• synonyms


or schle·mihl, shle·miel

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noun Slang.
  1. an awkward and unlucky person for whom things never turn out right.
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Origin of schlemiel

1890–95; < Yiddish shlemil < Hebrew shəlumīʾēl Shelumiel, a Biblical and Talmudic figure
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

dunce, stooge, sap, schmuck, dumbbell, idiot, nitwit, nincompoop, fool, goof, bungler, jerk, goon, dope, ninny, boob, blockhead, stupid, ignoramus, simpleton

Examples from the Web for schlemiel

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Ever since Gifkin leaves us, y'understand, we got in our cutting room one Schlemiel after another.

British Dictionary definitions for schlemiel


schlemihl or shlemiel

  1. US slang an awkward or unlucky person whose endeavours usually fail
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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

Word Origin and History for schlemiel


"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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper