• synonyms


or schle·mihl, shle·miel

noun Slang.
  1. an awkward and unlucky person for whom things never turn out right.
Show More

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

Examples from the Web for schlemihl

Historical Examples of schlemihl

  • I suppose he's such a Schlemihl no father would ever look at him!

    Dreamers of the Ghetto

    I. Zangwill

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for schlemihl


schlemihl or shlemiel

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

Word Origin for schlemiel

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 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).

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper