nebbish

Definitions

  • noun: nerdy, clumsy, awkward person. "An innocuous, ineffectual, weak, helpless, or hapless unfortunate" (Rosten)

Example Sentences

  • "Of course if she's really fallen for that nebbish, she won't listen to a thing you say." (Marge Piercy, Braided Lives)
  • "In that fancy restaurant, they gave him the table next to the bathroom and he didn't say anything. That nebbish!" (JPS, p. 110)

Languages of Origin

Yiddish

Etymology

נעבעך nebekh

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

Regions

North America

Dictionaries

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).
The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, by Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic, (Philadelphia, 2001).
Dictionary of Jewish Usage: A Popular Guide to the Use of Jewish Terms, by Sol Steinmetz (Lanham, MD, 2005).

Notes

While this word may be borrowed from Western Yiddish "nebish" (Steinmetz, p. 182), it also possible that it is Eastern Yiddish "nebekh," which underwent sound change in English.

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