I lived with two Jews for about a year. I learned the following terms while I was living with them:
Note, most of this comes from Leo Rosten, and his book, The Joy of Yiddish.

  • oy (also spelled oi, pronounced 'oi): 'Oh!' Can be used in about one hundred seventy different ways, from the 'oy' that you use when you heard that a friend's new car has gotten totalled going 75 miles per hour down Interstate 405, and he's managed to come out of it with bruises, scrapes and scratches, to the 'oy' that you use when Windows just crashed on you and wiped out the work that you THOUGHT Word was autosaving.
  • vey (pronounced 'vay'): Literally, 'pain'. Mostly used in conjunction with 'oy', as in, 'oy vey!' Generally used when you've just lost your job, have found out that your radiator just exploded, or anything serious that directly affects you.
  • gevalt (also spelled gevault, pronounced: 'gev ALT') Literally, 'bad thing'. 'oy gevalt!' is when you walk into your server room to find out it's been flooded by a water main breaking, or when you find out that you have a disaster that you can't recover from.
  • ismir (pronounced 'is MEER'): 'is me' or 'is mine' or 'belongs to me'. 'oy vey ismir!' is 'oh, pain is mine!' or 'oh, I'm in pain!'. This is when you're in big trouble for something, or you're having a heart attack.
  • kibitz (also spelled kibbutz or kibbitz, pronounced 'kib ITZ'): To stick one's nose into someone else's business, to try to tell them how to do it better than they are doing it. Particularly annoying is when they're a know-it-all, but they really don't.
  • kvetch (pronounced 'k vetch', with the k separated): To complain, especially when one has no real reason to complain. Taking an example from Leo Rosten's book The Joy of Yiddish:
    A young woman was driving her grandfather through the desert, and he kept complaining, "Oy, am I thirsty! Oy, am I thirsty!" And he kept going on like this, and on and on and on and on and finally the young woman pulled off at a gas station and got him some water and Gatorade and anything else she could think of to quench his thirst. He drank some of it, and they got on the road again, and the started kvetching again: "Oy, was I thirsty. Oy, was I thirsty..."
  • mensch (also spelled mentsch, pronounced 'mensh', short e): A good person, someone to look up to, a generous person, a well-behaved person. "Be a mensch!" is often heard spoken to Jewish children just before stepping into the home hosting the family gathering.
  • yenta (pronounced like it looks): A busybody, a gossip, someone you wouldn't want to know that your house was just burgled and your priceless antique china was stolen, cuz she'd spread it all over town faster than lightning.
  • nosh (also spelled gnosh, pronounced with a short o): The act of munching on food throughout the day, instead of 2 or 3 large meals. Supposedly better for your health.
  • tuckus (also spelled tuchus, pronounced 'took us' without a break): heiny, rear-end, rump, butt. In New York winters, if you don't bundle up, you'll freeze your tuckus off.

I can't remember any more right now, but I'll add to it when I remember.