Definition of schlemiel in US English:


(also shlemiel)


North American
  • A stupid, awkward, or unlucky person.

    • ‘An ethnically Jewish version of the fool, the schlemiel is caught up in situations that reflect the historical problems of the Jewish people.’
    • ‘There is apparently no one in his coterie who will point out to him that his nervous schlemiel is by now tired and threadbare and that he is no longer writing many funny lines.’
    • ‘His clients are schlemiels who pay to learn the tricks they need to help them close the deal.’
    • ‘We're the schlemiels who shrug and think to ourselves, Well, at least they get things done.’
    • ‘Likewise, the insight that the schlemiels that populate his fiction are hapless because they unwisely separate themselves from the community is a fine one.’
    • ‘It looks as if there's one law for the notorious, and another for the schlemiels in the pews.’
    • ‘Furthermore, one doesn't need to be a Freudian (his former favorite form of therapy) to know that a true schlemiel and/or neurotic could not produce the sheer volume of work that he has.’
    • ‘The REAL reason they started positioning their army units horizontally is that they are uncoordinated schlemiels, who keep bumping into the table the board is on, knocking the pieces into disarray.’
    • ‘There is more than a bit of the schlemiel (to cite that useful Gaelic term) about him.’
    • ‘Frantically denying the obvious, he's suddenly the bleating schlemiel in a heartless sex farce.’
    • ‘Oh my God, I thought, I could never explain this without looking like a total schlemiel!’
    • ‘You can't stand whiners, weaklings, schlemiels or schlemozzles.’
    • ‘He's a schlemiel, for one, someone who is constitutionally unequipped for the rigors of contemporary life, and whose benighted gropings would seem tragic, if only they were not so comic.’
    • ‘But unlike Woody or Tommy - schlemiels with whom we can identify- Vladimir's ‘problems’ are too hysterical, too willfully and ridiculously constructed, for us to empathize.’
    • ‘Mr. Paul is far from the village idiot type embodied by Gimpel, the butt of incessant practical jokes, a genuine schlemiel.’
    • ‘He is equally good as the powerless schlemiel whose life is collapsing all around him, and who takes his power at the expense of his captive.’
    • ‘But they all praise the author, and fan the flames of his remarkably well-presented public posture of brilliant author posing as humorous, downtrodden schlemiel posing as brilliant author.’
    • ‘When it comes to chopping veggies, a schlemiel would spend days building a massive contraption to do it for him.’
    idiot, ass, halfwit, nincompoop, blockhead, buffoon, dunce, dolt, ignoramus, cretin, imbecile, dullard, moron, simpleton, clod
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Late 19th century: from Yiddish shlemiel.