Searchable Online Version of the
Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary
Home Search Help About Pay

Guidelines for Use of the Dictionary

Arrangement of entries:
When an entry or subentry indicates several Yiddish equivalents for a single English word, the most appropriate or commonly used synonym is usually listed first; all other equally appropriate synonyms are listed thereafter.

Some of the subtleties of the different Yiddish equivalents listed have been indicated. When uncertain as to which of the synonyms is most appropriate in a given context, it is recommended that the user look them up in the print edition of the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary, or online at

Different parts of speech derived from the same root are listed in separate entries, e.g., buff, adj., buff, n., and buff, v. The most common meanings of these words are indented as subentries under the main entry.

The plural form of the noun appears following the singular form, and is separated by a comma, e.g. דער קאָפּ, קעפּ; דער פֿאַקט, ־ן, etc.

Yiddish contains many words of Hebrew-Aramaic origin, which are not usually spelled phonetically. The pronunciation of such words is given in transcription, as per the YIVO transcription system. See alphabet table here. For example, the word שבת is transcribed [ShÁBES].

  • A single transcription is indicated for a word in a given entry, and is not repeated in subsequent subentries. However, derived forms in separate entries, including prefixes and suffixes, are transcribed. For example, the main entry for the word מחלוקת has the transcription [MAKhLÓYKES], but a subentry for מחלוקתדיק will include the transcription [MAKhLÓYKESDIK] as well.
The most common unstressed vowel in Yiddish, often referred to as schwa, is for most speakers pronounced somewhere between [E] and [I]. Both Yiddish spelling and Roman transcription are inconsistent in this respect. For example, פּנים is transcribed [PÓNEM], but שבתים is transcribed [ShABÓSIM]; the schwa in בוידעם is spelled with ע, but the schwa in ספּאָדיק is spelled with י.

The suffix ־ין, used to derive feminine from masculine nouns, is pronounced [N], not [IN] - the י is silent.

Palatal consonants are not indicated in transcription. This information can be found in existing Yiddish-English dictionaries.

Words such as לחיים, תּנאָים, etc. have in other dictionaries been transcribed - based on the Yiddish spelling of the word - as [LEKhÁIM] and [TNÓIM]. This dictionary transcribes such words as [LEKhÁYEM], [TNÓYEM], and so forth, which more accurately reflects the actual pronunciation, to the best of our knowledge, in all Yiddish dialects.

Several sounds are transcribed with a lower-case h: כ/ח as [Kh], ש as [Sh], and זש as [Zh]. This is in order to distinguish the pronunciation of these sounds from words with the sound [H]. For example: [MAKhLOYKES], [KhEYShEK] and [KhEZhBM], as opposed to [OYSHARGE(NE)N], [AVEKHARGE(NE)N] and [AZHORE].

Stress is indicated for all words of more than one syllable, although most such words are stressed on the penultimate syllable.

Only one type of accent mark is used for the two main types of accents: word stress, and primary accent in a phrase, such as in the periphrastic verb ני֜שט ווערן ‘disappear.’ In longer words, for which the word stress may not be completely clear, we have indicated not just one, but two stress marks.

When a word includes a hyphen, stress marks are generally included for both elements of the word.

Most Yiddish compound words have two stresses - primary and secondary. There is no graphic distinction between primary and secondary stress; both are indicated with the same accent mark. In most cases, the primary stress falls on the first element of the compound, e.g., אַרבעטער־רינג ‘Workmen’s Circle’ or ישיבֿה־בחור ‘yeshiva student’, which were formed in Yiddish, have primary stress on the first element: [ÁRBETER], [YEShÍVE]; however, we have indicated both primary and secondary stress with the transcription [YEShÍVE-BÓKhER];

  • In compounds derived directly from Hebrew, such as כּהרף־העין ‘instantly,’ primary stress falls on the second element - here, on [ÁYEN]. Again, in such cases, we have indicated both primary and secondary stress.
  • A number of compounds have only a single stress on the second element: טאַטע־מאַ֜מע, שוואַרצע־יאָ֜ר, יונגער־מאַ֜ן, etc. In these cases, we have indicated only the primary stress.
Verbs with stressed prefixes have primary stress on the prefix; when the infinitive contains three or more syllables, including the infinitive ending, a secondary stress is indicated on the verb, e.g., אוי֜פֿרו֜דערן.

Stylistic, orthographic, orthoepic, and geographical variants:
The dictionary is generally based on American usage, rather than British or Commonwealth usage.

The user may encounter apparent inconsistencies, such as an English noun and verb, or adjective and adverb derived from the same root, yet with Yiddish equivalents based on different roots. This reflects the editors’ best evaluation of actual Yiddish usage as reflected in the literature and lexicography.

Although a number of synonyms have been included in certain glosses, the editors of the dictionary have not endeavored to give all possible Yiddish variants, whether geographical, stylistic or otherwise. A variant that is absent is not necessarily incorrect. For example, both מעגלעך and מיגלעך are acceptable. In certain main entries, both have been indicated; however, in subentries only one is indicated, for reasons of practicality and space.

The dictionary gives סע as the equivalent of the English it preceding a verb. This should not be understood to mean that the variants עס or ס׳ are incorrect – all three are acceptable before a verb, whereas following a verb, only עס is correct. Likewise, מע before a verb is preferable to מען, although both are correct - following a verb, מען is required.

The dictionary prefers the negation נישט; ניט is correct as well.

The variants בלאָ/בלוי, גראָ/גרוי, מילך/מילעך are, again, indicated in main entries, but not in subsequent subentries. A longer list of such spelling variants can be found in The Standardized Yiddish Orthography.

General grammatical information:
While the dictionary does provide much grammatical information, certain grammatical details have not been included, e.g., past participles are not listed. Such information is readily available in Yiddish grammars and other Yiddish dictionaries.

The dictionary has aimed for idiomatic equivalence rather than grammatical equivalence. For example, English adjectival phrases often have Yiddish equivalents with verbal or nominal constructions. By way of illustration, although the adjective “absent” is indicated by the adjectival equivalent פֿע֜לנדיק, the expression “be absent” is indicated by the more idiomatic verbal expressions: נישט (בײַ)זײַן and פֿעלן.

Gender of nouns is indicated by the article: דער (masculine), די (feminine), דאָס (neuter).

Proper nouns and those that can be considered proper appear with a definite article, but this article is generally not used. For example: דאָס ייִ֜דיש. (See also paragraph 9 Place Names below.)

The symbol (–) following a noun indicates a zero plural ending, i.e., singular and plural are identical.

Words of Hebrew origin that end in ה drop the ה in the plural, e.g., מזוזה, מזוזות; ביצה, ביצים. In the dictionary, this is not indicated explicitly, where the entries read, e.g., מזוזה, ־ות.

Example of an attributive adjective: דאָס פּיצינקע שטײַבעלע ‘the minute speck’ is correct, but not דאָס שטײַבעלע איז פּיצינק; a predicative adjective - דער מענטש איז ראָוי ‘this person is worthy’ is correct, but not דער ראָויער מענטש.

Gerundial adjectives ending in ־ענדיק are attributive only, and must be inflected: דאָס שפּרינגענדיקע ייִנגעלע ‘the jumping little boy,’ not דאָס ייִנגעלע איז שפּרינגענדיק.

The semelfactive, or instantaneous, aspect of verbs is formed either by the expression געבן אַ … followed by a verb stem, or by אַ … טאָן, surrounding the verb stem, e.g. זי האָט געגעבן אַ קוק or זי האָט אַ קוק געטאָן ‘she took a look.’ Regardless of which is used in a given entry, both are correct.

The infinitive ending of verbs is separated from the verb stem by a vertical line when the verb stem ends in thematic e: e.g., הוי֜דע|ן, קאַ֜טשע|ן , טענה|ן . This indicates that the e is part of the conjugation of the present tense, the past participle and the infinitive of these verbs. In all other verbs, such infinitive endings are not indicated.

Adjectival participles and gerunds are combined in one entry with their infinitives only when they have not been established as adjectives in their own right, but are merely inflected forms of the verb. Participles that have historically developed into adjectives are listed as separate entries.

The dictionary includes the names of countries, states of the United States and major world cities. It does not list all Yiddish place names. Additional information can be found in the English-Yiddish Dictionary of Place Names and in the Internet publication Yiddishland.

Use of abbreviations:
The abbreviations used in the dictionary are here.

Abbreviations referring to parts of speech are used only in cases of ambiguity.

Abbreviations that refer to case government (accusative and dative) are used only where usage is not obvious. When a verb takes the dative, or when the case governed - whether accusative or dative - is unexpected, it is indicated by the abbreviations דאַט׳ and אַק׳.

The abbreviation m./unsp. refers to masculine nouns, indicating either males or those whose gender is unspecified; they are generally paired with feminine nouns designated f., which refer specifically to females.

Use of symbols:
The slash (/) in a transcription indicates variants of the same word, such as two acceptable pronunciations - נואפֿים [NÓYEFIM/NOYÁFIM]. The slash is also used in Yiddish to indicate variant forms when included between the brackets ( ) or ‹ ›.

The angled brackets (‹ ›) indicate alternative forms within the same expression, e.g., ביסטו זענט איר ‘are you.’