Dont Be a SchmuckUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you know a few yiddish words, whether you realize it or not. Contrary to what many believe, Yiddish isn’t “Jewish slang.” It’s actually a language that’s still spoken in some pars of the world. It is considered to be a “High German Language” of Ashkenazi Jewish origin and was brought to America by European immigrant families. While Yiddish isn’t as widely spoken as it was during the 18th and 19th century, many of us are still familiar with the language as a result of references in popular culture and in business.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that yiddish is a mandatory prerequisite for becoming an entrepreneur. It’s not! However, I am willing to bet that you will come across the yiddish language more than once in your career and having some familiarity with the language can only help!

Without further ado, here are 10 yiddish words and phrases for entrepreneurs.


To work someone, chat them up with some kind of hidden agenda in mind.  How To Use It:  “She showed up at the New Media Expo just to schmooze with Pat Flynn, who was a potential joint-venture partner.”


The amount of courage, mettle or ardor that an individual has. However in more traditional usage, chutzpah is invariably negative. How To Use It: “He’s got some chutzpah to proclaim himself to be an ‘expert’ stock trader when he makes very little money from trading. He got rich teaching other people how to trade”


(Pronounced schpeel) – a monologue or pitch. A lengthy or extravagant speech or argument usually intended to persuade.  How To Use It:  “Our startup needs to raise some a round of funding so I’m preparing my spiel before I go talk to the VC’s and angel investors.”


To move slowly or laboriously, to make a long, pain-in-the-ass kind of trip.  How To Use It:  “These guys made me schlep all the way to a conference in Dallas and they didn’t even agree to the joint venture agreement.

Mazel Tov

Literally means “good luck” but usually used in regular conversation to mean “congratulations.”  Business application:  “You closed your recent round of funding from Sequoia Capital?  Mazel tov!”


An expert, even a self-styled one, in a very niche area.  Business application:  “You want to learn more about SEO, PPC, and online marketing?  Ask Jordan – he’s the maven!”


(a Hebrew word as well) – completely by the books, originally referring to dietary laws that religious Jews follow.  Business application:  “Ask Marketing if it’s kosher to use our partner’s logo like that.”


Often used as an insulting word for a self-made fool, but you shouldn’t use it in polite company at all, since it refers to male anatomy. Business application: “Don’t do business with those Venture Capitalists. They’re a bunch of schmucks who will screw you out of a lot of money down the road!”


A good guy – the opposite of a schmuck.  Business application:  “Michael is such a mensch. He sold his company for millions and he’s given most of it away to charity.”

Oy Vey

Exclamation of dismay, grief, or exasperation. The phrase “oy vey iz mir” means “Oh, woe is me.” “Oy gevalt!” is like oy vey, but expresses fear, shock or amazement. Business application: “Oy vey, looks like we’re going to miss our targets again this quarter!”

This post was written by Jordan Fried. Jordan is an entrepreneur who specializes in disruptive online marketing and software. He blogs about startup companies, online marketing, and VPN software at You can also follow Jordan on twitter @JordanFried

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