Yiddish Glossary

Definitions of Yiddish words used in Two Bubbies posts, listed alphabetically.

Just so you know: You may find the same Yiddish words spelled more than one way on this site. For example: bubby and bubbie; pipik and pupik; Chanukah and Hanukkah. This is because the Two Bubbies’ ancestors came from different regions of Eastern Europe. Yiddish was originally written in the Hebrew alphabet. It was then transliterated to the Latin alphabet (ABC…) by Jews in different regions. Each region spelled and pronounced the words a little differently. When they left their home countries, they brought their original spellings and pronunciations to their new homes. Latinized Yiddish has never been standardized. It’s no big deal. You get used to it. It adds to the flavor.

Bubby (also Bubbie)
Grandmother
Bubbie Sadie was here for tea yesterday.

Feh!
Yech! Ugh!
Exclamation of displeasure or disgust.
What did you think of the latkes? Feh!

Hamish
Cozy and homey.
They are hamish people.

Kvell
To beam with pride and pleasure.
Bubby and Zaydeh kvelled as they watched their grandkids perform in the school play.

Mishegas
Craziness, a crazy mess.
What is this mishegas?

Mishugenah
Crazy, nuts, out of your mind.
Who came up with this mishugnah idea?

Mishugener
A crazy person.
The boss is a real mishugener.

Mishpocheh
Family, the extended family.
You invited the whole mishpocheh?!

Naches
Pleasure, satidfaction, pride, joy, enjoyment.
May your grandchildren bring you naches.

Nu?
Two meanings: 1) So what? So?  and 2) Hurry up already!
Asked as a question, with raised eyebrows a touch of irony.
Nu? We’re an hour late.
You’re an hour late! Nu?

Oy vey!
Oh woe! Oh no! That’s terrible!
Originally “Oy very is mir!” Literally “Oh woe is me!”
Exclamation of surprise or dismay.
Often shortened further to “Oy!”
Oy vey! The dinner is burned!
Oy! What was that noise!?

Pipik (also Pipick or Pupik)
Belllybutton, navel
Is your pipik and innie or an outie?

Shmata
A rag.
Used to describe clothes.
You like this old shmata? I’ve had it forever.

Shpilkes
Pins and needles, a state of impatience or agitation.
I have such shpilkes that I can’t sit still.

Zaydeh
Grandfather
Zaydeh is coming to visit next week.

Yiddish-dictionary

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