Schmuck versus putz

  • Schmuck is a name for someone who is mean, foolish, or inept. Synonyms include jerk and idiot. There is a pejorative connotation to the term. The plural is schmucks.


    Putz is even less formal than schmuck. Putz can be either a noun or a verb. As a noun it describes a person as foolish or without value, usually someone who does not contribute to society or a family. The plural is putzes.

    As a verb, it is the action of doing things that are time consuming without being worthwhile. In other words, activities that a putz would do.


    Even though they don’t seem similar, putz and schmuck share the same meaning in Yiddish. Schmuck comes from shmok meaning penis. And putz comes from putz, which is another word for penis.

    These terms are informal and could even be called slang. They should not be used in formal writing.


    While Tom looked torn throughout the performance, and later admitted he was a “schmuck” for not snapping up the Pengam Green performer, both Rita Ora and Ricky Wilson looked stunned she had not been selected. [Wales Online]

    Meanwhile, the poor schmucks who bought shares on the public exchanges often got left holding the bag when the companies went bust. [Fusion]

    If someone has deep admiration for one person, and that one person winds up being a putz, the effect will be far more devastating. [Chicago Now]

    If there were no billion TV deals, or all the free advertising that papers and websites provide, if there were no pocket-lining endorsement deals made possible only because of the media, Lynch and those like him would not be making so much money that they can eat a six-figure fine for being post-game putzes. [Toronto Star]


    1. Dylan Martin says

      “Putz” = “dick”.

    2. Yossarian says

      The verb should be futz–you futz around in the garage, with the computer, etc.–not putz.

      • Grammarist-writer says

        Actually that comes from a different Yiddish word. It’s in the queue for posts.

      • johnnypants says

        This is what I have always believed as well. Futz means you “futz” (putter) around the garage, and your putz?
        Maybe I don’t wanna know…LoL~! :)

        I always have to contain my giggles when my neighbor/friend calls me up and tells me about her day, which is always described as “putzin’ ” around her house, as in “Oh, I’m just putzin’ “…” Too funny.

        And no. She is not the correctable type, lol…

        • Yossarian says

          Weird–I replied to this, and I don’t think I wrote anything offensive or courting deletion. Anyway, I suspect the English-language dictionaries that list “putz” as a verb are using descriptive justification (lotsa people got it wrong lotsa times). The Yiddish Dictionary online lists putz as a noun only.

      • Tired_&_Retired says

        Only a putz futzes around all day in the garage. And urologists futz around with putzes all day.

    3. A famous print ad (from the 60’s I think, for a shirt manufacturer) showed a man on a golf course standing over his ball with his putter in his hands. The headline, by a creative team conversant in Yiddish was, “Sometimes the shortest putts (read “putz”) are the hardest.”

      It was quickly cancelled once the inside joke became public. Don’t know what happened to the copywriter.

    4. I love that the article says of “putz” and “schmuck”, “These terms are informal and could even be called slang. They should not be used in formal writing.”– geez, ya think?? LOL!!!

    5. 12July1947_Clifford_Martin says

      Both are hideous Yiddish words that have no use in the English language.
      An old boss of mine used these words and offensive words like Goy, and Shiksa all the time.
      Old Cohen was a racist who hated and despised all non Jews.

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