: a timid, meek, or ineffectual person
As a teenager, Lyle was a nebbish who could never stand up to the bullies who gave him such a hard time.
"The play started off deadly dull and only picked up when Lore came on stage. He embodied the myopic, nebbish caricature…. His best moments came in Act II, when he attempted to woo Gretchen. His Robert was so bad at it that it was comical." - From a review by Kathy Greenberg in the Tampa Tribune, February 29, 2012
Did You Know?
"From what I read …. it looks like Pa isn't anything like the nebbish Ma is always making him out to be…." Sounds like poor Pa got a bum rap, at least according to a 1951 book review that appeared in The New York Times. The unfortunate Pa unwittingly demonstrates much about the etymology of "nebbish," which derives from the Yiddish "nebekh," meaning "poor" or "unfortunate." As you might expect for a timid word like "nebbish," the journey from Yiddish to English wasn't accomplished in a single bold leap of spelling and meaning. In its earliest English uses in the 1840s, it was spelled "nebbich" and used interjectionally as an expression of dismay.
Test Your Memory
What is the meaning of "atavism," our Word of the Day from March 30? The answer is ...