Printable Version
Pronunciation: shlep Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, Noun

Meaning: 1. [Verb] To drag, haul, carry something (possibly yourself) with difficulty or unwillingly. 2. [Noun] An exhausting journey or job. 3. [Noun, offensive] A jerk, a ninny.

Notes: The C between S and H is more in keeping with the German origins of today's Good Word (see Word History), but no one will criticize you if you spell it shlep. (Tell me if they do.) Do remember that this is a verb ending on a consonant preceded by an accented (stressed) vowel. The final consonant on this type of verb doubles when you add an ending beginning with a vowel: schleps but schlepped, schlepping, schlepper (someone who schleps).

In Play: Today's word is used most often in the first sense above but here is a little story illustrating all three meanings: "Not only did I have to schlep up and down the stairs all day, I had to schlep the old furniture out and the new furniture into the house. I felt like such a schlep doing it all by myself. That was a huge schlep for one person!"

Word History: Today's Good Word, as I'm sure you are already aware, was another gift with smiles from Yiddish. Yiddish is a language based on German but substantially influenced by Hebrew and Slavic languages, especially Russian and Polish. English simply dropped the infinitive ending from Yiddish shlepn "to drag, pull", which Yiddish got from German schleppen "to pull, drag". German inherited the root of this word from Proto-Indo-European slei- "slime, slippery" with a P suffix. The same combination ended up in English as slip and as slime with an M suffix. Since things slip along when they are dragged, we can see that the change in meaning is a natural one. (It is no schlep at all to offer our gratitude to Mary Jane Stoneburg, one of the Good Word editors.)

Dr. Goodword,

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