Moment's Illustrated Dictionary of Folk Yiddish
Compiled and Illustrated By Martine Schwan
Doyts. Farfetcht. Gebloizen.
These words look like Yiddish, but are they?
Not quite. These linguistic inventions have sprung forth from the personal and familial lexicons of American Jews, infused with the singsong sounds of ancestral Yiddish.
What about Yiddish lends itself to this sort of play? “Most of Yiddish humor is not jokes, per se, like anecdotes or stories,” says Michael Wex, a Yiddish scholar and author of the award-winning book Born to Kvetch. “It’s about punning and messing around with the words themselves.” Reddit user MaddingtonBear goes even further: “All of Yiddish sounds made-up, so you may as well lean into it.” Making things up, it seems, is an important part of Yiddish—or at least American Jews’ perception of it.
In the absence of an index of “fake” Yiddish words, we decided to create our very own Folk Yiddish Dictionary, composed of words from our readers and the internet. While some of our submitters know for sure that their words are their own invention, others truly believed that theirs were “actually Yiddish!” Of course, it’s possible that some of the following “fake” Yiddish words could be real, esoteric Yiddish sayings. Still, we wanted to gather them all in one place to celebrate the wacky linguistic creativity of American Jews.
This is an ongoing project, and we’ll be updating this page weekly with new contributions. If you’d like to submit your new Yiddish words and phrases, please submit them to us using this google form.
‘Bashry (buh-SHRY) · verb
Definition: To jinx
Origin: Joan Eisenstodt on Facebook
As in: I think she’s going to chant the parsha perfectly, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go prattling on about it to all her family and friends. Don’t ‘bashry!
Chadgadye (chahd-GAHD-yeh) · noun
Definition: A real jerk, an asshole
Origin: Steven Horowitz via email
As in: That chadgadye was a real gonif!
Additional notes: Steven suspects that his grandfather adapted this word from “Chad Gadya”, the well-known Passover song. Chad gadya translates to “one little goat” in Hebrew and also serves as Yiddish slang for “jail.”
Doyts (DOYTS) · noun
Definition: Little messes, such as those left behind after an impromptu craft session or a fridge cleanout buffet.
Origin: u/muscels on Reddit
As in: I can hardly move around the apartment with these doyts everywhere!
Farfetcht (fahr-FETCHT) · adjective
Definition: When something is highly unlikely to occur
Origin: u/Joe_in_Australia on Reddit
As in: I’m not sure about that candidate; all of his ideas seem farfetcht.
Additional notes: While this Yiddishized version of the English word “far-fetched” may have popped up in Joe’s family organically, it has also made its rounds in the broader Jewish community. According to Michael Wex, the word has been around for a while as a joke. Its humor, he explains, is derived from the fact that “it sounds like Yiddish, but has no Yiddish connection.”
Gebloizen (guh-BLOY-zen) · adjective
Definition: Extremely windy— the type of wind that might blow the bread crumbs right out of one’s palm during tashlich.
Origin: Steven Horowitz via email
As in: Put on your coat, it’s gebloizen outside!
P’shayn (puh-SHAYN) · noun
1) A woman who puts an excessive amount of effort into appearing beautiful
2) A woman who thinks of herself as attractive, though everyone else would disagree
Origin: Gilbert Holland via email
As in: If only that p’shayn put as much effort into her career as she does into her appearance.
Additional notes: Sheyn means “beautiful” in Yiddish, but Gilbert is unsure what the p’ prefix adds into the mix. Could it be a negation or a way of indicating sarcasm? It’s unclear. P’shayn was used frequently in the Jewish community of the small town in Texas where Gilbert grew up. He has never heard it used by anyone outside of his hometown.