exclamation.
Ei, gut – Great! Just great!
einhoreh – evil eye
eizel – fool/dope
El Al Airlines – ‘to the sky’/Israel’s national airline
emah – mother
Eretz Yisroel – The land of Israel.
Er frest vi a ferd – He eats like a horse.
es/essen – eat
es vet zich oys-hailen far der chasseneh: It will heal in time for the
wedding. (Told even to a child when s/he gets hurt. The implication is
that marriage is a cure-all).
fahrblunget – mixed up
faigeleh – little bird/slang for homosexual
famisht – confused
fardeiget – distressed/worried/anxiety
farfel – noodle dough, grated or chopped into barley sized grains
fargenigen – pleasure
farkuckt – dungy, sh*tty
farmatert – tired
farmisht – mixed up emotionally/befudled
Farshtaist? – You understand?
farshtunken – smells bad, stinky
far-tshadikt – confused, bewildered
flaishik/flaishidik – Meat or meat ingredients (must not be eaten at the
same meal with dairy foods).
Gai avek! – Go away!
gai gezunterhait – bon voyage/good-by
Gai plats! – Go split your guts!
ganef – crook/thief/burglar/swindler
gantser k’nacker! – Big shot!
gantser mentsh/mench – manly/a whole man/a complete man
gatkes – long winter underwear
gebrenteh tsores – utter misery
gefilte fish – Stuffed fish, usually made of chopped fish, onions and
seasoning, and cooked in salt water.
Gey mit ayn fuss! – Break a leg!
gelt – money
gelt gait tzu gelt – money goes to money
Genug iz genug! – Enough is enough!
geshmak – tasty/delicious
get – divorce
gezunterhait – in good health
G-d – The ‘o’ is left out for religious reasons.
goilem – dull person/clumsy and sluggish/mechanical/robot/mythical
person made of mud
gornisht – nothing
goy – non-Jewish person
goyem – plural of ‘goy’
goyish/goyisha – not Jewish
gribenes – small crisp pieces left from rendered poultry fat or skin,
Gut Shabbes! – Good Sabbath!
Gut yontev! – Good holiday!
Haddasah – world-wide Women’s Jewish organization
Haftorah – The weekly reading from the Biblical Prophets
haken a tsheinik – [lit: banging a teapot]. Someone who startles, jars,
annoys by repeated intrusive speech or action. Also can mean boring,
long-winded and annoying conversation, sleep-inducing,
understimulating, hard to keep paying attention.
Halevei! – Would that it came true!
Ha Motzi – prayer giving thanks for food (bread)
Hashem – name for G-d. (lit. “the name”)
haverah – prayer group
ich fargessen – I forgot
Ich hob in drerd! – To hell with it!
ipish – bad odor/stink
Kaddish – a prayer praising G-d, which separates sections of the
service. May also refer to the Mourners’ kaddish which is basically the
same prayer/in praise of and submission to the will of G-d
kalah – bride
kemfer – fighter (usually for a cause)
kiddish – blessing over wine on the eve of the Sabbath or Festivals
kipa/yarmelke – skull cap
kishka – stuffed derma
kitsel – tickle klaperkeh – talkative woman
klemt beim hartz – clutches at my heartstrings
klotz/klutz – ungraceful, awkward, clumsy person
k’naidel – round dumplings usually made of matzoh meal and cooked in
knishes – dumplings filled with potato, meat, liver or barley
kolboynik – know it all
kosher – food that meets rules of Jewish dietary laws
kugel – casserole dish or baked desert
kvetch – complain
lamden – scholar, learned man
latke – Heaven on earth… potato pancakes!
Le’chaim! – To life!
levevah – plural for latke
Lig in drerd! – Get lost! Drop dead!
Lo b’shamayim hi – The Torah is not in heaven.
loch in kop – hole in the head
lokshen – noodles/pasta
lox – smoked salmon
macher – A big shot/man with contacts
maidel – girl
mamzer – bastard
mazel – luck
mazel tov – congratulations
mechitzoh – the physical barrier that separates men and women in
mechiah , a great feeling, a relief, like taking off your shoes after
an all-day hike.
mench – a nice gentleman, good person
meshuga – crazy
mezuzah , The case affixed to the right side of the doorway of Jewish
homes containing a small portion of Deuteronomy in 22 lines,
handwritten on parchment.
mies – ugly
mies un mos – tedious/obnoxious
mikveh – ritual cleansing bath
milchiks – All dairy foods and cutlery, dishes and cooking utensils
used exclusively for dairy foods according to Jewish ritual
minyan – A group of at least l0 persons gathered to pray.
mishegas – craziness
mishpocheh – family/relatives
miskayt – ugly
mitzvah (mitsveh/Yiddish) – good deed
Mohel – The individual who performs the circumcision of a Jewish male.
mumcheh – expert
naches – Joy! Gratification, especially from children.
narishkeit – foolishness
nebish – a nerd!
neshemah – soul
neshomeleh – sweetheart/darling/sweet soul
Nishtu gedacht! – It shouldn’t happen!/G-d forbid! (Lit., May we be
saved from it! [sad event])
nishtgutnick – no good person
nishtikeit – A nobody!
Nu? – So? Well?
nudje – annoying person, badgerer
nudnik – pesty nagger, a bore, obnoxious person
och! – Exclamation of surprise, dismay or disapproval.
Oi vai iz mir! – Woe is me!
oleh chadash – new immigrant to Israel, (olim chadashim pl.)
ongetrunken – drunk
opgeflickt – Done in! Suckered! (Lit., plucked out like a chicken)
oy – denotes disgust, pain, astonishment or rapture
oysgehorevet – exhausted
Pesach – Passover
petseleh – little penis (affectionately applied to infant boy)
Peyot or Peyos – long full “sideburns” because of the commandment not
to trim the corners of your beard. Often the peyot are curled.
pisher – very young boy/can be an insult
pishteppel – pee pot
pletzels – usually onion-flavored flat breads
plotz – fall over in despair
potch – a little slap
proster oilem – common people
pupik – belly button
pushkeh – poor box (In every traditional Jewish home, odd coins are put
in this, particularly on Friday afternoon before the Sabbath begins;
money is used for the support of philanthropic and educational
Rachov Tsimtsim – Sesame Street
Rav – Rabbi/religious leader of the community.
Reb – Title given to a learned and respected man.
Rebiniu – Term of endearment for a Rabbi.
Rebitzin – Rabbi’s wife
rasheh – mean, evil person
Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur – Jewish High Holy Days
Shabbas goy – Someone doing the dirty work for others. (Lit., Gentile
doing work for a Jew on Sabbath)
shmaltz , fat
schmaltzy – sentimental/corny
schmuck – not a nice person/also male genitalia (literal)
schvitz – perspire
Shabbot/Shabbas – The Jewish sabbath.
shadchen – matchmaker or marriage broker
shainkeit – beauty
shammas – The guardian of the Synagogue
shanda – outrage or shame i.e. ‘that’s a shame’
shaygitz – non Jewish man (pl. shkootzim)
shayna – pretty (f.) (shayn m.)
shepleffel – spatula
shikeh – drunk
shikseh – – Non-Jewish female (also used to imply a wild or impious
shimmel – mould
shin men , name (lit: the 2 letters which spell the word “name” in
shiva – mourning period of 7 days observed by family/friends of
deceased. (Also the Hindu god of destruction. Coincidence?)
shlemil – a fool/always screwing up
shlep – carry
shlimazel – luckless person/incompetent person/one who has perpetual
shmaltz – fat or greese/flattery(slang)/to sweet talk
shmata – rag, old clothing
shmear – bribe
shmootz – dirt
shnorrer – A beggar who makes pretensions to respectability; moocher; a
parasite, but always with resourcefulness in getting money from others
as though it was his own.
shoah – the holocaust
shpilkes – Lit. needles – nervousness, hyperactivity
shtetl – small Jewish village
shtick – routine i.e. Seinfeld has a good shtick
strudel – sweet cake made of paper-thin dough rolled up with various
fillings (usually fruit and nuts) and baked
shvitz bod – steam bath
shtup – push, shove/vulgar for sexual intercourse
shul/shule – synagogue
shvais – perspiration (noun)
shvitz – sweat
siddur – prayer book
shtreimel – a black fur hat worn by Chassid men.
szhlob/zhlub – moron
tallis/tallit – prayer shawl
Tanach – the whole Bible
tanta – aunt
tashlikh/tashlich – Ceremony of the casting off of sins on the Jewish
tateleh – little darling
tefillin – Leather cubes containing scriptural texts inscribed on
parchment; they are a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. Worn
during morning prayers by males over thirteen years old.
tei-yerinkeh – sweetheart/dearest
toches-lecker – A person who will do anything to gain favor/a*s kisser!
toochie/toches – buttocks, behind, fanny
Torah – The 5 books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Levitucus, Deuteronomy,
traif – not kosher
tsheinik , see haken a tsheinik
tsooris/tsuris – troubles/misery
tut mir hanoeh – it gives me pleasure (also used sarcastically)
tut vai dos harats – heartbroken
tzimmes – a carrot based side dish, a big deal
um-be-rufen – unqualified, uncalled for/G-d forbid/a deprecation to
ward off evil
utz – to goad/to needle
Vat? – What?
Ve gates – How goes?
vey/vai – woe, pain; usually appears as “oy vey”
yarmulke – skull cap, kipah
yartzeit – Anniversary of the day of death of parents or other
relatives/yearly remembrance of the dead.
yenta – busybody/one who gossips
yeshiva – religious school
Yid , Jew (pl. Yiddn)
yizkor – Prayer in commemoration of the dead.
Yom Tov – holiday
zaftik – pleasantly plump and pretty/well-stacked/sensuous looking
zayde/zaide – grandfather
zei mir gezunt – Be well!
zetz – a slap
zonah – prostitute