Faigel’s Favorites – Yiddish Expressions by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג - Ourboox.com
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Faigel’s Favorites – Yiddish Expressions

After fruitful careers as a scientist and inventor I've gone back to what I love most - writing children's books Read More
  • Joined Oct 2013
  • Published Books 1552

Mom was a great lover of Yiddish. Even though she was born in Winnipeg, she spoke Yiddish, sang in Yiddish, recited in Yiddish and breathed Yiddish. When we moved to Ottawa in the early 1950’s she helped establish the Ottawa Modern Jewish School which was a Sunday School (if you can call a Jewish school that).


Mom wanted us to get a full Jewish education so we ended up going to Hillel Academy, which taught religion and Hebrew. We learned the ins and outs of the religion together with the modern Hebrew language. Mom made a valiant effort to teach us Yiddish at home. But we weren’t all that keen at the time. And Mom was busy working and simultaneously raising four rambunctious kids.


Mom and Dad used to speak Yiddish to one another when they didn’t want us to understand. So we learned the rudiments. And of course, Mom’s many (and I mean many) Yiddishisms, which we learned to love. Here are the ones that we recall. Enjoy! I mean, why not? They’re free! And if you see one that you like, you’re welcome to use it, Gezunder heit’.


They are transliterated, the way we remember Mom pronouncing them. If you know how to write in Yiddish, feel free to help us out! And many thanks to this amazing website!



And most of all, we love you Mom. Every day without you is a great aveyda for all us sibs. Miss you and love you always, Mel, Reen, Mir and Dave.





Scroll down to see them all. After all, ‘far vos nisht’?

Avada – a fact

Aveyda – a loss

A mentsh tracht und Gott lacht – A person plans and God laughs.

abi gezunt! – You should only be healthy (sometimes “good luck on that”)

abi me lebt  – We’re doing ok (at least we’re alive)

alter kacker  – old fart

Azoy gait es! – That’s how it goes!

Baleboosteh – the lady of the house

boychik: young man

bubbeleh: sweet term for a young boy

bubbameisse: a yarn, a tall tale, apparently not connected to grandmothers.

Az och un vai! – tough to translate – that’s the way the cookie crumbles

Aroisgevorfene gelt – wasted cash (used often in our house)

Boorviss – Barefoot, as in how the cobbler walks

Chaloshes – awful, making you want to faint or throw up

chap a zetz – grab a chair, c’mon sit down

Chazzerei – garbage, junk, pig’s stuff

De shuster geit burvess – the cobbler walks barefoot

Drai mir nisht kain kop! – Don’t drive me nuts

Drek mit Leber – garbage, something valueless

Epess is epess, gurnisht is gurnisht – something is better than nothing at all

For gezunterhait! – Travel in health

Forshpeiz – Appetizer, often chopped liver

​ farshtopte kop – Absent minded (a filled head)

farshtunkeneh – Anything fishy

farpitzed –  dressed real fancy

Farblonjet – Lost, bewildered, confused

gay avek – get out of here

Gay gleich – walk straight (don’t bend over, a favorite of Bobi Regina)

Gay shlof’n – go to bed

Gay kaken oifen yam! – Get lost (go take a crap in the sea)

Geferlech – in our house, it meant terrible

Gelaimter – A clumsy person

Gelt – Money

Gelt gait tzu gelt. – Money goes to money.

Gib a shokl – get a move on (Give yourself a shake)

Grobber yung: a badmouthed, impolite person

Goggle moggle – A drink with raw eggs. I seem to recall that I had a cold and a hoarse voice before my bar mitzvah and Auntie Rochel made me one. Perhaps it worked great, but tasted lousy.

Gurnisht mit gurnisht – nothing with nothing

Haloshes – terrible, and I mean really bad

Her oyf! – bug off

Hack mir nisht kein chainik – Don’t bug me

Hartsvaitik – heartache

Ich ken haleshin – I could faint

Ich loif – I’m flying (running out to do this or that)

kaduches  – like bubkes- nothing, turns out there are a lot of expressions for nothing, or almost nothing

kein ein hora – the evil eye shouldn’t get you

kibbitz – to sit in, especially when the folks played kaluki (Polish card game)

kim shoin Shimshoin – get a move on

klutz – clumsy, awkward

And here, from nowhere at all, is one of Mom’s favorite ditties in Yiddish mit English (we have no idea why Mom used to sing it, or where it’s from)

“Tsu whom are you speaking, tsu whom

Tsu whom are you speaking, tsu whom

if you’re speaking to I’m

it’s a vaste of your time,

I’ll give you a knak, you pasgudnyak

You villain you better be dead,

I’m filling you full mit lead

Go take a hike, you big bakayk…”

a Leben oif dein kop! – Well done, a life on your head!

Lomir zach iberbeten – let’s make up (name of a song)

Mach nisht kein hoyzeck – don’t make fun (something I continue to do daily, sorry Mom, it’s in the gene pool).

Moisheh kapoyer – Someone who does everything backwards.

Nahrishkeit – foolishness


Nebbish – someone with shall we say, not much character

Nechtiker tog! – that’ll be the day.

Nisht a hin, nisht a hair – neither here nor there (a family favorite)

Synonymous with…

Nisht geshtoygen, nisht gefloygen – neither here nor there

Nisht geferlech – not so terrible

Oif tsaloches – For spite

Oyfen ganuf brent dos hittel –  Literally, the hat burns on the head of the thief.

Oiver botel – all farmished

Oysgemootshet – petered out

Oysgeputst – dressed to the teeth and beyond

paskudnyak – bastard

patsch in ponim – slap in the face

Pisk – Slang, for mouth; insultingly, it means a big mouth, loudmouth

Patchke – Fool around or “mess” with

A shayneh ponim – compliment meaning a beautiful face, usually of a woman

Shpatzir – A walk without a particular destination, often with semitchkes (sunflower seeds)

Shmutzik – Dirty, soiled

Shmutzikeh vesh – Dirty laundry

Shver tzu zein a Yid – It’s hard to be a Jew (life is tough)

Ti mir nisht kayn toyves – “Don’t do me any favours”

Toches oyfen tish! – Put up or shut up! Put your money where your mouth is.

Tsimmes – Sweet carrot compote making a big deal out of bubkes.

Tuches-lecker – ass-licker, sycophant

Ti mir a toyveh. – Do me a favor (often using sarcastically)

Ti mir nisht kain toives. – Don’t do me any favors (always used sarcastically).

Tzedrait – Scattered

Vi gaits? – How’s it going?

Vos vilste du foon mir? – What do you want from my (miserable little) existence?

Vos mainst du? – What do you mean?

Vilde chaya – a brat for a child, something worse for an adult

Vos machst a yid? – How’s it going?

Vus noch? – What else?  What then?

Yenner velt – The other world; the world to come

Yenteh – a female gossiper

Zaftik – plump, often pleasantly so

Zey mir nisht gezundt, ich for nisht kain avek  (approx. this one needs help)

Ziskeit – sweetheart, darling

shpilkes – pins and needles (now known as ADHD)

Zitsflaysh – Patience (Lit., Sitting meat) – what people with shpilkes don’t have

Zorg zich nisht! – Don’t worry!

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