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or schlemihl, shlemiel

[shluh-meel] /ʃləˈmil/
noun, Slang.
an awkward and unlucky person for whom things never turn out right.
Origin of schlemiel
1890-95; < Yiddish shlemil < Hebrew shəlumīʾēl Shelumiel, a Biblical and Talmudic figure Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for schlemihl
Historical Examples
  • I suppose he's such a schlemihl no father would ever look at him!

  • There is a haunting cold brightness about the schlemihl etchings.

    George Cruikshank W. H. Chesson
  • To his friends—if the few who were aware of his existence could be called friends—he was a schlemihl (a luckless fool).

  • Ten years after its publication a new kind of lamp, which cast no shadow, was named the schlemihl lamp.

  • I loved him, I repeat; and to this schlemihl, whom I had not seen for many a year, we owe the following sheets.

    Peter Schlemihl Adelbert von Chamisso
  • Chamisso was often pestered with questions respecting what he really meant by the story of schlemihl.

    Peter Schlemihl etc. Adelbert Chamisso
  • schlemihl” was also brought on the stage, but without giving the honours of authorship to the true source.

    Peter Schlemihl etc. Adelbert Chamisso
  • Among the characters were the grey man, and a certain Albert, probably intended for schlemihl.

    Peter Schlemihl etc. Adelbert Chamisso
  • We should take care, my dear Edward, not to expose the history of poor schlemihl to eyes unfit to look upon it.

    Peter Schlemihl etc. Adelbert Chamisso
British Dictionary definitions for schlemihl


(US, slang) an awkward or unlucky person whose endeavours usually fail
Word Origin
Yiddish, from German, after the hero of a novel by Chamisso (1781–1838)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for schlemihl



"awkward, clumsy person," 1868, from Yiddish shlemiel "bungler," from main character in A. von Chamisso's German fable "The Wonderful History of Peter Schlemihl" (1813), probably from Biblical name Shelumiel (Num. i:6), chief of the tribe of Simeon, identified with the Simeonite prince Zimri ben Salu, who was killed while committing adultery. (cf. schlemazel).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for schlemihl



A stupid person; fool; oaf; esp, a naive person often victimized: Don't talk like a schlemiel, you schlemiel/ playing the lovable schlemiel to Brooklyn Jews

[1892+; fr Yiddish shlemiel, probably fr the name of the main character in A von Chamisso's German fable The Wonderful History of Peter Schlemihl, 1813]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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