Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Slang A habitual bungler; a dolt.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A loser or a fool.
  • n. A person who is clumsy or who hurts others emotionally.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (Yiddish) a dolt who is a habitual bungler

Etymologies

Yiddish shlemíl, perhaps from Hebrew šəlūmî'ēl, my well-being is God, Shelumiel (a character in the Bible, Numbers 7:36) : šəlūmî, my well-being (šālôm, well-being; see šlm in Semitic roots + , my) + 'ēl, God; see אl in Semitic roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Yiddish שלימיל (shlimil), from German Schlemihl. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • As for the subject heading, this is the definition I was once given by a friend who passed away last year, Harry Edelstein the Matzoh King of Broadway: A schlemiel is the guy who spills the soup.

    CHARLIE: SCHLEMIEL; BABY: SCHLEMAZEL

  • The lean, gifted actor was spellbinding as a scheming producer in "Speed-the-Plow" at the Old Vic a couple of years ago, but he is all wrong to play the kind of schlemiel for which Peter Falk, in the original Broadway production, and Jack

    Latest News - Yahoo!7 News

  • Liberalism, which purports to mitigate conflict, was viewed as a kind of schlemiel faith in the conscience of the world.

    MuzzleWatch

  • So there you are -- a poor schlemiel who started out as a minor character on the Larry Sanders talk show ends up a minor character among the many others who populated "The Larry Sanders Show."

    TV review of "The Larry Sanders Show" coming out on box set

  • This "shows how little it takes to go from being a schlemiel to being a ..." (a much ruder Yiddish word followed).

    Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson

  • Yet even though he's playing a sexually frustrated fall guy, a Sicilian schlemiel , Prima's throaty singing is amazingly erotic.

    Both Leading Man and Comic Relief

  • · bring home any paycheck less than what that schlemiel, my sister's husband, earns

    Deborah Copaken Kogan: Battle Hymn of the Gefilte Fish Wife

  • But as Bella Abzug said, the feminist struggle was never simply about ensuring that a female Einstein might be appointed assistant professor; it was also about ensuring that a "woman schlemiel" might get promoted as speedily as a "male schlemiel."

    5 myths about female candidates

  • Just as tiresome as the regulation egoist is the regulation schlemiel.

    Ping-Pong and the Game of Comedy

  • Justin Rice is hilarious as a sad sack slacker schlemiel.

    George Heymont: Pushing The Envelope (VIDEOS)

Comments

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  • “In 1977, Bella Abzug, the former congresswoman and outspoken feminist, said, ‘Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.�?

    The New York Times, No Ordinary Woman, by Judith Warner, October 26, 2008

    October 26, 2008