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Yiddish Dictionary

Sponsored Results: Yiddish / Yiddish Dictionary



Yiddush (ייִדיש yidish or אידיש idish, literally: "Jewish") is a non-territorial Germanic language, spoken throughout the world and written with the Hebrew alphabet. It originated in the Ashkenazi culture that developed from about the 10th century in central and eastern Europe, and spread via emigration to other continents. In the earliest surviving references to it, the language is called לשון־אַשכּנז (loshn-ashkenaz = "Ashkenaz language") and טײַטש (taytsh, a variant of tiutsch, the contemporary name for the language otherwise spoken in the region, now called Middle High German; compare the modern Deutsch). In common usage, the language is called מאַמע־לשון (mame-loshn = "mother tongue"), distinguishing it from biblical Hebrew and Aramaic which are collectively termed לשון־קודש (loshn-koydesh = "holy tongue"). The term Yiddish did not become the most frequently used designation in the literature of the language until the 18th century. For a significant portion of its history it was the primary spoken language of the Ashkenazi Jews and once spanned a broad dialect continuum from "Western Yiddish" to "Eastern Yiddish". Only the Eastern dialects remain in use, differing most markedly from the Western varieties by the extensive inclusion of words of Slavic origin.

The general history and status of the Yiddish language are discussed below, with further detail provided in a series of separate articles on:

Yiddish dialects – as spoken in different regions of Europe
Yiddish morphology – the structural detail of the language
Yiddish orthography – the written representation of the language
Yiddish phonology – the elements of the spoken language
Yiddish is also used in the adjectival sense to designate attributes of Ashkenazi culture (for example, Yiddish cooking and Yiddish music).
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DIENESOHN, JACOB: By : Richard Gottheil Max Raisin

Yiddish novelist; born in Zagory (Zagaren), Russia, in 1859. He is one of the most popular Yiddish novelists of the latter half of the nineteenth century. He began to write in 1877, when he published a story called "Ha-Ne'ehabim weha-Ne'imim" or "Der Schwartzer Junger Mantshik." (The Dark Young Man). Since then Dienesohn has written many novels, almost all of which have been widely read. Among the best known of his works is his "Eben Negef" (Stumbling-Stone). In his books Dienesohn pictures the struggle among the Jews of the older and the younger generation—between the "haskalah" and hasidism. He knew well the public for which he was writing, and avoided all violent expressions in denouncing fanaticism, describing merely the sufferings of the Maskilim. His later novels treat of the same themes, but are rather sketches from Jewish life than romantic stories. Dienesohn is also the author of the "Welt-Geschichte," in Yiddish. He has in addition contributed many articles to Yiddish periodicals, and is a good Hebrew writer, his contributions to "Ha-Shahar" having won him the favorable criticism even of such writers as Smolenskin.
GOLDFADEN, ABRAHAM B. HAYYIM LIPPE: By : Joseph Jacobs Peter Wiernik

Hebrew and Yiddish poet and founder of the Yiddish drama; born at Starokonstantinov, Russia, July 12, 1840. He graduated from the rabbinical school of Jitomir in 1866. For nine years he taught in government schools, first at Simferopol and afterward at Odessa, and in 1875 went to Lemberg, where he founded "Yisrolik," a humorous weekly in Yiddish which circulated mostly in Russia, but ceased to exist six months later, when its entrance to that country was prohibited. Goldfaden then went to Czernowitz, where he established the "Bukowiner Israelitisches Volksblatt," which also had only a brief existence.

Abraham Goldfaden.

While on a visit to Jassy, Rumania, in 1876, his initial dramatic creation, "The Recruits," was put upon the first regularly organized modern Yiddish stage. It was entirely his own creation, for he himself built the stage, painted, the decorations, wrote the piece, composed the music, and instructed the actors. In 1878, when he already had a tolerably good troupe of actors, and a repertoire of fourteen pieces from his own pen, he carried his enterprise into Russia and at first established himself in the Maryinski Theater in Odessa. He conducted several very successful tours through Russia until it was forbidden by the government to continue Yiddish theaters (1883). After a few years in Rumania and Galicia he revived his theater in Warsaw for a short time, but in a German guise. In 1887 he went to New York, where he founded the "New Yorker Illustrate Zeitung," the first Yiddish illustrated periodical, and was also for some time connected with the Rumanian Opera-House of that city. He returned to Europe in 1889, and lived mostly in Paris. Since 1903 he has resided in New York.

Goldfaden's Hebrew poetry, most of which is contained in his "Zizim u-Ferahim" (Jitomir, 1865), possesses considerable merit, but it has been eclipsed by his Yiddish poetry, which, for strength of expression and for depth of true Jewish feeling, remains unrivaled. He is the most Jewish of all the Yiddish poets, and his songs, especially those contained in his popular plays, are sung by the Yiddish-speaking masses in all parts of the world. His earliest collection of Yiddish songs, "Das Yüdele," has been reprinted many times since its first appearance in 1866. But his fame rests on his dramatic productions, which number about twenty-five. The best of them, "Shulamit" and "Bar Kochba," are considered the most popular dramatic works in Yiddish. Of the others, "Shmendrik," "Die Kishufmacherin," "Die Zewei Kune Lemels," and "Dr. Almasada" deserve special mention. Most of them were reprinted many times, both in Russia and in the United States, and "Shulamit" was played with considerable success in Polish, German, and Hungarian translations.

Bibliography: Sefer Zikkaron, p. 18, Warsaw, 1890;
Ha-Meli?, No. 153;
Eisenstein, The Father of the Jewish Stage, in Jewish Comment, Nov. 1, 1901;
Hapgood, Spirit of the Ghetto, pp. 149 et seq., New York, 1902;
Wiernik, Abraham Goldfaden, in Minikes' Hebrew Holiday Papers, vol. iv., No. 33;
Jew. Chron. Oct. 13, 1899.J. P. Wi.

LINETZKI, ISAAC JOEL: By : Herman Rosenthal M. Zametkin

Russo-Yiddish humorist; born at Vinnitza Sept. 8, 1839, in which town his father, Joseph Linetzki, was a hasidic rabbi. At the age of eighteen Isaac ran away from home and went to Odessa. Thence he intended to go to Breslau to study at the rabbinical seminary, but was intercepted at the frontier by his father's fanatical friends, who forced him to return home. Linetzki then attended the rabbinical school at Jitomir (1862-63); and while there he wrote his first poems, which were published in his "Beizer Marshelik" (Odessa, 1868). Zweifel and Slonimsky took a great interest in Linetzki, who on the latter's recommendation obtained a position in the office of M. Weinstin at Kiev.

In 1866 Linetzki became a contributor to "?ol Mebasser," a Yiddish weekly published in Odessa, and in 1868 he began the publication of his famous novel "Das Polische Jüngel." The success of this work was unprecedented in Yiddish literature. Being a true account of the life of a ?asidic youth and entirely based upon actual experience, "Das Polische Jüngel" is, in the opinion of the most eminent critics, one of the best humoristic works in Yiddish (L. Wiener, "Hist. of Yiddish Literature," p. 165).

In 1875 Linetzki published at Lemberg conjointly with Goldfaden a Judæo-German weekly, "Yisrolik." In 1876-77 he published his "Pritshepe" and "Statek," and the first number of his calendar, which he continued to issue for a number of years. In the period between 1882 and 1888 he published several works, including "Amerika zi Erez Isroel"; a geography of Palestine; and translations of Lessing's "Nathan der Weise" and Grätz's "Gesch. der Juden." His "Worem Chrein," a sequel to "Das Polische Jüngel," was published as a serial in the "Jüdische Volksbibliotek" (1888, vol. i.). Shorter sketches from his pen have appeared in the "Familienfreund," in the "Hausfreund," and in the "Volksfreund."

Bibliography: Linetzki Yubileum, Odessa, 1891;
Wiener, Hist. of Yiddish Literature, New York, 1899;
Voskhod, 1884, No. 2.H. R. M. Z.

MEISACH, JOSHUA: By : Herman Rosenthal A. S. Waldstein

Russian Hebrew author; born at Sadi, government of Kovno, 1848. Meisach has written and edited over one hundred works in Yiddish and Hebrew. He began his literary career in 1861 with the weekly "Ha-Karmel," since which year he has contributed to a great number of Hebrew and Yiddish periodicals, has edited the magazine "Gan Perahim" (i.-iii., Wilna-Warsaw, 1881-93), and has written various novels, essays, etc. Among these are the following: "Ha-Emunah we-Haskalah," essays (Wilna, 1874); "Miktabim mi-Sar shel Yam," essays (Warsaw, 1885-89); "Tefah Megullah," criticisms (ib. 1886); "Bamat Yizhak," on the theater (ib. 1889); "Ozar Hadash," anecdotes and narratives from the Talmud and the Midrash, alphabetically arranged (Wilna, 1898). Meisach now (1904) resides at Warsaw.

Bibliography:Sefer Zikkaron, p. 68, Warsaw, 1888;
Lippe, Asaf ha-Mazkir he-Hadash, p. 262;
Zeitlin, Bibl. Post-Mendels. p. 235;
Ha-Yehudi, 1904, No. 46.H.
SCHLEMIHL: By : Cyrus Adler Joseph Jacobs

Popular Yiddish term for an unfortunate person. It occurs also in the form Schlimmilius ("Jüdische Volksbibliothek," vii. 80). According to Heine ("Jehuda-ben-Halevy"), it is derived from the Bible name "Shelumiel," owing to the fact that the person transfixed by the spear of Phinehas for incontinence with the Moabite woman (Num. xxv. 6) was so killed by mistake. Others derive the term from a corruption of the expression "schlimm mazzal" (unlucky star).

Many of the most popular anecdotes of the ghetto relate to the experiences of persons who, through no fault of their own, are pursued by misfortune to the end, and endure it without murmuring. They resemble in Jewish folk-tales the Gothamites or "Schildbürgers" of English and German folk-lore. Chamisso used the term as the name of the hero of his popular story, "Peter Schlemihl," but without much reference to its Jewish meaning. He may have heard the term through Itzig, the Berlin banker, to whom Heine was indebted for his interpretation of the word.

Bibliography: Chamisso, Peter Schlemihl, ed. Jacobs, Preface, p. xii., London, 1898;
D. Sanders, Deutsches Wörterbuch;
idem, Kritiken. ii. 137;
B. Felsenthal, in Geiger's Jüd. Zeit. vi. 60;
A. Wünsche, in Jüdisches Litteraturblatt, viii. 135.
Yiddish daily paper; founded in New York city June 27, 1902, by the Lebanon Printing and Publishing Company (president, H. Masliansky), with the purpose of furthering the Americanization of Russian immigrants. In each issue one page is printed in English; this page has been edited successively by Joseph Jacobs, J. de Haas, I. L. Brill, B. G. Richards, and Samuel Mason. The general editor (1904) is D. M. Hermalin. One of the principal collaborators is the Yiddish poet Morris Rosenfeld.J. S.