I’m verkplempt: 18 everyday Yiddish words you can use in your daily life

From sunny-side up eggs to a seatbelt, here’s how to say daily objects in Yiddish
Linda Richman (Mike Myers) is a little "verklempt" (Courtesy: Saturday Night Live/Youtube)

We’ve written about essential Yiddish words and sayings like oy vay, mentsch, and klutz. We’ve written about Yiddish culture, curses, and even pick up lines.

Here are 18 Yiddish words and phrases you can use in your daily life.

Punim (face)

The word punim means “face” in Yiddish. Often, it’s used to endearingly talk about someone’s sweet face. For example: “What a punim!” or “Look at that adorable punim!” Similarly, shayna punim means “pretty face” and is often used by adoring grandparents to kvell (burst with joy and pride) over their grandchildren (check out Zoey Deutch using the word on the Tonight Show above).

Esn (eat)

Esn means “eat” in Yiddish. If you know someone who doesn’t eat much, you could use the expression zi est vi a faygele, “she eats like a little bird,” explained Rukhl Schaechter, editor of the Yiddish Forverts, the world’s only remaining Yiddish newspaper outside the Hasidic Jewish world.

Nosh (snack)

To nosh is to “snack” or have a light bite. Nosh is one of those Yiddish words the English-speaking world has adopted into it’s lexicon. The word comes from the Yiddish verb nashn, which means to eat sweets. A nasheras is a person with a sweet tooth.

Tchatchke (a knick-knack)

A tshatshke is a knick-knack – a little toy, ornament or collectible. 

“Rear-end” (tuches)

Tuches is the Yiddish word for “rear-end,” “buttocks,” “butt,” you get the idea. You might say “I slipped and fell on my tuches!”

Overwhelmed (verkplempt)

To be verklempt means that you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotion. You might be verklempt after receiving a meaningful compliment, a round of applause, or, on the other hand, at a close friend’s funeral.

Rag (schmatte)

A schmatte is literally a rag, the kind you have laying around to clean or dry your hands off in the kitchen. The word is also used to describe a piece of clothing that is poor-quality or in bad condition. Some advice a Yiddish-speaking mom might give you: “We are too poor to buy shmattes.” That is: spend money on good clothes that will last.

Dos Gesheft (store)

The Yiddish word for “the store” is dos gesheft, which also means business. If you want to ask the price of an item, you ask: vifl kost?

Metsiya (a bargain)

A metsiya is a “bargain” or a great “find” in Yiddish.  “A metsiya can be an antique table bought at a used furniture store for $30, a ticket to a Broadway hit given to you by a friend down with the flu or the wealthy bachelor who has just gotten engaged to your cousin’s daughter,” according to the Forward. When something is a great deal or a lucky find, you might say “What a metsiya!” or “That’s a real metsiya!”

Der Shpigl (mirror)

The word for “mirror” in Yiddish is der shpigl. Something that is very clean, ‘spic and span’ is shpigl reyn, explained Schaechter in this video.

Dos shpigl-ey (sunny-side up eggs)

If you want to order eggs fried sunny-side up in Yiddish, it helps to know the word for mirror, der shpigl, Schaechter said. Dos shpigl-ey is the Yiddish word for sunny-side up eggs.

Der oyto (car)

If you live in the suburbs, odds are you use der oyto, “the car” to get around. Similar to the Hebrew word for car, “otto” or the Spanish word, “auto,” in Yiddish you say der oyto. No matter what language you speak, don’t forget to wear der shitspas, “the seatbelt.” One (unorthodox) way to remember the Yiddish word for seatbelt: if you don’t wear it, sh*t happens.

Yo (yes)

“Yes” in Yiddish is simply yo or ye

Nein (no)

The word for “no” is nein.

Di levone (moon)

Next time you look up at the night sky, practice saying the Yiddish word for “moon,” di levone. If it’s a full moon, it’s di fule levone. A new moon is di naye levone. A half moon is di halbe levone

If Yiddish pronunciation is where you struggle, here’s a video of Schaechter teaching the Yiddish. Plus, she shares other ways the word moon is used in Yiddish. For example, di halbe levones (‘the half moons’) are used to describe parenthesis. 

Der gopl (fork)

In Yiddish, the word for “fork” is der gopl.

Der lefl (spoon)

A spoon in Yiddish is der lefl. A teaspoon is dos lefele, and a wooden mixing spoon is der kokhlefl, teaches Schaechter. A kokhlefl also refers to someone who is always “mixing in to someone else’s business,” she explained. 

Dor meser (knife)

Dor meser is the word for “knife” in Yiddish. A chopping knife is dos hakmeser. “Another kind of knife that’s used a lot among Jews is der khalef. That’s the kind of knife used by the schochet, the ritual slaughter,” said Schaechter.