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Glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew Terms
Alav hasholom: May he or she rest in peace.
Aliyah: To be called up to read a portion of Torah scroll in synagogue; the immigration of Jews to Israel.
Alteh moid: Spinster.
Balbatisher: Responsible, of some consequence, having admirable traditional virtues.
Baleboss: The owner of a store, shop, establishment.
Bar Mitzvah: Religious ceremony marking coming of age of thirteen-year-old Jewish boy.
Baruch Ha-Shem: Blessed be name of the Lord - used like 'God willing'.
Bentsh: Say grace after meals.
Beshayrt: Intended (fiancé(e)).
Blintzes: Pancake, usually spread with cream cheese or, jam or strawberries rolled within a thin dough pancake.
Borsht: Beetroot soup.
Boychick: Bit of a lad; young boy.
Bris (pl. Brisses): Circumcision ceremony, performed on a boy on the eighth day after birth.
Brochehs: Prayers, blessings.
Bubbeleh: Term of endearment (like dear, pet, honey).
Bulvon: A man built like and who thinks like an ox – strong, crude and totally dumb!
Bupkes: Nothing; something trivial, worthless.
Chad gadya: A Passover song.
Challah: Braided white Sabbath bread made with egg, eaten on the Shabbes (q.v.).
Chanukah: The Festival of Lights, a Jewish festival that falls in December.
Chasid; Chassid; Chassidic: (Lit. pious) Member of an orthodox religious sect.
Chavruta: (One-to-one) learning is about discussing texts with a study partner of similar ability, embarking on an educational journey together.
Chazan: Cantor, the singer who leads synagogue services.
Chazzer: Pig, glutton.
Cholent: Potted meat and vegetables simmered overnight.
Chometz: Bread to be removed from the house prior to Passover.
Chozzerai: Junk, trash; awful food; anything disgusting or loathsome.
Chuppah: A wedding canopy.
Chutzpah: Insolence, impudence, unmitigated cheek, effrontery.
Daven(ing): Pray(ing), or lead(ing) prayers, often with strong swaying from the hips.
Dreck: (vulgar) Excrement.
Dumkop; Dummkopf: a dumbbell, a stupid person.
Eruv: Defines the boundaries of an area within which observant Jews can treat "public" spaces, shared by all the community, in the same way as "private" space at home. In practice, it means that observant Jews can carry out some normal tasks away from home during the Sabbath, such as the carrying of personal items like keys or even the pushing of a wheelchair or a pram.
Farfufket: Disoriented, befuddled.
Farmisht: Mixed up, befuddled, confused.
Flanken: The meat from the short ribs of the cow.
Flayshedik: Pertaining to kosher meat dishes.
Freig nisht, ich darf neitig pishen: Don't ask, I just have to pee.
Frum(mer): Religious person.
Gabbai: Synagogue warden.
Gantzeh megillah: Big deal (sarcastic); a long, boring story or speech.
Gatkes: Underpants, long johns.
Gay kakken af en yam: (vulgar) Go sh*t in the sea.
Gefilte fish: Fish, ground, seasoned with spices and made into balls or patties, then shaped into fishcakes and boiled or fried. Often made from carp.
Gefilter: Play on words - gefilte, filled, stuffed.
Gelilah: The person who “dresses” the torah.
Gemara: Similar to Talmud - a basic body of Jewish law / tradition.
Get: A Jewish religious divorce.
Gevalt: Exclamation of fear, terror.
Goldeneh khasseneh: 50th wedding anniversary.
Gonif: A thief, crook, swindler.
Goy; goyim (pl): Non-Jew.
Goyisher kop!: Gentile brains!
Grober: A coarse, vulgar, uncouth person.
Groisser potz: Big idiot.
Groisser sheeser: A big shot.
Hagbah: The torah “lifter”.
Haggadah: Passover prayer book.
Hamentash: A pastry stuffed with poppy seed (or prune), usually eaten at Purim.
Ha-Shem: God; literally 'The Name'. Jews consider that saying the name of God is blasphemy.
Hava Negila: Famous Israeli music.
Havdalah: Ceremony marking the end of Shabbes (q.v.).
Haymisheh: A warm and welcoming person with whom you're comfortable.
Hinten: Toches, backside.
Ich hob deer leib: I love you.
Isha: A wife.
Kabbalah: Jewish mysticism.
Kabbalat shabbat: An early evening service welcoming shabbes.
Kaddish: Mourner’s prayer.
Ketubah: Jewish marriage certificate.
Khozzer: A pig, a gluttonous person.
Kichel: Small round plain biscuit.
Kiddush: A special blessing said before a meal on Shabbes (q.v.) and festivals, and after the Shabbes synagogue service, usually including the blessing for over the wine or and bread.
Kin-a-hora: Expression used to ward of evil eye.
Kippa: Skullcap; see also yarmulka.
Knaydlach: Matzo balls served in chicken soup.
Knocker (pronounced, k’noker): A big shot, a show off.
Kol Nidre: Prayer said just before sunset on eve of Yom Kippur. The name is that of the first two words of the prayer beginning 'All our vows'.
Kol Nidre Appeal: On Kol Nidre evening in the synagogue, an appeal is made for charity, and the members make pledges but they cannot write cheques as it is forbidden to write on festivals, so they have to send the cheque subsequently.
Koorveh: Trollop, a prostitute, a woman who trades on her sexuality for money, gifts or position.
Kosher: Food that complies with the Jewish dietary religious laws, some of which can be found in Leviticus chapter XI. By extension, anything that is pure, good, whole, prepared according to Jewish dietary laws; legitimate; genuine.
Kotel: A Jewish religious site located in Jerusalem, sometimes referred to as the Wailing Wall.
Krechtz(er): Complaining and grunting and groaning and moaning all the time.
Kunyehlemel: A naïve, gullible man.
Kurveh: Same as koorveh.
Kvell(ing): To gush with pride.
Latke: Potato pancake, a sort of hash brown made from raw, grated potatoes.
Lebediker fisch: A lebediker is a lively person. Many years ago, fish merchants would shout out their fresh and tasty wares in the street as ‘lebediker fisch, lebediker fisch’.
Lechayim: A toast to life / good health.
Lobbus: Little monster, a tear-away.
Lox: Smoked salmon.
Maariv: Daily evening religious service.
Marror: Bitter herb, usually grated horseradish.
Ma Nishtana: (Why is it different?) The four questions asked during the Passover seder traditionally by the youngest child at the table who is able.
Matzo: Unleavened bread eaten during week of Passover; a matzo ball is a dumpling made from ground matzos.
Maven: An expert, an authority on the subject.
Mazeltov: Congratulations; good luck.
Mechuleh: Gone bust, finished unsuccessfully, ended unhappily, destroyed.
Mekheiyeh: A pleasure.
Mensh: Man of fine qualities, a real man.
Meshugga: Crazy, mad.
Meshugganah: Crazy, mad person.
Mezuzah: A passage from the Torah written on a small piece of parchment and placed inside a wooden or metal case that is attached to the doorpost of a Jewish home. It is customary for Orthodox Jews to touch the mezuzah, then to put their fingers to their lips, each time they pass the doorpost.
Milchedik: Pertaining to kosher dairy foods.
Mincha: Daily afternoon religious service.
Minyan: The quorum of ten men required for holding public prayers.
Mishegass: Madness, absurdity. The abstract noun from 'meshugga' (q.v.).
Mishpocheh: The entire family network of relatives by blood or marriage.
Mitzvah: Good deed.
Mohel, moil: The religious man who performs ritual circumcisions according to rabbinic regulations and customs.
Momzer: A bastard.
Naches: Pride, pleasure, good fortune.
Nu: Well? So?
Nu, ess' dreck: So, eat sh*t
Obber meer hobben for das a shickser: But for me, for this I have a shiksa.
Oy: Exclamation to denote pain, rapture, awe, astonishment, surprise, delight.
Oy gevalt: Exclamation to denote fear, terror, astonishment.
Oy vay [iz meer]: Oh, woe is me!
Parekh: A good for nothing lowlife.
Passover: Jewish festival commemorating liberation of Jews from their bondage in Egypt.
Pesach: Hebrew for Passover.
Peyess: Side curls worn by ultra orthodox males.
Pish: To urinate.
Pisher: One who urinates; an inexperienced or insignificant person.
Psak: Rabbinic ruling.
Purim: A Jewish festival.
Putz: (Vulgar) A penis.
Rebbitsen: Rabbi's wife.
Rosh Hashana: The Jewish New Year.
Saychel: Common sense.
Schlep: To drag, carry; haul, a long journey.
Schmooze: To gossip, chat up, blarney.
Seder: The traditional evening home service and meal during of Passover.
Sfirah: Short for Sfirat Ha-Omer, the Counting of the Omer, the seven weeks from end of Passover to Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, when cutting of certain kinds is forbidden.
Shabbes: The Sabbath, which lasts from sundown on Friday to sunset on Saturday.
Shadchen: A professional marriage broker.
Shakarit: Morning prayers.
Shammes: Synagogue sexton or caretaker.
Shema Yisrael: A Hebrew prayer recited three or four times daily by Orthodox Jews, and the last prayer she/he utters on her/his deathbed.
Shiddach: Match, marriage, betrothal; arranged marriage.
Shiksa: A non-Jewish woman.
Shivah: The seven-day period of mourning after a person's death.
Shlemazel: An unlucky person / clumsy oaf.
Shlemiel: A foolish person, a nincompoop; bungler.
Shlong:(Vulgar) Male organ.
Shmatta: A rag.
Shmekeleh: An inconsequential shmuck; a little penis.
Shmendrick: An inept and foolish weekling.
Shmuck: A stupid person; a penis.
Shnorrer: Cheapskate, professional beggar.
Shofar: A ram's horn blown in a synagogue during services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Sholom aleichem: Hebrew for 'peace be unto you'. Used as a greeting like 'hello' or 'goodbye'.
Shtetl: Jewish village community in Eastern Europe.
Shtick dreck: A piece of sh*t, someone cheap, shoddy, useless.
Shtook: In real trouble.
Shtoom: Keep quiet.
Shtup, shtupping: Vulgar Yiddish term for having sex.
Shyster: Unscrupulous person.
Siddur: The daily and Sabbath prayer book.
Simcha: A joyous celebration.
Smicha: Rabbinical ordination.
Tallis: A prayer shawl, usually in white silk with fringes, and worn over clothes.
Talmud: A massive compilation of writing that forms the basic body of Jewish laws and traditions.
Tefillin: Two small, black leather boxes with straps attached, that contain passages of Hebrew script. The boxes are strapped on (one on the head and one on the arm) by Orthodox Jewish men each weekday morning.
Tisha B'av: A Jewish day of fasting and mourning.
Toches: The rear end, bottom, buttocks.
Torah: The Five Books of Moses, or the scroll containing them and read in the synagogue; it can also imply all sacred Jewish literature.
Trayf: Non-kosher foods.
Tsatskelah: Cute little girl.
Tsedaka kallah: Charity for brides.
Tsimmes: A side-dish of carrots and fruit; big deal; fuss.
Tzaddekes: Righteous woman.
Tzitzit: The fringes at the corner of a prayer shawl.
Vemen barestu?: Who are you kidding?
Vos is dos?: What is this?; what’s with this?
Weenie: Frankfurter. Also slang for shlong (penis).
Weimaraner: Asilver-grey breed of dog developed originally for hunting and often used by royalty for hunting. Its coat colour led to its nickname of "the Grey Ghost" It is loyal and loving and a fearless guardian of family and territory.
Wus is?: What is the matter?
Yachna: A gossip, a busybody, a meddling, troublemaking female.
Yahrtzeit: The anniversary of someone's death.
Yarmulka: Skullcap; see also kippa.
Yekke: Jews of German decent - normally very proper and with legendary attention to detail and punctuality.
Yenta: A gossipy woman.
Yentz: Make love.
Yeshiva: A Jewish school theological college.
Yeshiva bucher: A yeshiva student; a gullible or inexperienced person.
Yiddisher kop: Someone who understands things quickly.
Yold: A chump, someone easily duped.
Yom Kippur: Jewish festival - the Day of Atonement.
Zer gut: Very good.
Zetz: Blow or punch.
Got mir helfen: May God help me.
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