Harman Patil (Editor)

Oy vey

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Oy vey

Oy vey (Yiddish: אױ װײ‎) or oy vey ist mir is a Yiddish phrase expressing dismay or exasperation. Also spelled oy vay, oy veh, or oi vey, and often abbreviated to oy, the expression may be translated as, "oh, woe!" or "woe is me!" Its Hebrew equivalent is oy vavoy (אוי ואבוי, ój waävój).



According to etymologist Douglas Harper, the phrase is derived from Yiddish and is of Germanic origin. It is a cognate of the German expression o weh, or auweh, combining the German and Dutch exclamation au! meaning "ouch/oh" and the German word weh, a cognate of the English word woe (as well as the Dutch wee meaning pain). The expression is also related to oh ve, an older expression in Danish and Swedish, and oy wah, an expression used with a similar meaning in the Montbéliard region in France. The Latin equivalent is heu, vae! (pronounced, "hoi, vai", amongst others); a more standard expression would be o, me miserum, or heu, me miserum.

According to Chabad.org, an alternative theory for the origin of the Yiddish expression is that "oy" stems from Biblical Hebrew, and that "vey" is its Aramaic equivalent.


The expression is often abbreviated to simply oy, or elongated to oy vey ist mir ("Oh, woe is me"). The fuller lament may also be spelled as Oy vey iz mir. The main purpose or effect of elongating it is often dramatic, something like a "cosmic ouch". Oy is not merely an ordinary word, but rather expresses an entire world view, according to visual anthropologist Penny Wolin. Its meaning is approximately opposite that of mazel tov. A related expression is oy gevalt, which can have a similar meaning, or also express shock or amazement.

Popular culture

  • In the 1960s TV series McHale's Navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy-origin prisoner of war character, Seaman 3rd Class "Fuji" uses "Oy vey" many times as an expletive of alarm in the series.
  • Weird Al Yankovic's song "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi" on his album Running with Scissors frequently uses the phrase.
  • Some versions of SimCity 2000 have "oivaizmir" as a cheat code.
  • References

    Oy vey Wikipedia

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