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You've been speaking Yiddish. Words of the English language that you didn't know were of Yiddish origin.

By Admin | Nov,18 2014 |  | 

The fun part of a language is that it is not necessarily restricted to one language. Words are borrowed, shared, they evolve and are absorbed by other languages to do what they do the best – communicate. Interestingly enough, if French would be considered a language of love, then Yiddish would be called a language of ‘complaint’. Yiddish is a historic language that originated in Central Europe and has a mix of German-based vocabulary.


Some interesting words that have become a part of English language will surprise you. These words have gelled so well with the language, that you’ve been speaking these words, without even realising it.  


One of our favourite words is: luftmensch (noun)


Meaning: An impractical dreamer


Etymology: luft (air) + mensch (man, person) from German. 


The word may be old, but it speaks truly of our times, a section of our generation that is not concerned about practical matters like earning a living but focuses on other dreams.


Its earliest use has been documented in 1907 and it literally means ‘an airman with his head in the clouds’


Another fun word is: schlemiel also spelled as (schlemihl or schlemiel)


Meaning: An inept, clumsy person; a habitual bungler


Etymology: Shlemil is a Biblical and Talmudic figure who met an unhappy end.


A schlemiel is an apt word to describe someone who unfortunately finds himself being the cause of series of unfortunate events due to his/her clumsiness.


Want to call someone stupid in Yiddish? Try using: schmo (noun)


Meaning: A stupid, boring or obnoxious person


Etymology: It is a truncated form of Schmuck.


It can be a valuable addition to your extensive vocabulary. Use it among your peers and enjoy their bumfuzzled look.


Another word to that may interest you is: dreck (noun)


Meaning: rubbish; trash


Etymology: From Yiddish word drek meaning filth, dirt, dung.


It’s earliest documented use was in 1922. Appreciating great literature or art work is not everyone’s cup of tea, while some enjoy it, others may find it pure dreck.  


However, to end on a good note, here’s a word that does not denote complaint, instead compliments: maven (noun)


Meaning: An expert, connoisseur, or enthusiast


Etymology: From Yiddish meyvn, from Hebrew mebhin


Maven is now-a-days commonly used to characterise individuals who are skilled in their respective field, or are performing exceptionally well. So, are you a maven speller?


This article is just a glimpse of Yiddish words that are fun. A few more of them are: glitch (minor error), bupkis (worthless; absolutely nothing), schnozzle (a large nose) or even ganef (a thief, swindler or a rascal).


Do share your favourite Yiddish word that has become a part of your everyday vocabulary. 

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