8 English Words That Come from Yiddish

I was today years old when I learned that these English words are—or come from—Yiddish. Other people who are smarter or more Jewish than me probably knew the Yiddish origins of many of them, but color me ignorant. Here’s hoping one of them surprises you as much as it did me. L’Chaim!

“Maven,” an expert or connoisseur, was first introduced in English in 1965 from the Yiddish meyvn. Its Hebrew origin is mebhin, literally “one who understands.”

“Glitz” and “glitzy,” are Yiddish for “glitter/glittery,” appearing in English in 1966. The origin of the Yiddish is the German glitzern “sparkle.”

“Tush,” as in buttocks, is a 1962 abbreviation of tochus, which is from the Yiddish tokhes. Its Hebrew origin is tahat, meaning “beneath.”

When people call heroin “smack” (originally c. 1942), that’s from the Yiddish schmeck, meaning both “a drug” and “a sniff.”

“Schmooze”—OK, I probably should have guessed this one. But it appeared in English in 1897 from the Yiddish shmuesn, meaning “to chat.” Its Hebrew origin is shemu’oth, meaning “news, rumors.”

“Bagel,” which was originally spelled beigel in 1912, is from the Yiddish beygl. It’s Old German origin is boug, meaning “ring or bracelet.” (Fun fact, in Old English, an Anglo-Saxon lord was called a beaggifa, or “ring-giver.”) The PIE root *bheug- means “to bend.”

“Glitch,” which was used in radio jargon from the 1940s and 50s, is likely from the Yiddish glitsh, meaning “a slip,” originally from the German glitschen of the same meaning.

“Drag” in the sense of “drag queen” or “to dress in drag,” might come from the Yiddish trogn, meaning “to wear.”

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