15 Common Yiddish Words You Need To Know

Jews love to use Yiddish words, and have been doing so for quite some time. Honestly, sometimes a Yiddish word is just necessary to get one’s point across. There are the common phrases, such as “oy vey!” and “noodge” and then the not so common ones, such as “schlimazl” and “tsetummelt.” Because it’s not always so clear which Yiddish words are a must for your vocabulary, I’m here today to break it down for you. Out of the thousands of options out there, I’ve pulled together this list of the 15 Yiddish words you need to know, what they mean* and how to use them in a sentence.

1. Bei Mir Bist Du Shayn
Definition: To me you’re beautiful
Example: “Don’t worry about putting on makeup; bei mir bist du shayn.” (Don’t be surprised if she laughs in your face when you say this, but it’s sweet nonetheless.)

2 .Bissel, Bissela
Definition: A little
Example: “I told myself I would not drink a lot tonight, just bissel bissela, because I have to wake up early for Soul Cycle tomorrow!”

3. Boychick
Definition: An affectionate term for a young boy
Example: “He’s so hot and comes from a great family, but he is constantly acting like a boychick. I’m 28, I need a MAN.”

4. Bubba
Definition: A grandmother
Example: “My bubba will roll over in her grave if I marry a non-Jew.”

5. Chutzpah
Definition: Nerve
Example: “Ugh! Such chutzpah! I can’t believe he texted instead of calling me to ask me out on our first date.”

6. Farpitzs
Definition: All dressed up
Example: “I think he’s going to propose tonight, so I’m going to get my nails and hair done and get farpitzs.”

7. Gornisht
Definition: Nothing
Example: “I can’t believe it; I took her home with me last night, and I got gornisht – not even a damn kiss!”

8. Kvell
Definition: To beam with pride and pleasure
Example: “My parents are kvelling because they think I’ve really found ‘the one.’”

9. Mensch
Definition: A person of character
Example: “At the end of the day, we all just want a mensch, someone we can take home to our parents that they’ll love.”

10. Mishpocha
Definition: Extended family
Example: “I can’t wait to meet my possible future mishpocha today, but I just hope they are ‘normal.’”

11. Nebbish
Definition: An inadequate person, a loser
Example: “I’m just not into him. I can’t really describe it, but he’s just ‘blah,’ very nebbish.’”

12. Shanda
Definition: A shame, a scandal
Example: “Can you even believe he slept with her best friend?! Oh, what a shanda!”

13. Shtup
Definition: An expression for sexual intercourse
Example: “I like him so much, and I really think tonight is going to be the first time we shtup.”

14. Ver Clempt
Definition: All choked up
Example: “He told me he loved me tonight! I couldn’t even say it back because I was so ver clempt.”

15. Yenta
Definition: A busybody
Example: “She knows everything going on with everyone; she’s such a yenta!”

As you can see, Yiddish is a great language. Heck, I wish I used these words more often than I already do! Personally, I think Yiddish is always acceptable, and I think your Bubba and Zeyde would agree.

* Definitions from sbjf.org

3 Comments
  1. It is good to know about the language from our Yiddishe mama ! Thanks to sharing with us.

  2. My German grandmother died when I was 3, but took care of me until then. She called her bedroom slippers, “feel-chore”– or that was what it sounded like. I remember her asking me to throw them down the stairs to her when she’d come inside the house. Can you think of what she was saying? There are so many words she spoke–not German, maybe Yiddish?–that I wish I could hear again and know the definition.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *