Yiddish for your Gentile (non-Jewish) friends

Since arriving at Colby in late August, I have realized I am no longer in the New York City Jewish bubble that I have been so used to for my entire life. This is not a bad thing, I am all for being surrounded by new and different people. But, I use Yiddish in my daily vocabulary, so I have been trying to figure out how to explain common terms to my gentile (non-Jewish) friends? 

First of all, what is Yiddish?

Yiddish is a mostly dead language that is a combination of Hebrew, German, Russian, and other European languages. It was more commonly spoken in the 19th and 20th centuries by European Jews. Today Yiddish is only used during casual conversation and almost solely in specific words or short phrases. I am going to attempt to demystify some common Yiddish words so that you can spice up your vocabulary or at the very least understand your Jewish friends a little better!

Common Yiddish Phrases and my translations:

Body Parts:

Keppie: head

Punim: facial expression

Tushie/Tuchas: butt

Bubbe: grandma 

Yenta: gossiper (generally a grandma)


Shiksa: an impolite name for a non-Jewish women 

Mensch: description (generally of a man) who is polite and chivalrous 

Goy: polite name for a Non-Jewish person

Schmuck and Putz: an idiot 

Food Related:

Fressing: eating throughout the day

Nosh: snacking


Shmooze: to gossip 

Schmutz: food/dirt (usually describing some sort of dirt/food on someone's face)

Schelp: dragging something around

Shpilkes: extra pent-up energy 

Kvetch: bitching about something/someone

Bupkis: Nothing 

Mishegas: a crazy person  

Oy vey: exclamation of surprise or annoyance 

Hopefully with these Yiddish basics in your back pocket you can shmooze with your favorite Jewish friends. Check out this article if you want to learn a few more phrases