The 10 Best Yiddish Words You’ve Never Heard Of

These Yiddish terms aren't widely known, but they're a lot of fun to use.

Shlep, tuches and oy vey are just a few of the many Yiddish words that have been incorporated into everyday American speech…so much so that their Yiddish flavor has faded a bit. Liven up your vocabulary with these 10 less familiar Yiddish terms. Fil shpass! (Have fun!)


Dreml (DREH-ml): Nap (noun)

Sample Sentence: “Classes today have worn me out — I need to cop a dreml before I do any homework.”


Unterzakhn. (OON-ter-zakhn) Literally “under-things,” unterzakhn refers to undergarments. Unterzakhn is also the title of a graphic novel by Leela Corman.

“Pull up your britches; your unterzakhn are showing!”


Kashe-Bulbe (KAH-sheh BOOL-beh): Want to expand your culinary Yiddish beyond kreplach and kugel? Kashe-Bulbe means mashed potatoes, and is more fun to say than its English equivalent.

“My mom must put a pound of butter in her kashe-bulbe, but it’s so good I don’t care!”


Malokhe (mah-LOH-kheh): This is a word borrowed from Hebrew, and it means work.

“Just one more hour of this malokhe and I get to head home!”

 ניט אזוי איי-איי-איי

Nit azoy ay-ay-ay (NEET ah-ZOY aye-aye-aye; the “ay” should be pronounced like the pronoun “I”): This phrase means ‘”not that great.”

“The band usually puts on a great performance, but last night’s show was nit azoy ay-ay-ay.”


Ringlheft (RIN-gul-heft) This is hands-down my favorite word in Yiddish. It refers to a three-ring binder and is definitely an attention-grabber.

“I often find myself wishing I still had my old Trapper Keeper ringlheft.”

 ווערען זאל פון דיר א בלינצע

Veren zol fun dir a blintsa (VEHR-en zol fun DEER ah BLIN-tseh): Yelling this at someone who cuts you off is more entertaining than using more off-color language since you’re telling the offender that they should turn into a blintz!

It’s already a sentence; use it when your buttons have been pushed too far. Make sure to put some attitude behind it! (Some self-righteous fist-shaking, perhaps?)


Zissele (ZISS-uh-leh) Use this term of endearment instead of the blander ‘”sweetie,” “sugar” or similar English words.

“Would you like the last cheese blintz, Zissele?”


Shtub-mensch (SHTOOB-mensh, with the “oo” pronounced as in “book”): The literal translation of shtub-mensch is room- or house-person, but is used to mean roommate. English already uses “mensch” to describe a good, decent person., so why not give it an upgrade?

“Even though he’s kind of cheap, my shtub-mensch is a real mensch.”


Shushkeh (SHOOSH-keh, with the “oo” pronounced as in “book”): This Yiddish word for “whisper” literally sounds like what it means.

“The museum was so quiet, you could easily hear the slightest shushkeh from two rooms away.”


Discover More

The History of Yiddish

Yiddish originated in Germany, but was eventually spoken by Jews all over Europe.

Yiddish: What You Should Know

An overview of the grammar — and the many ways this Jewish language differs from Hebrew.

Five Yiddish Films You Can Stream Right Now for Free

A sampler of Yiddish films (with English subtitles) on the Internet.