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Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary

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Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary

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Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary
By Uriel Weinreich
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
Schocken Books, 1987
ISBN: 0-8052-0575-6

Reviewed by Herbert White - February 19, 2010

When it was first published in 1967, Dr. Uriel Weinreich's Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary became an instant classic. It was, and still remains, the most comprehensive and contemporary English-Yiddish / Yiddish-English dictionary that is currently available. If you read Yiddish, or are in the process of learning Yiddish, this is an essential reference book that will provide years of service. In all, this dictionary contains more than 20,000 entries that span from literary Yiddish words and phrases to colloquial expressions. In addition, brief, yet serviceable grammar and pronunciation guides are included, as is a short guide on how to use this dictionary.

Key words are presented in bold print, and all entries include, as applicable, an English or Yiddish equivalent. Entries are listed alphabetically and notations as to what parts of speech that the key words belong to are also included. Throughout, the type face used is clear and readable, and if you read through the Guidelines for Use of the Dictionary first, you will find it quite easy to locate the words or terms that you are looking for. Weinreich uses a variety of separation symbols in this dictionary to distinguish various features of the entries. The usage guide clearly explains what all these symbols mean. The use of these symbols allowed Weinreich to condense the size of the entries, and once you understand how they are used, you'll find that they help to clarify the information proffered in the various entries.

This is an outstanding dictionary, and one that should be in the hands of anyone with an interest in Yiddish. Be aware, however, that this dictionary does not contain every word in the Yiddish language. Such a comprehensive dictionary would be massive and in most cases is unnecessary. With more than 20,000 entries, you are likely to be able to find most of the words you'll need.

Weinreich was a professor of linguistics and Atran Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture at Columbia University. Regrettably, he passed away at the tender age of forty. In his short stay on Earth, he left behind a tremendous legacy, penning not only the Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary, but also College Yiddish, a textbook that set the bar for Yiddish textbooks and which is still one of the premier textbooks used in college level Yiddish classes.

In this dictionary, all Yiddish words are written in Yiddish orthography, i.e., using the Hebrew alphabet. Transliterations of the Yiddish words are not provided. If you want to look up "Yiddish" words that you encountered in an English language book, such as Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union, you will find that a dictionary such a A Dictionary of Yiddish Slang and Idioms by Fred Kogos will be of much greater use as Kogos's dictionary presents all Yiddish words in English transliteration, rather than in Yiddish.


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