• "Eastern European style of instrumental music" (JPS)

Example Sentences

  • "They rock so hard. They play, like, funky klezmer music with a heavy bass." (comment on Balkan Beat Box)

Languages of Origin

Textual Hebrew, Yiddish


Heb כלי זמר kley zemer 'vessels of song' (i.e., 'instruments'), Yiddish כּלי־זמר / קלעזמער klezmer 'musician'

Who Uses This

Jews: Jews of diverse religious backgrounds and organizational involvements
Non-Jews: (words that have spread outside of Jewish networks)


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).
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).


The English meaning, referring to the genre or style of music, differs from the original Yiddish and ultimately from the Hebrew root words (see Etymology above).

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