Word of the day: kvell

On Twitter today, Neil Gaiman posted this:

Neil Gaiman using the verb kvell on Twitter
Neil Gaiman using the verb kvell on Twitter

The verb kvell was unfamiliar to me. The dictionaries revealed that it is, unsurprisingly, of Yiddish origin, related to the German verb quellen, which can mean several things, among which well up. The OED’s notes it as “US slang” and gives the definition as “[ad. Yiddish kveln, ad. G. quellen to gush, well up.] ” while the dictionary that comes with OS X, which is based on the New Oxford American Dictionary, has “feel happy and proud”. The word is also on Wikipedia’s very useful List of English words of Yiddish origin (“to feel delighted and proud to the point of tears”)

So Neil was overjoyed to the point of tearing up about Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie figuring on the National Portrait Gallery’s picture of the month.

A beautiful word, which I’m sure to keep in mind.

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5 thoughts on “Word of the day: kvell”

  1. someone proporting to be involved with linguistics not knowing kvell? A shande.

  2. Well, given the number of word anyone, involved with linguistics or not, doesn’t know will always be higher than the number of words they know, maybe the amount of shame required can be kept low.

  3. I was taught at Brandeis that it meant “to rock back and forth in happiness, to have the sun coming up inside you.” The antonym is “plotz,” to just die all over the floor.

  4. When you hear “kvell,” think of a mother listening to her son giving a recital at Carnegie Hall. *That*’s kvelling.

  5. kvell to me has a sound of Welling up, filling up…and risking spilling over. one of my favorites

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