The Wide World of Word Origins: More English Words Derived from Yiddish

English has borrowed many words from Yiddish, which is itself an amalgam of German, Russian, Hebrew and many other languages. Here are 15 more English words that derive from Yiddish — some of which are very common, and some of which might be less familiar to you. Looking for more Yiddish-derived words? Check out our original list of English Words Derived from Yiddish.
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Full list of words from this list:

  1. bagel
    a yeast-raised, doughnut-shaped roll with hard crust
    Mr. Pendanski returned with two cartons of orange juice and two bagels.Holes
  2. blintz
    thin pancake folded around a filling and fried or baked
    Where most versions of the blintz are heavy and dense, the Fromin’s blintzes tend to be on the lighter side, perfectly browned and with just enough cheese in the middle.Los Angeles Times (Jul 19, 2018)
    The word blintz derives from the Old Russian blinu, which then became modern Russian blinyets, meaning "little pancake." It entered English through Yiddish in 1903 and can be spelled either blintz or blintze.
  3. chutzpah
    unbelievable gall; insolence; audacity
    I was always shocked by the chutzpah, the gall of these employers, presenting such documents as freely given worker statements—and insulting our intelligence in the process.Slate (Aug 19, 2019)
  4. golem
    an artificial human that is given life by supernatural means
    Wanting to help her people, Hanna takes what she’s learned from her surreptitious reading of her husband’s Kabbalah and creates a protective spirit — a golem — who looks just like her own dead son.Los Angeles Times (Jan 31, 2019)
  5. klutz
    someone who is clumsy
    For every budding culinary genius among us, however, there will always be a kitchen klutz who bungles the recipe and burns everything to cinders.The Guardian (Jun 15, 2013)
  6. kosher
    conforming to dietary laws
    “That’s good. Your father said to tell you this is a kosher hospital, and you are to eat everything.”The Chosen
  7. latke
    a pancake made of grated potato
    As in, when making the delightful potato pancakes called latkes, start with shredded hash brown potatoes.Washington Post (Nov 27, 2018)
  8. lox
    brine-cured salmon that is lightly smoked
    The fruit was fresh, the croissant was buttery and flaky, and the bagel crisps featured a generous portion of fresh lox.Washington Post (Oct 11, 2018)
  9. maven
    one who is very skilled in or knowledgeable about a field
    Ms. Serwaa is a maven at the thrift store and prides herself on finding deals to help provide clothing and household items for her family.New York Times (Dec 15, 2018)
  10. nosh
    snack or eat lightly
    She did persuade him to get an appetizer of crawfish hush puppies, while she noshed on gnocchi.Washington Post (Dec 12, 2018)
  11. dybbuk
    (Jewish folklore) a demon that enters the body of a living person and controls that body's behavior
    The boys actually think he’s possessed, by a dybbuk in the guise of their mother’s ghost.New York Times (Feb 7, 2019)
  12. spiel
    artful or slick talk used to persuade
    Bob Presto was giving his spiel: “Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for a truly electrifying experience?”Middlesex: A Novel
  13. tchotchke
    an inexpensive showy trinket
    Six stories and 38,000 square feet hold Maisel’s catalog, as well as an archive of tchotchkes and trinkets that he’s lovingly collected for decades in thousands of drawers and filing cabinets.Los Angeles Times (Aug 15, 2019)
  14. yarmulke
    a skullcap worn by religious Jews, especially at prayer
    The players wear yarmulkes, or Jewish skullcaps, during the playing of the Israeli national anthem.Seattle Times (Mar 9, 2017)
  15. kibitz
    make unwanted and intrusive comments
    In fairness, though, it’s hard to control the urge to kibitz when so much is on the line in American politics.Washington Post (Jul 23, 2018)
Created on September 6, 2019 (updated September 23, 2019)

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