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Yeshivish (dialect)

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Yeshivish refers to a dialect of English spoken by yeshiva students and other Jews with a strong connection to the Orthodox yeshiva world.


Only a few serious studies have been written about Yeshivish. The first is a Master's Thesis by Steven Ray Goldfarb (University of Texas at El Paso, 1979) called "A Sampling of Lexical Items in Yeshiva English." The work lists, defines, and provides examples for nearly 250 Yeshivish words and phrases. The second, more comprehensive work is Frumspeak: The First Dictionary of Yeshivish by Chaim Weiser. Weiser maintains that Yeshivish is not a pidgin, creole, or an independent language, nor is it precisely a jargon. He refers to it instead, with tongue-in-cheek, as a shprach, a Yiddish word meaning "language" or "rapport".

Linguist and Yiddishist Dovid Katz describes it in "Words on Fire: the Unfinished Story of Yiddish" as a "new dialect of English," which is "taking over as the vernacular in everyday life in some ... circles in America and elsewhere."[1]

Relation to other languages


The English variant of Yeshivish consists of grammatical irregularities borrowed from Yiddish, and a vocabulary consisting of Yiddish, Rabbinic Hebrew, and Talmudic Aramaic. The speaker will use those terms in the stead of their modern counterpart, either because of cultural affinity, or lack of the appropriate modern term.


The Yiddish variant of Yeshivish is questionable as a definition in itself, since the grammar remains identical to that of Yiddish. It may be argued that the Yiddish variant of Yeshivish is a new phenomenon, and consists of less Germanic terms and more Aramaic and Rabbinical Hebrew.

Yiddish as portrayed in academia concentrates on the secular and cultural variants of Yiddish, and may be attributed to the fact that YIVO, the forerunner of Yiddish as an academic study, was founded by Secular Jews who themselves were unlikely to be educated in Yeshivas and also removed by one or more generations from Yeshiva-educated speakers,

However, the "Yeshivish" dialect of Yiddish has existed for quite a few centuries among Yeshiva-educated Jews in Eastern and Central Europe. However, as a result of the Holocaust, World War II and immigration, the secular-speaking Yiddish community is very small, and is far outnumbered by Religious Yiddish-Speaking communities in New York, Antwerp, Jerusalem, B'nei Beraq and others, making the predominant contemporary Yiddish Dialect that of the Yeshivish variant.


The Yeshivish dialect of Hebrew consists of occasional Ashkenazic pronunciation and various Yiddishisms within Modern Hebrew spoken among Haredi communities in Israel. While many terms from the Talmud and Mishna exist in Modern Hebrew, their pronunciation is in line with Modern Hebrew, whereas in the Yeshivish Variant, they maintain their Ashkenazic variant.

Although there may also be Yiddishisms present in Yeshivish Hebrew, these are not distinct to the Yeshivish Dialect and can be found in mainstream Modern Hebrew as well.

Frequency of usage

Yeshivish is primarily a male spoken dialect.[2] Fathers and sons might speak Yeshivish, particularly of teenage years and above, while mothers and daughters generally do not, or they speak a milder variety of it.

Some observers predict that the English variant of Yeshivish may develop further to the point that it could become one of the historical Judeo-hybrid languages like Yiddish, Ladino or Judeo-Arabic. The Judeo-hybrid languages were spoken dialects which mixed elements of the local vernacular, Hebrew, Aramaic and Jewish religious idioms. As Yiddish was to Middle High German, Yeshivish may be to Standard American English. However, the integration of modern-day Jews with non-Jews may keep their speech from diverging as far from the standard language as it did in the past.

Distinct features


The vocabulary and grammatical structure of Yeshivish is drawn primarily from the speaker's native language (see above), although it includes scholarly jargon, primarily from the Talmud and Acharonim in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Aramaic. In many sentences however, the grammatical and lexical features of the speaker's native language is slight and sometimes even lacking altogether.

A distinguishing feature of Yeshivish is that its speakers knowingly apply highly technical and literal written language to a colloquial language and in common day usage, similar to Modern Hebrew, for example:

He caused a lot of Nezek, but L'bsof was Modeh B'miktzas and claimed he was Shogeg

Nezek in its original context refers to the Talmudic notion of Tort law, and Modeh B'miktzasrefers to partial confession of a defendant. (L'bsof means "Eventually"), Shogeg in its original context means an incident which was caused unwillingly, but was a result of partial negligence.

Despite its heavy borrowing of technical and legal terms, the above sentence would be understood clearly by speakers of Yeshivish as "He did a lot of damage, he admitted that he did it, although he claims it was accidental"

Note in the above example that Shogeg does not have the same meaning in Yeshivish as it does in its original context, wherein it implies negligence. Ones would be the correct technical term, but it may be argued that there is less preference for Ones in Yeshivish due to its meaning in Modern Hebrew of Rape.

In the English variant of Yeshivish, grammatical features of English can be entirely absent from a sentence, for example:"I left my Tallis by my seat in Shul", where the speaker replaces the English at with Yiddish bei, but uses the English spelling.


The Yeshivish speaker frequently adopts a slight English as a foreign or second language accent. The Yeshivish accent is usually of a nondescript origin and the Yeshivish speaker frequently appears as if he has a slight struggle to find the correct English word. The Yeshivish accent has been occasionally described as Eastern European mixed with Hebrew, filtered through a New York accent.


In general, the grammar of Yeshivish is English grammar. Thus, a non-Yeshivish English-speaker who hears a Yeshivish sentence will perceive a normal English sentence with unknown vocabulary words as the "ikar" (most important [part]) of the sentence. The English is used to set the sentence structure with the Yiddish, Hebrew, or Aramaic words used to fill in the blanks.

This often leads to words of non-English origin being given plurals and verb tenses inconsistent with their language of origin. Most often, the singular form of a Yeshivish noun becomes a plural by adding an "s" to it, as in English, even when the base word is not an English one. Thus, the plural of "yeshiva" is "yeshivas," not "yeshivos" or "yeshivot" (although these may be corruptions of the Hebrew plural where -os becomes -as due to its similarlity to English plurals).

Hebrew nouns ending in "-us," which in Hebrew become plural by changing the ending to "uyos," merely have an "in" added to their ending in Yeshivish. For example, the plural form of "shlichus" (mission) is "shlichusin." The plural of "Mashmaus" (implication in Mishnaic Hebrew, meaning in Modern Hebrew) is "mashmausin." Note that in Hebrew the proper form would be Shlichuyos and Mashmauyos. This may have evolved from Aramaic where "in" is added to make a noun plural, but is more likely to have come from German, through Yiddish. Verbs in past tense ("I already davened mincha.") or present ("Quiet, I'm davening.") are commonly used, even though these verbs (daven = "to pray") are not of English origin.

Some verbs, particularly those of Hebrew origin, are often treated as participles, and inflected by English auxiliary verbs, in the same way that "periphrastic verbs" are constructed in Yiddish. Thus, for example:

"He was takeh moideh that he was wrong."
"He was" puts "moideh" – "to admit" – into the third-person singular past tense, creating the present meaning of "He admitted that he was takeh (indeed, actually) wrong."
"We'll always be soimech on Rav Plony's p'sak that the eruv is kosher."
"We'll always be" puts "soimech" – "to rely" – into the first-person plural future tense, creating the present meaning of "We'll always rely upon Rabbi So-and-So's ruling that the eruv is usable."

See also


  1. Katz, Dovid. Words on Fire: the Unfinished Story of Yiddish, p 384 Basic Books, 2004.
  2. "Talmid Chachams and Tsedeykeses: Language, Learnedness, and Masculinity Among Orthodox Jews," by Sarah Bunin Benor Jewish Social Studies; Fall2004, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p 147-170.


  • Weiser, Chaim M (1995). Frumspeak: The first dictionary of Yeshivish. Northvale: Aronson. ISBN 1-56821-614-9.

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Yeshivish (dialect). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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