Is there a Yiddish loan word to describe someone incompetent or amateurish, or who is a small-time player in a given field of endeavor? The closest I know of are general-purpose insults like shnook, shlemiel, schmuck, &c., &c., but I don't think they have the specific meaning I'm looking for.

  • Shmegegge - Yiddish term for a stupid or incompetent person. Apr 9 '16 at 12:01
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    Klutz means a physically clumsy person, but the sense is often extended to a bungler in any field of endeavour. However, I've never seen it employed for a small-time player. Apr 9 '16 at 12:34
  • @FumbleFingers Isn't a shmegegge a blowhard---sort of a pompous idiot? I'm thinking more about a video store owner trying to compete with Netflix, or a community theater actor trying to break into Broadway---someone who's in over their head.
    – crmdgn
    Apr 9 '16 at 12:46
  • @crmdgn: I just quoted the definition from Dictionary of Jewish Terms. There's also a message that seems to convey no meaning from memidex, among others. Words like this often have a broad spread of meanings. Apr 9 '16 at 12:54
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    I would wonder if schlimazel might fit. A chronic loser. Apr 9 '16 at 13:50

I learned (by usage-N.E. North America) that a schmendrick is a young, inexperienced, incompetent, and generally ineffectual but well-meaning person; A "babe in arms" fool; A "Mark" for a professional gambler.

"Oy (Oh, Dear!), the poor schmendrick didn't realize what he was getting into!"


The word Na'ar is used in Yiddish to describe a person who is foolish or unlearned. It is derived from Hebrew were it means a young lad.

  • Yiddish, capital y please.
    – Lambie
    Apr 27 at 16:14
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    But has it made it into the English lexicon? Apr 27 at 16:43
  • @EdwinAshworth, Not really.
    – Jacob3
    Apr 28 at 6:03
  • In that case it's inadmissible as an answer on ELU. Apr 28 at 15:53

I like meshuggana -- it may not convey exactly your meaning but it is a lovely, emphatic, almost onomatopoeic word.

From ODO:

A mad or idiotic person.

Also, see the Wictionary entry, spelt mashugana there.

  • 3
    Meshuggane specifically means insane.
    – crmdgn
    Apr 9 '16 at 15:39

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