A note on the transliteration and pronunciation of Yiddish.

Much of the Yiddish that appears on this website has been transliterated according to the system of YIVO , the Yidisher Visnshaftlikher Institut. It’s the only system in general academic and scholarly use, and has been adopted by virtually all libraries that hold Yiddish-language materials. The main points to watch out for are:

1. The letter “e” at the end of a word is not silent; it’s pronounced like a very short English “e.” For example, kashe has two syllables, ka- and –she. It rhymes with Sasha.

2. The “hard” “h” sound—as in the first syllable of Chanuka—is rendered with kh. The YIVO version of the holiday comes out as khanike.

3. “Ey” in this system is pronounced like the Canadian “eh?” Kley, which means “glue”, sounds just like the English “clay.”

4. “Ay” is the same as the English long “y”. Fray, the Yiddish for “free,” sounds just like the English “fry.”

I’ve diverged from the YIVO system when using well-known Yiddish words in the English text. So Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, chutzpah and bar-mitzvah all look like this when mentioned in English. When used in Yiddish, they’re transcribed according to the rules above: rosheshone, yom kipper, khutspe, bar-mitsve.

If you need to look up words spelled with Roman characters using this system, go to the Yiddish Dictionary Online.