Utter nerve; effrontery: "has the chutzpah to claim a lock on God and morality" (New York Times).
[Yiddish khutspe, from Mishnaic Hebrew ḥuṣpâ, from ḥāṣap, to be insolent.]
Like all Yiddish words that have entered the English lexicon, chutzpah is difficult to translate yet wonderfully useful. In this case, Hillary and Bill Clinton were accused of having chutzpah (nerve, audacity) after they criticized President Bush for commuting Scooter Libby's prison sentence.
"'I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah but this is a gigantic case of it,' presidential spokesman Tony Snow said.... Bill Clinton is from the state of Arkansas. Chutzpah is the Yiddish word for brashness.... In the closing hours of his presidency, Clinton pardoned 140 people, including fugitive financier Marc Rich."
Posted July 9, 2007.
See our Word Overheard blog to see interesting uses of strange words.
- The state or quality of being impudent or arrogantly self-confident: assumption, audaciousness, audacity, boldness, brashness, brazenness, cheek, cheekiness, discourtesy, disrespect, effrontery, face, familiarity, forwardness, gall, impertinence, impudence, impudency, incivility, insolence, nerve, nerviness, overconfidence, pertness, presumptuousness, pushiness, rudeness, sassiness, sauciness. Informal brass, crust, sauce, uppishness, uppityness. See attitude/good attitude/bad attitude/neutral attitude, courtesy/discourtesy.
IN BRIEF: n. - (Yiddish) unbelievable gall.
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categories related to 'chutzpah'
- Yiddish Borrowings - chutzpah: gall, nerve, or brashness
Chutzpah (// or //) is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The Yiddish word derives from the Hebrew word ḥutspâ (חֻצְפָּה), meaning "insolence", "cheek" or "audacity". The modern English usage of the word has taken on a broader meaning, having been popularized through vernacular use in film, literature, and television. The word is sometimes interpreted—particularly in business parlance—as meaning the amount of courage, mettle or ardor that an individual has. However in more traditional usage, chutzpah has a negative connotation.
In Hebrew, chutzpah is used indignantly, to describe someone who has overstepped the boundaries of accepted behaviour. In traditional usage, the word expresses a strong sense of disapproval, condemnation and outrage.
Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts', presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to". In this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and condemnation. In the same work, Rosten also defined the term as "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan". Chutzpah amounts to a total denial of personal responsibility, that renders others speechless and incredulous ... one cannot quite believe that another person totally lacks common human traits like remorse, regret, guilt, sympathy and insight. The implication is at least some degree of psychopathy in the subject, as well as the awestruck amazement of the observer at the display.
Judge Alex Kozinski and Eugene Volokh in an article entitled Lawsuit Shmawsuit, note the rise in use of Yiddish words in legal opinion. They note that chutzpah has been used 231 times in American legal opinions, 220 of those after 1980.
In the movie Haider (2014) by Vishal Bharadwaj, a modern-day interpretation of Hamlet set against the backdrop of Kashmir in the midst of political conflict, the protagonist uses the word chutzpah which they pronounce as /'tʃʊtspə/ instead of /ˈhʊtspə/ or /ˈxʊtspə/[to describe India and Pakistan's way of treating the people of Kashmir since the beginning of the conflict. This pronunciation sounds more like Indian slang.
- Dictionary Reference: chutzpah
- The Free Dictionary: chutzpah
- Wehr, Hans (1994) . J. Milton Cowan, ed. Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Urbana, Illinois: Spoken Language Services, Inc. ISBN 0-87950-003-4.
- Kozinski, Alex; Eugene Volokh (1993). "Lawsuit Shmawsuit". Yale Law Journal (The Yale Law Journal Company, Inc.) 103 (2): 463. doi:10.2307/797101. JSTOR 797101. Retrieved 2007-06-24.
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