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The word "chutzpa" (pronounced "HOOTS-pah") took root in American English towards the end of the Nineteenth Century. Originally Aramaic (don't hold me to it: I don't know whether Jesus used it; I doubt it: it's a pretty tacky word, if you ask me), it somehow sneaked into Yiddish prior to landing in the States.

It means - well ... An extreme degree of impudence; gall; ballsy obnoxiousness; in-your-face impertinence; aplomb and confidence - all at the same time. A conversation involving chutzpa would go something like this:

"You owe me twenty bucks."
"Excuse me?"
"You heard me. Pay up."
"But I don't even know you."
"Before you married your wife, she and I went out on a date, and she borrowed a twenty from me, and never paid me back."
"I've been married for twenty years."
"So what? Come on, let's not drag this out. Make with the twenty."

You get the gist. Chutzpa is very useful in a con, long or short, and invaluable in big business, or so people who are more familiar with such matters than myself have assured me on numerous occasions.

Some years ago I read an article in a magazine that was back then regarded as reputable by people who subscribed to it (I didn't - I don't believe in reputable magazines). The author of the article compared American and British English, and mentioned, very much in passing, that the Brits said "blag" instead of "chutzpa."

I don't know. Do they? Do you?

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    Blag is a verb; chutzpah is a noun. The answer to your question "No, chutzpah is not blag." A similar BrE noun would be front, but there are probably others which are closer in meaning. – Andrew Leach Nov 10 '15 at 7:44
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    The word isn't pronounced HOOTS-pah. Your story about the twenty bucks isn't an example of chutzpah. And just how and where do you figure Hebrew words made it into Yiddish? – deadrat Nov 10 '15 at 8:30
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    Instead of ranting, could you actually explain why the linked question is not a duplicate? That is, in terms of "This question asked A, but the duplicate answers B" with as many examples of A and B as possible? You might also see one of the answers which references a British English magazine and implies that a British word for chutzpah is, in fact, chutzpah. – Andrew Leach Nov 10 '15 at 10:01
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    Chutzpah is present in all dictionaries, ( it is an accepted term in English) it doesn't mean "blag" as noted (btw what's your source?) , what are you looking for, a synonym? That's are just general reference. The older questions contains enough information on the subject to answer your 'doubts'. What is still unclear to you? Usage, shades of meaning, etymology, related words? oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/chutzpah – user66974 Nov 10 '15 at 10:54
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    Chutzpah, pronounced HUTS-pah or KHOOTS-pah to rhyme with FOOTS-pah — is a wonderfully vibrant word and one of the leading contributions of Yiddish to English. OED defines it as brazen impudence, gall. If you don't like either of those, consider the (primarily BrE?) colloquial cheek. – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '15 at 14:53
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Well I'd suggest that the British historically are masters of the art of 'impudence; gall; ballsy obnoxiousness; in-your-face impertinence; aplomb and confidence' related behaviours. Historically the word would have been 'effrontery', as the OED relates:

effrontery
(ɛˈfrʌntərɪ)
Also 8 effronterie, -ary.
[ad. F. effronterie, f. effronté: see effronted.]
Shameless audacity, unblushing insolence. Also concr.
1715 M. Davies Ath. Brit. I. Pref. 28 By Printing those Orthodox Letters he gain'd the Point of making his own Effrontaries to sell the better. 1720 Welton Suffer. Son of God I. v. 100, I express my Resentment..by the superficial Effrontery..of my Brows. 1751 Smollett Per. Pic. (1779) III. lxxx. 65 The happy inheritance of impregnable effrontery. 1814 D'Israeli Quarrels Auth. (1867) 362 Both as modest in their youth as afterwards remarkable for their effrontery. 1858 Robertson Lect. ii. 58 With blasphemy and unscrupulous effrontery. Hence eˈffronterist [see -ist], nonce-wd, one who displays effrontery. 1776 Adv. Corkscrew ii. 18 He was now become a perfect effronterist.

A 'chap' (at best, but never a gentleman) would be described as having or showing 'effrontery' or more commonly these days (and curiously), 'the effrontery to...' followed by some description of the relevant behaviour or attitude. However, as suggested here, the sort of person using this expression was more likely than not to to be speaking down to the 'lower classes', or to a renegade against the norms of behaviour of the British upper class, and consequently the word 'effrontery' does not readily allow for a person to having pride in having it, or convey any sense of admiration when used in respect of others.

A slightly less pejorative word with a similar sense in British English would be 'brazen', as the OED has it:

brazen
I.brazen, a.
(ˈbreɪz(ə)n)
Forms: 1 bræsen, 2–7 brasen, 4 brassen, 4–5 brasun, 4–6 brasin, -yn, 5–6 brason, 6 brassin, 7 brassen, brazon, 6– brazen.
[OE. bræsen, f. bræs, brass; see -en1.]

  1. fig. Hardened in effrontery; shameless.
    1573 [see brazen-face 1]. 1588 T. L. To Ch. Rome (1651) 11 Seeking (after their hard and brazen progenitors) t'establish a righteousnesse..of their owne. a 1639 W. Whately Prototypes i. xix. (1640) 220 A brazen forehead, that is never a whit abashed. 1731 Swift To Gay, I knew a brazen minister of state, Who bore for twice ten years the public hate. 1853 Robertson Serm. Ser. iii. v. 70 The outcast woman whom human scorn would have hardened into brazen effrontery. 1869 Parkman Disc. Gt. West. x. (1875) 124 A rare monument of brazen mendacity.

But noting the usage sometimes concedes a more generous interpretation, as in Mary Beacock Fryer's 'More Battlefields of Canada':

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The connection between 'brazenness' and 'chutzpah' is made in William Beusay's 'Boys!: Shaping Ordinary Boys into Extraordinary Men':

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... and again in Steven Jacob's 'Rethinking Jewish Faith: The Child of a Survivor Responds':

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To conclude, one might compare the relative frequency (in Google Ngrams) of 'effrontery', 'brazenness' and 'chutzpah' firstly in British English, and then in American English:

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Someone who might be described as being arrogant, conceited and very self-assured is often accused of being cocky, it's rarely used as a compliment, whereas chutzpah, if I'm not mistaken has an almost sneaky, admiring tone. An Italian would say furbo, which means a smart sly person, one who's not afraid of bending the rules in order to escape a difficult and onerous situation.

A typical British expression is cheeky monkey, often used by an adult when addressing a rude but likeable child. A woman might say this to a man who pays her a heavy, but flattering compliment; or between two friends who gently tease each other.

Does the combination of someone who is cocky + furbo + a cheeky monkey come close to the Yiddish chutzpah? Perhaps. On the other hand, there isn't really a British equivalent, and that probably explains why the Yiddish expression has become part of the American English vernacular.

  • Wow, so the English for chutzpah is chutzpah! Thanks for pointing that out. +1 – user66974 Nov 10 '15 at 19:44
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    I like this answer, but I don't know that chutzpah is really used any more positively than balls. Sometimes something admirable takes balls (like captain Sully landing a jet in the Hudson.) Sometimes it's the balls it takes to be so rude, to overstep so blatantly - negative connotation. (Chutzpah: when a man kills both his parents and begs the court for mercy because he’s an orphan.) I've heard it both ways, more often negatively. I have no real idea where I picked up all the Yiddish phrases I know, most likely from NYC-born resident physicians in Connecticut hospitals. Not sure. – anongoodnurse Nov 10 '15 at 23:35
  • @medica you should post your comment as an answer, I didn't realize that chutzpa/h could be quite ambiguous— a mix of audacity and acting brazen. I like your comment. – Mari-Lou A Nov 10 '15 at 23:42
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    For future visitors, I answered the question title (edited by a different user):: What's a British English equivalent to "chutzpah"? and the last question (edited by a second different user): Do Brits use 'chutzpah' or something else? Both questions have since been deleted by the OP. – Mari-Lou A Nov 11 '15 at 12:02

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