10 Yiddish Words You’ll Love Using Every Day

Whether you’re kvelling or kvetching, there is no match for how well certain Yiddish words just fit the situation.

So come learn some fun Yiddish terms with us, and take pride in a rich Jewish linguistic tradition!

Yiddish is one of the most famous of Jewish languages, having been commonly spoken by most of the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Central and Eastern Europe since around the 9th century CE.

It’s derived from German, with certain linguistic influences and vocabulary from Slavic languages and Hebrew, and using the Hebrew alphabet. Though today not many Jews speak it day-to-day, outside of a few Ashkenazi Orthodox communities, Yiddish had enjoyed a rich culture before the Holocaust, and had given us secular and religious literature, theater, and many idioms and sayings.

Nonetheless, many Jews of Ashkenazi descent today take pride and interest in Yiddish, as part of their Jewish heritage and identity.

And whether your grandparents spoke Yiddish or not, there are many fun words and phrases from Yiddish that are still around in Jewish culture, that you’ll love using today!

1. Oy Vey!

You've probably heard of this one already, as it's one of the most commonly known of Jewish phrases. Use it to express surprise, dismay, disappointment, or as just a general exclamation.


2. Oy Gevalt!

Similar to "oy vey," "oy gevalt" is another fun, multi-use exclamation. Often used as a "oh no!" type of response to a disappointing situation, it can also be used ironically and is bound to add a bit of levity and humor to any inconvenience or frustration.


Express yourself with fun "oy vey" and "oy gevalt" shirts available here!


3. Kvetch

Speaking of inconvenience, much of Jewish and Yiddish culture is about openly expressing displeasure, sometimes in humorously grumbling ways. And kvetch means just that - to complain or nag.

Don't forget to call your mom - she's surely kvetching about you not calling enough!


4. Kvell

We promise not all Yiddish is about complaining! Kvell, while sounding somewhat similar to kvetch, means the opposite - to feel or express happiness and pride.

You might not know it, but your mom is kvelling about your accomplishments to all her friends!


5. Schlep

To schlep means to haul or carry something, often suggesting that item being heavy or burdensome. It can also be used as a noun to indicate an arduous or annoying journey - a real schlep.


6. Chutzpah

This is another famous Jewish word, that has also made its way to Modern Hebrew. It means audacity, bravery, or extreme self-confidence - in either a positive or humorous, "cheeky" sort of way, or as insolence in a bad way. While Israelis are often proud of their chutzpah, which they see as standing up for themselves, look for context clues to see if the word is meant positively or negatively.

Your shul (synagogue) served bagels without lox (smoked salmon)?! The chutzpah!


7. Mensch

A mensch is a person who embodies positive and admirable qualities such as integrity, honor, and honesty. Originally a male term, you may see it used for any gender today, and it can mean either a good Jew or a good person in general.


Shop "mensch" products or other cute Yiddish gifts here!


8. Yenta

This one, on the other hand, is definitely gendered, being normally used for a woman. It has traditionally referred to someone nosy or a busybody or gossip - though today it can also be used as a self-identifier and source of pride, for the sort of Jewish gal who always knows what's what.


9. A Yiddishe Mamme

You can probably guess what this phrase means - a Jewish mom! Referring to one's mother specifically as a yiddishe mamme (or sometimes transliterated as a yiddishe momme) often confers a certain level of admiration for her Jewish values and motherly qualities, and your own mom is sure to take it as a compliment.


Browse beautiful items emblazoned with "a yiddishe mamme" in Yiddish here!


10. Bubbe

Bubbe is Yiddish for grandma - and it's one of our favorite words. Using this for your own beloved grandmother evokes familiarity, love, adoration, and a connection to Jewish culture and generations of bubbes before her. Consider adding this one to your lexicon or teaching it to your kids to carry on that special tradition!



If you're looking to learn more about Jewish languages and fun Jewish phrases, check out our more comprehensive blog on Yiddishisms in the English language, as well as 10 Hebrew Slang Words You Need To Know and 10 Popular Phrases You Didn’t Know Came From the Bible.

Love Yiddish and Jewish humor? Check out our quirky Yiddish gifts as well as our entire collection of fun Jewish items from Israeli design studio Modern Shtetl!



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