Printable Version
Pronunciation: shmêk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A blighter, cad, bounder, churl, rat fink, jerk, rotter. 2. Doofus, knucklehead, nitwit, blockhead, goofball, dork, dope, nincompoop.

Notes: Here is a word that English has polished up from its vulgar origins to a word appropriate for all occasions. It comes with an adjective, schmucky, which opens the door for an adverb, schmuckily and schmuckiness, neither of which my spellchecker likes.

In Play: The first sense of today's word can be taken as rather abrasive: "Ty Kuhn can be an ornery schmuck in the boardroom." The second sense of the word is less harsh: "When Manny Shavitz gets a few drinks in him, he becomes an absolute schmuck."

Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from Yiddish shmok "contemptible, foolish person; the 'family jewels'. Most etymologies list its source as Polish smok "dragon", though the spelling is a bit off. The use of 'family jewels' in this sense is strictly American and shmok entered Yiddish years before. American Yiddish speakers iseem to have altered the spelling and pronunciation under the influence of the German word Schmuck "jewelry", If Schmuck is involved, it is related to English smock, from the same source as Old German schmücken "to wind, twist, dress" (today it means "to bedeck, decorate"). That would make its origin the PIE word (s)meuk- "slide, slip(ery)", source of Latin mucus, Lituanian smukti "slip down", Czech smeknout "slip, take off", and Latvian smudzis "smudge". (Now let's thank Monica Freund for finding this gem of a German Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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