Laurie Boris

writer, editor, baseball fan, reluctant chef, stand-up comic in a former life

Boychik: A Yiddish Glossary

For the uninitiated, Yiddish is a language derived in part from German, and in my family, often used by the older generation to say things they didn’t want the kids to understand. Yiddish is undergoing a revival of sorts lately, spurred on by a younger generation exploring their Jewish roots and by the Yiddish Theater. There was even a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish a couple years back in New York.) I, for one, am very glad for this revival. Doing my little bit to keep Yiddish alive is one way I connect with my ancestors. Plus, they have some creative curses, and it’s always fun to learn how to curse in another language. I do not know why. Also, spelling varies, depending on your source, because the language is phonetic. So don’t blame me if your bubbe spells it differently.

Alta cockers: old men

Babka: a type of leavened cake

Basar bechalav: against kosher law

Boychik: an endearment for a young man or male friend

Bubbe: grandmother

Chuppah: a canopy under which a Jewish couple is married

Chutzpah: nerve, daring

Davening: prayer

Ey krem: egg cream

Golem: monster

Goniff: bad guy

Goyische: not Jewish

Hadassah: an organization that raises money for various causes

Kaddish: a prayer for the dead

Kibitz: stick your two cents in

Kishkes: colloquially, guts.

Macher: big shot

Mamaleh: an endearment for mother, wife, daughter…literally “little mother.”


Megillah: the whole thing

Mishegas: craziness, shenanigans

Mishpachah: family, including extended family

Nudnik: idiot

Nu: equivalent to using “right?” or “you see?” or “you get me?” (or whatever) at the end of a sentence

Pisher: used for an annoying or insignificant person, commonly referring to irritating kids.

Plotz: faint 

Schlemiel: stupid, awkward, or unlucky person

Schlub: slob

Schmuck: exactly what you think it means

Schnorrer: freeloader

Schnozz: nose

Shayna maidel: beautiful girl

Shiva: traditional Jewish mourning ritual

Shonda: shame

Shtetl: typically an old-country village

Shul: Synagogue

Tateleh: An affectionate name for a child. Grown men do not like being called this by their mothers.

Traif: not kosher

Tuchus: butt

Yenta: gossip

Zei gezunt: go and be well (literally “go with God”)

Zayde: grandfather

Ziskeit: sweetheart

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: