English is a wonderful language because it can be a bit of a “catch-all” from other languages. We’ve written before about German loan words, and the next language we steal directly from is Yiddish.

Yiddish is the language spoken by Central and Eastern European Jews and derives (comes) from Hebrew, Slavic languages, and other Germanic influences. I love Yiddish words, partly because they’re so much fun to say. English borrows a bunch of words from Yiddish, so here are 10 of our favorite Yiddish words used in English:


Bagels (Yiddish: beygel) are one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods. Did you know that in order to get that distinctive crust and texture of a bagel, they’re boiled before they’re baked?

For example:

  • For special occasions, my family has bagels and lox (smoked salmon) for breakfast. They’re delicious!
  • Do you prefer to eat sweet bagels or savory bagels?


If you have some chutzpah, you are daring and have guts – good or bad. It’s actually a neutral word when being used in English for being audacious (bold). In short, you’re not afraid to stand up for yourself and say what’s on your mind.

For example:

  • When he was a little boy, he had a lot of chutzpah. He was always willing to take risks and showed no fear.
  • My grandma always told me that she admired my chutzpah and my willingness to stand up for myself.


Have you experienced a computer glitch, or something that has slipped out of place? Something that hasn’t gone quite right? Then you have Yiddish to thank for the word to describe it. It’s probably related to the German word gleiten (to glide) and then altered (changed) from the German glitsch (slide, glide, slip).

For example:

  • My computer started glitching just as I was finishing up my essay. The screen started jumping around, and I couldn’t type anything at all!
  • After the movie The Matrix came out, people started talking about “a glitch in the matrix” when there seemed to be a computer glitch in real life.


A klutz is someone who can be rather clumsy (someone who trips or bumps into things) (but was also the name of a series of great craft books in the 90s). The Yiddish kluts or literally, wooden block, is translated into English into “blockhead” or compared to the Middle High German klotz (lump, ball). So the next time you trip, just shrug it off with a, “I’m such a klutz sometimes.”

For example:

  • She always bumped into things and seemed to trip over her own feet. She learned to laugh about it and blamed it on being a klutz.
  • I was never very klutzy, but recently I can’t seem to stop bumping into things.


The word for the Jewish dietary laws comes from the Hebrew kasher meaning clean, fit, and proper. However, kosher is also a new slang word in American English meaning legitimate or appropriate. As in: “Hmm…I’m not sure we can do that- is it kosher?”

For example:

  • The way he broke up with his boyfriend really wasn’t kosher. He broke up with him over text!
  • I don’t think what my company is doing is completely kosher, but it’s not up to me to make their decisions.


Do you know someone who likes to whine or complain? Then you know someone who likes to kvetch. In Yiddish, kvetshn means to squeeze or press, and in German, a quetsche is a presser or crusher.

For example:

  • He was so frustrated when he came home from work that all he wanted was a beer and a good kvetch.
  • I don’t really like her that much. She never has anything good to say. All she does is kvetch.


“You’re being a noodge!” is something I heard fairly often when I was a kid. My mom brought out this Yiddish word (from nudyen) when I was pestering or nagging her more than she would like.

For example:

  • When my boyfriend is bothering me, I call him a noodge as a joke.
  • I know I can be a bit of a noodge sometimes, but I don’t mean to be such a pest!


Have you ever schlepped something up the stairs? Then Yiddish (shlepn) and a bit of German (schleppen) have given you the word for when you’re carrying or dragging something bulky and heavy around.

For example:

  • While I’m always willing to help a friend move, I don’t like schlepping boxes up and down the stairs all day.
  • She got rid of her large suitcase in favor of a backpack. She was tired of having to schlep a large bag through the airport.


While my mom called me a noodge, my dad uses the word schmuck when talking about someone who’s kind of foolish or a jerk. Can you tell my family has some Jewish ancestry?? It’s used nowadays in a light way, but its roots are a little more vulgar. I’ll leave you to researching that on your own if you’re interested…

For example:

  • If you ever get an email from a Nigerian prince, don’t be schmuck and answer it. They’re trying to scam you!
  • We were at a bar on Friday night where some schmuck got kicked out. He was being a real jerk and kept insulting people.


This is one of the best Yiddish words used in English, but also the hardest one to spell (and pronounce!) on this list. If your grandma, for instance, has a lot of little knick-knacks and trinkets around, then you can say that she has a lot of tchotchkes. Do you collect tchotchkes?

For example:

  • I stopped collecting tchotchkes when I realized how much of a pain they are to clean. They get so dusty!
  • She liked going into antique stores to look at all the old tchotchkes for sale.

Did your favorite Yiddish words used in English make the list? Give us a shout in the comments and let us know what other languages you’d like to hear about!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Taboo words in English7 Synonyms for Being Drunk7 American English Slang Words, or these Sports Idioms used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and loves a good bagel with lox!

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