shlemiel (shluh-MEEL) listen


  • n. An idiot; contemptible person.

  • n. A clumsy person.

  • n. An unlucky person.

  • n. Someone who makes a foolish bargain.

  • n. A social outcast.

  • n. A naive person.

Example Sentences

  • "He missed the bus--twice! What a shlemiel!"

  • “He has the brains of a shlemiel.” (NJY)

  • “That poor shlemiel always gets the short end of the stick.” (NJY)

  • “Why does a shlemiel like that ever try to fix anything?” (NJY)

  • “Don’t invite that shlemiel to the party.” (NJY)

Languages of Origin

  • Yiddish


  • שלומיאל shlumiel

    • 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)


      • North America
      • Great Britain
      • South Africa
      • Australia / New Zealand


      • 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).

      Alternative Spellings

      schlemiel, shlimiel, shlemeil, schlemiel, schlemeel


  • “[The 'someone who makes a foolish bargain'] usage is wide in Europe; it probably comes from Chamisso’s tale 'Peter Schlemihl’s Wunderbare Geschichte,' a fable in which the protagonist sold his shadow and, like Faust, sold his soul to Satan.” (NJY)

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