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Alternative Spellings

schlemazel, schlemosel, schlemasel, shlemazel, shlimazel, shlimazl, shlemazl, schlimazl, schlemozel, shemozzle, shlemozzle, schemozzle, shlemozel


  • Unlucky person; the constant butt of idiotic or unfortunate happenings

Example Sentences

  • "The schlemiel spilled the soup on the schlemazel."

Languages of Origin



Yiddish שלימזל 'shlimazl,' from German schlimm 'bad' and Hebrew מזל 'luck'

Who Uses This

Jews: Jews of diverse religious backgrounds and organizational involvements
Older: Jews who are middle-aged and older
Non-Jews: (words that have spread outside of Jewish networks)
Ashkenazim: Jews with Ashkenazi heritage


North America


The New Joys of Yiddish, by Leo Rosten and Lawrence Bush (New York, 2003[1968]).
Yiddish and English: A Century of Yiddish in America, by Sol Steinmetz (Tuscaloosa, 1986).
Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, by Sol Steinmetz (Lanham, MD, 2005).
The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001)


Popularized among a broad American audience through the opening theme song for the TV show Laverne and Shirley: "Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!" (

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