tchotchke

or chotch·ke

[ chahch-kuh ]
/ ˈtʃɑtʃ kə /

noun Slang.

an inexpensive souvenir, trinket, or ornament.

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Origin of tchotchke

First recorded in 1965–70, Americanism; from Yiddish tshatshke, from Polish czaczko “bibelot, knickknack” (now obsolete; compare modern cacko with same sense, originally dialect); of expressive origin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does tchotchke mean?

A tchotchke is a small, cheap, ornamental trinket or souvenir; a knickknack.

Tchotchke is taken from Yiddish, a dialect of German based on Hebrew. It has several English spellings, including chotchke, tchachke, and chachki. In Yiddish, it is also sometimes used as a term for a young girl or pretty woman.

Example: My mother can’t go on vacation without coming back with a few tchotchkes.

Where does tchotchke come from?

Although tchotchke is borrowed from the Yiddish term tshatshke, it comes from the obsolete Polish word czaczko, which had the same meaning. Similar terms were found in several European languages. But today tchotchke is primarily an American word. It is first recorded in English in the 1960s.

Tchotchkes typically don’t serve a function other than being something nice to look at—they’re usually made to be displayed. They’re the inexpensive, little knickknacks that clutter up desks and collect on mantels and bookshelves: the decorative trinkets they sell at gift shops, like tiny animal figurines, souvenir spoons and thimbles, and pop culture bobbleheads.

The term can trace its origin back to words that referred to “pretty little things,” and in Yiddish that sense is sometimes extended to refer to an attractive young woman, somewhat similar to the word cutie.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of tchotchke?

  • chotchke (alternate spelling)
  • tchachke (alternate spelling)
  • chachki (alternate spelling)

What are some synonyms for tchotchke?

What are some words that often get used in discussing tchotchke?

How is tchotchke used in real life?

Apart from frequently showing up in spelling bees (don’t forget that second T!), the word tchotchke is relatively common in the U.S. as a way to refer to a trinket that’s considered especially useless.

 

 

Try using tchotchke!

Which of the following things is typically considered a tchotchke?

A. souvenir snow globe
B. tiny ceramic kitten
C. superhero figurine
D. all of the above