Yiddish proverbs and sayings

Yiddish is a historical language that has its origins in Central Europe, with historians dating it back to the ninth century. In the centuries that have followed, Yiddish has been used by Jewish people in their prominent texts, at ceremonies, and to preach sermons and deliver messages. In the present day, Yiddish is mainly spoken by Orthodox Jews and elders, but the many proverbs that have been written in centuries gone by still retaining much of their meaning and relevance to Jews all over the world.

While many of the proverbs were initially written in Yiddish, they have been widely translated into English, which enables not only Jews to take meaning from them, but people of all religions and creeds. So whether you’re celebrating an upcoming bar mitzvah or looking for inspiration for your studies or career path, Yiddish proverbs could prove inspiring and relevant to you. Many of the phrases written in Yiddish capture the promise of the human spirit, as well as the importance of following a strong moral and ethical code guided by God. They’re undeniably a great source of comfort and inspiration to many.

  • A fool says what he knows, and a wise man knows what he says.

  • A friend you have to buy; enemies you get for nothing.

  • Better a steady dime than a rare dollar.

  • One old friend is better than two new ones.

  • Let it be worse, so long as it’s a change.

  • In a beautiful apple you sometimes find a worm.

  • Ask about your neighbors, then buy the house.

  • If a link is broken, the whole chain breaks.

  • If his word were a bridge, I'd be afraid to cross it.

  • If you can’t do what you like, you must like what you can do.

  • Thieves and lovers like the dark

  • Respect is like a shadow: the more you run after it, the further it runs away.

  • A shlemiel lands on his back, and bruises his nose.

  • If Fortune calls, offer him a seat.

  • A wise man hears one word and understands two.

  • The hat is fine but the head is too small.

  • Nobody sympathizes with you quite like your loved ones.

  • What you don't see with your eyes, don't invent with your mouth.

  • A clock that stands still is better than one that goes wrong.