luft·​mensch ˈlu̇ft-ˌmen(t)sh How to pronounce luftmensch (audio)
plural luftmenschen ˈlu̇ft-ˌmen(t)-shən How to pronounce luftmensch (audio)
: an impractical contemplative person having no definite business or income

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Are you one of those people who always seem to have their head in the clouds? Do you have trouble getting down to the lowly business of earning a living? If so, you may deserve to be labeled a luftmensch. That airy appellation is an adaptation of the Yiddish luftmentsh, which breaks down into luft (a Germanic root meaning "air" that is also related to the English words loft and lofty) plus mentsh, meaning "human being." One of the earliest known uses of luftmensch in English prose is found in Israel Zangwill's 1907 story collection Ghetto Comedies, in which he writes, "The word 'Luftmensch' flew into Barstein's mind. Nehemiah was not an earth-man…. He was an air-man, floating on facile wings." The plural form of the noun is luftmenschen.

Word History


Yiddish luftmentsh, from luft air + mentsh human being

First Known Use

1907, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of luftmensch was in 1907


Dictionary Entries Near luftmensch

Cite this Entry

“Luftmensch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

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