“Abi gezunt dos leben ken men zikh ale mol nemen.” Sounds nice in Yiddish, right? Translated it means roughly, “Stay healthy, because you can kill yourself later.” Yiddish is unparalleled as a darkly comic language of complaint, a way to look on the dark side of life and laugh at it. Developed out of Hebrew and German, Yiddish became its own rich lingustic culture, with a unique mode of expression all its own. Half of those expressions just happen to be insults.
From the vast array of Yiddish insults, put downs, lamentations and naughty words, here are 61 of the best, with my personal favorite phrase ever right at #25. If you have to curse someone, make sure to do it in Yiddish. It just sounds cooler.
1. Alte Makhsheyfe: An insult meaning “old witch.”
2. Alter cocker: An elderly person prone to complaint or disruption, as in a fogey, curmudgeon or old fart. (Note: You can guess what the latter word, “cocker,” more literally means.)
3. Alter trombenik: An insult similar to “old blowhard.”
4. Amoretz: A numbskull or ignoramus.
5. Beheyme: Literally translated, it means a “cow’s head” but as an insult, it means “fool.” A “kosher beheyme,” means a “trusting little cow” or a very naive individual, the kind who would let themselves be led to the slaughter
6. Bobbymyseh: Used to refer to old wives tales or other poppicock, this term simply means “Nonsense!”
7. Bupkes: Impolite, pejorative word meaning “very little” or “next to nothing, used to indicate a very small, insulting amount. (Usually the word means goat or horse stool.) If you’re expecting a big bonus you don’t get, you might kvetch about getting “bupkes!”
8. “Du farkirtst mir di yorn!”: translates to “You’ll be the death of me!”
9. Faygala: Used to refer to a male homosexual, but comes from the phrase meaning “little bird.”
10. “Feh!”: An exclamation that represents disgust, disappointment or disapproval, meant to sound like spitting. Similar to “Gah!”
11. Fercockt: Means that something is all screwed up or FUBAR.
12. Fertummelt: Mixed-up, confused, flummoxed.
13. “Gey strashe di gens”: Translates to “Go threaten the geese,” with the implication that you’re unable to threaten the speaker.
14. Gonif: Someone known to be shady or untrustworthy, a bamboozler or trickster.
15. Grepse: To burp.
16. Hok a chanik: To prattle on endlessly or be a Chatty Cathy, usually talking nonsense.
17. Hotseplots: Meaning the middle of nowhere, the sticks or “East Bufu.”
18. Kadokhes: A worthless person.
19. Kelev: An insult meaning “vicious dog.”
20. Khamer: An insult meaning “donkey.”
21. Khazer: A gluttonous person or a pig.
22. Kholerye: An insult meaning “good-for-nothing.” (Sounds like “cholera.”)
23. Khnyok: A racist or a bigot.
24. Kishka: The innards, intestines or stomach. If you were to punch someone in the kishka, you would be going right for his stomach.
25. “Lign in drerd un bakn beygl!”: A curse meaning “May you lie in the ground and bake bagels.” To explain, this curse means that you should burn in hell for all eternity and bake bagels that you may never eat.
26. Lock in kop: Means a “hole in the head.” If you don’t want something, you would say you need it like you need a “lock in kop.”
27. “Luzzem!”: “Let him go!”, “Stop bugging him!” or “Leave him alone!”
28. Macher: A schemer or social climber; an ambitious person who wants to go far in life at any cost. See: Eve Harrington, Becky Sharp.
29. Mayn bobes tam: To have a taste that’s out of date, tacky or old-fashioned. The phrase literally means “My grandmother’s taste.”
30. Megillah: A drawn out or interminable tale, a story that just won’t end. Sounds like Lucy’s last name on I Love Lucy.
31. Meesa masheena: A particularly horrifying, terrible or tragic death. If you want to curse someone with a horrible death, you would say, “a meesa mashee af deer.”
32. Meeskait: Means an “ugly little one.”
33. Momzer: A conniving or untrustworthy bastard, the kind of guy you have to keep your eyes on.
34. Moyshe kapoyer: Someone who is constantly upside-down or mixed up, always doing things the wrong way.
35. Nafka: A prostitute or “whore.”
36. Narrishkeit: Engaging in foolishness or folly.
37. “Nem Zich a vaneh!”: Translates to “Go jump in the lake!”
38. Ongepotchket: Something haphazardly thrown together at the last minute or screwed up; that which looks like a hot mess.
39. “Oy-yoy-yoy!”: A lamentation or other expression of grief and sorrow, such as in the news of someone’s passing.
40. Oysshteler: A braggart, egotist, show-off or showboat.
41. Pisher: Sounds almost like “pisser” and means “bed-wetter.” Means a inexperienced person, similar to a “newb.”
42. Plotz: To explode from anger or irritation. If someone tells you not to plotz, that means “Don’t freak out” or “Don’t have a heart attack.”
43. Potchka: To keep busy with no clear end in mind or to mess around.
44. Prostak: A vulgar, coarse, ignorant person.
45. Putz: Used to refer to a fool, someone who is easily tricked and taken for a ride.
46. Schlump: A pathetic human being.
47. Shaygets: A little rascal, like the artful Dodger from Oliver Twist. Also refers to a male gentile (non-Jew).
48. Shlemiel: Someone who is particularly useless, clueless inept and often klutzy, the type who is always running into things and knocking them over.
49. Shlimazel: A person cursed with constant bad luck and to whom bad things usually happen. If you get pooped on by a bird, you might feel like a “shlimazel,” as if karma is against you.
50. Shamatta: Means “rags,” but as in clothes, like the dress of a poor or unfashionable person.
51. Shanda: A scandal. (This is funny because the show Scandal was created by Shonda Rhimes.) If you have a “shanda fur die goy,” that means that you fuck up in front of non-Jews, thus embarrassing your entire people. This is obviously not good.
52. Shikker: A drunk or alcoholic.
53. Shmegegge: Someone who is both untalented and petty.
54. Shmendrik: A stupid jerk; someone who is thin and weak, a runt or pipsqueak; also, someone of little worth with an inflated ego.
55. Shnorrer: Someone who is always hitting you up for money, a mooch or a begger. Also connotes a cheapskate or frugal type.
56. Shpilkes: Your nerves. If you “sit on shpilkes,” that means that you are extremely nervous.
57. Shtik drek: Literally, a “shit head.”
58. Shvantz: Dick or penis.
59. Shtunk: Means not just a “stinker” but someone who stinks, as in a nasty, vile human being. Also can refer to a person who is a hot mess.
60. Tuches: Your derriere or bottom. But if you’re a “tuches lecker,” it means you’re an ass kisser or ass licker, someone who is constantly brown nosing for approval or attention.
61. “Vey is mir!”: An expression of angst, similar to “Woe is me!” Like “Oy vey!” but a lot worse. It’s Yiddish. It can always get worse.
Note: For an entire array of Yiddish phrases, check out the invaluable book, Born to Kvetch.