word of the day

Schlimazel (Noun)

Pronunciation: [shlê-'mah-zêl]

Definition 1: A person with no luck at all, a sort of loser who magnetically attracts misfortune.

Usage 1: Today's word is almost always defined in terms of interaction between schlimazels and schlemiels. According to Leo Rosten (Hooray for Yiddish!), if a waiter spills the soup he is carrying, he is a schlemiel; the person who gets it down the neck is a schlimazel. When a schlemiel accidentally knocks over a priceless vase, he blames the nearest schlimazel. Most dictionaries will allow you to omit the [c] after [s] (shlimazel), but our spell-checkers frown on the practice.

Suggested usage: Although both these words refer to unfortunate people, they are generally used in good humor, often with sympathy attached: "The poor schlimazel had just cashed $500 in travelers checks when he was mugged." In fact, this word rarely occurs without the attribute "poor" preceding it: "One time in his life he runs a stop sign and the poor schlimazel hits a police car."

Etymology: Today's word comes from Yiddish shlimazl "bad luck, unlucky person" from an ancestor of German schlimm "bad" + Yiddish mazl "luck" from Late Hebrew mazzal "constellation, destiny." "Mazzal" came from Akkadian manzaltu, mazzatum "position of a star," the noun from the verb izuzzu "to stand." The Yiddish variant of "mazzal" is also found in mazel tov "good luck," the indispensable toast at Jewish weddings, from Mishnaic Hebrew mazzal tôb "good luck." (Today let us thank Evelyn and Morty Hershman of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for suggesting another little lexical jewel loaned to English by Yiddish. For a treasure chest of them, read the 'JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words,' always available in the Word Shop.

—Dr. Language, yourDictionary.com


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