Chutzpah (pronounced: ˈxʊtspə) is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The word derives from the Hebrew word hחֻצְפָּה, meaning "insolence", "audacity", and "impertinence". The modern English usage of the word has taken on a wider spectrum of meaning, however, having been popularized through vernacular use in film, literature, and television.

In Hebrew, chutzpah is used indignantly, to describe someone who has over-stepped the boundaries of accepted behavior with no shame. But in Yiddish and English, chutzpah has developed ambivalent and even positive connotations. Chutzpah can be used to express admiration for non-conformist but gutsy audacity. Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts,' presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to." In this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and a grudging admiration. In the same work Rosten also defined the term as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan." The word has also entered Polish, German and Dutch from Yiddish and is written as "hucpa" in Polish, "Chuzpe" in German and "gotspe" in Dutch. It likewise means arrogance, audacity and shamelessness.

Related terms in Hebrew are khatsuf and khatsufah, which means an "impudent man" and an "impudent woman", respectively.

Judge Alex Kozinski and Eugene Volokh in an article entitled Lawsuit Shmawsuit, note the rise in use of Yiddish words in legal opinion. They note that chutzpah has been used 231 times in legal opinions, with all but eleven of those after 1980.[1]

Peculiarly, the cognate of chutzpah in Arabic, ḥaṣāfah (حصافة), does not mean "impudence" or "cheekiness" or anything similar, but rather "sound judgment." [2]

References in popular culture

  • Alan Dershowitz entitled his bestselling book of essays Chutzpah.
  • Norman Finkelstein titled his book responding to Dershowitz's claims on Israel Beyond Chutzpah. [3]
  • Comedian Phil Silvers was known as "The King of Chutzpah."
  • The Paranoia RPG has 'Chutzpah' as one of the skills with which players can equip their characters and represents how good they are at blind assertion to avoid trouble.
  • Chutzpah! is the 9th studio album by British rock group The Wildhearts

See also


  1. Kozinski, Alex; Eugene Volokh (1993). "Lawsuit Shmawsuit". Yale Law Journal 103: 463. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  2. Wehr, Hans (1994) [1979]. J. Milton Cowan. ed. Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Urbana, Illinois: Spoken Language Services, Inc.. ISBN 0879500034. 
  3. Wiener, Jon (2005-07-11). "Giving Chutzpah New Meaning". The Nation. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Chutzpah. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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