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I'm interested in a comprehensive resource that gives the origins of Yiddish words. I am aware that Wiktionary sometimes contains this information, but it is often sorely lacking. (For instance, I once tried to look up קשיא (kasche), and only found an Aramaic word with the same spelling there. I finally managed to, somewhat inadvertently, discover that the word was definitely probably not from German after I discovered it in a Hebrew dictionary that I was looking at out of curiosity.)

I am aware of one or two German-Yiddish dictionaries such as this one, which can be useful particularly when I can guess the German equivalent of a word I hear in a song (e.g. פרייהייט sounds and is equivalent to Freiheit) and want to confirm that it's from German. However, such resources often work in the wrong "direction" -- I cannot look up Yiddish words of which I cannot guess the meaning of -- and thus are fairly limited in utility.1 Similarly, I found this online Yiddish-English English-Yiddish dictionary, which can be useful if I know the meaning of a word but not its spelling, but it has nothing on the origins of words. So I can't figure out the origins of words via such sources without putting in more work.

Thus: are there any comprehensive resources (preferably online) that list Yiddish words and their etymologies? (For what it's worth, I can read English, French, and some German, and not much more than that.)


  1. They may also be a bit inaccurate. As a test, I searched that site for the Yiddish translation of Braut and got מיידל (Mädel): German enough, but possibly slightly inaccurate as I've seen the word used to mean "girl", and since כלה (Kalle) is a more obvious translation. The site also has the massive handicap of only giving one translation per German word.
  • Purged comments. Please discuss the on-topicness on Yiddish on Meta. – Wrzlprmft Aug 23 '15 at 17:04
  • Note: my transliterations are somewhat rough and are based on a German orthographic system. (It's somewhat easier for me to tell what שפיל is if it's transliterated as "spiel" and not as "shpil", and I wouldn't be surprised if this were the case for other people who frequent the site.) – Maroon Aug 23 '15 at 20:22
  • Be also aware that some words of German origin came into Yiddish from Modern German (פרייהייט is AFAIK one of them): the nice thing in the context of this question is that such words are often, but far not always specially marked as "Germanisms" even in regular dictionaries (like Weinreich's or Beinfeld's & Bochner's dictionaries). – har-wradim Sep 5 '17 at 17:58
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YIVO maintains a list of dictionaries available in its library, which one can assume represents a large share of all existing Yiddish dictionaries. Two of them are classified as etymological dictionaries:

Both of them are available online, but may be of limited use. The former, as a spot check revealed, does not actually contain etymological information at least for most of its entries, and the latter has never been completed. Its existing four volumes only cover words beginning with the letter aleph.

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If you already know the Yiddish word, and you know how to spell it, then Wiktionary is an excellent resource for tracing the etymology of Yiddish words.

For example, take a look at the Wiktionary page for באַשערט / bashert, a Yiddish word meaning "preordained" or "destined":

באַשערט | bashert - Wiktionary

Etymology

Past participle of באַשערן (bashern, “to preordain, destine”), from Middle High German beschern (“to preordain, destine, allot, distribute”). Cognate with German bescheren (“to allot, to give as a present”).

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