Glossary of Yiddish terms

Glossary of Yiddish terms

Use this glossary to learn the meanings of Yiddish words in the Patreon memoir series, or to brush up on the Yiddish you may already know! New words will be added as more chapters are published.


A gitn– A formal Yiddish version of hello

A kappel– Yarmulke

Baal Shem Tov– Polish Jewish mystic and healer born in 1698, regarded as the founder of Hasidic Judaism

Baales teshuva (BT)– Someone who returns to the faith

Bashefer– God, the Creator

Bashert– Predetermined; predestined partner

Bekishe– A black coat worn by Hasidic Jews, often for Shabbos and Jewish holidays

Bimhayru– Soon

Biyumaynu– “In our days”

B’meized– Something done on purpose

Bubby– Grandmother

Bubkes– Literally “little beans,” meaning absolutely nothing, nonsense, baloney!

Bucher– An unmarried boy

Chanyuk– Extremist pious person

Cheyder– A Hasidic boy’s elementary school

Chinush– Hungarian term for skinny, nice, and fit

Cholent– Traditional Jewish stew simmered overnight and eaten on Shabbos

Chumash– Bible, five books of Moses

Chutchik– At least

Chutzpah-– Insolence, cheek, audacity, or person with those traits

Dayin– Learned men

Der Blatt– A weekly Yiddish newspaper, published by Satmar Hasidim in New York City

Farchanyukt– Zealously pious; a fanatic and a misfit

Farina– Meal made of grains or starchy roots


Ferfel– A type of couscous

Frauerishe Kep– Womanly minds

Ganef– Thief

Gatke/Gatcha– Men’s long johns

Gehenom– Hell

Geredachts– Talk, idle talk

Goyishe-kup– Gentile mind (generally a term that implies a square, or a rule follower)

Goyishe velt– “Gentile world;” the expression for the secular world

Grisha– A divorcee;  carries an extremely negative connotation, like a marked woman

Gut in himel– God in heaven

Hashem Yisbaroch– Term for God

Ich veys nisht– I don’t know

Ir zugt lehavidl– You are comparing the incomparable

Kallah-maude– A woman of bridal age

Kim– Come

Kishkas– Literally “intestines,” but can be used as a figure of speech. For example, in the phrase “You are digging in my kishkas,” it means “business”; in the phrase “You took out my kishkas,” it means “insides.”

Kittel– A white robe that Jewish men traditionally wear on their wedding days, certain holy days, and finally as a burial shroud

Kofer– An apostate

Kol Isha– A woman’s voice, especially when singing; it is forbidden for a woman’s voice to be heard by any men who aren’t in her immediate family

Kollel– A married man’s study program; like the yeshiva concept but for married men

Kvitzes haderech– The belief that some holy men could miraculously travel long distances in a very short period of time; the term can also be used when someone is fast: “So you had kvitzes haderech?”

Lavaya– Funeral

Lutzy– A pathetic person; the opposite of stylish and confident

Macher– A person who gets things done; busybody

Malchus Shel Chesid– Kingdom of kindness; Orthodox Jews believe themselves to be in exile until the coming of the messiah. Therefore, a kingdom of kindness is a country that treats Jews kindly, despite them being vulnerable while in exile. 

Masmid– Studious from a young age

Meidel/Meidlech– Girl/Girls

Meshugah— Crazy

Misik— An idea; a clue

Moiredig– Extremely, wow, very

M’tur nisht– It’s not allowed

Munkatch Hasidic Sect– Hasidic sect of mostly Hungarian Jews, with large communities in Boro Park, Williamsburg, and Monsey

Mureh-shchoyra– Depressiveness, depression

Nahad– Technically a Hungarian term used by older generations to mean “would you believe it!” It expresses surprise, disbelief, or outrage.

Nebech– An unfortunate person

Nee– So, as in “So, how are you?”

Negel vasser– Observance of washing hands directly after waking up

Neshamalech– Plural of “souls;” a term of endearment

Nivul Peh– Forbidden speech

Nu– A way to call to a person, or to hurry them up, or to say “so?” As in “so, you’re coming?”

Patchy Hentelech– An expression for clapping hands, especially when babies do so

Pekele/Pekelech– A little party favor bag at special celebrations (singular and plural)

Rashi– Commentary on the Bible

Rekel– Hasidic men’s long coat, similar to a suit jacket but calf length

Schmutz– Garbage

Second Bubbe Dvoshe– An expression meaning something like “a cousin’s neighbor’s cat,” ie., someone you know through several layers of remove and don’t really know well at all

Seforim– Jewish religious texts

Seshtyt– “It is written.”

ShidduchAn arranged marriage

Shkoyach– Thanks

Shmegegi– A fool

Shmeker– Someone who considers themselves to be very stylish; can also mean potpourri

Shoyn– Already, as in “okay already”

Shtik– Gimmick

Smicha– Status of those who passed their studies and can give religious ruling

Spast nisht– It’s not appropriate

Stam– Just (as in “I am just browsing online.”)

Sukkah– Temporary shelter used for meals during Jewish fesitval of Sukkot

Tipshus– Idiocy

Tish-bekishe– Men’s long coat worn on festive occasions

Treif– Non-kosher

Tsadik– Sage

Tumene shprach– “Impure language,” referring to modern Hebrew

Vaad Hachinuch– An organization that supervises the piety of people

Veis nishtDon’t know

Velt– World

Vus machstu?–How are you?

Yetzer Horah– Evil will

Yetzer Tov– Good will

Yidden– Jews

Yiddishkeit– Jewish way of life, customs, and practices

Yingel– Boy

Yom HaChupah– “The day of the canopy,” i.e., the day of the marriage

Yu (Yuh)– Yes

Yunchy-puprikash/Yunchy-paprikaAn insult implying someone is not stylish; when something is so ugly it’s cute

Yungermanchik– Young man

Zaftig– Juicy (used to mean spicy)

Zah mir moichel– Please forgive me

Zeidy— Grandfather

Zeiskeit– Sweetie

Zeyer shayn– Very nice

Zug mir nisht– Don’t tell me

Zug nur– Say; pray tell; an expression to begin a sentence or conversation

1 Comment
  • Chaim
    Posted at 19:35h, 19 July Reply

    Meidlech is girls.

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