• n. A pauper; poor person.

  • n. A person who doesn't amount to anything.

Example Sentences

  • “Him pick up a check? He’s a kabtsn." (NJY)

  • “God forbid you should even think of marrying such a kaptsn!" (NJY)

  • “'Borrowed it?' cried the shadkhn. 'Who would lend a nickel to such kaptsonim?'” (NJY)

  • "There was nothing jolly and hilarious about the destitution that lay like a curse on millions of Jews in the Yiddish‐speaking world; and it would be grotesque to speak of Sholom Aleichem's kaptsonim as 'poor and happy.' They were miserable, and knew it; but the question that haunts us historically is, why did they not disintegrate intellectually and morally? How were they able, under hideous oppression and corroding privation, under continuous starvation—the tail of a herring was a dish—to keep alive against a better day the spirit originally breathed into man? The answer lies in the self‐mockery by which they rose above their condition to see afar off the hope of the future." (source)

Languages of Origin

  • Textual Hebrew
  • Yiddish


  • Y קבצן kaptsn

    • Who Uses This

      • Older: Jews who are middle-aged and older
      • 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).

      Alternative Spellings

      kaptsen, kaptzen, kaptzn, kabtsen, kabtsn, kabtzen, kabtzn


  • Plural: kaptsonim.

Edit     Something missing from this entry? Inaccurate? Feel free to suggest an edit.