AskDefine | Define chutzpah

Dictionary Definition

chutzpah n : (Yiddish) unbelievable gall; insolence; audacity [syn: chutzpa, hutzpah]

User Contributed Dictionary



Originated 1890–95 from khutspe, from Mishnaic (חֻצְפָּה), from ‘to be insolent’.


  • a RP /ˈxʊtspa/
  • a US /ˈxʊtspə/


  1. Nearly arrogant courage; utter audacity, effrontery or impudence.
    • 22/01/2007, The Times, Modern Manners
      If the service is rotten and the meal a disaster, we should withhold a tip and explain why we are doing so. Few of us have the chutzpah to do this.


nearly arrogant courage
  • Dutch: lef
  • German: Chuzpe


  • American Heritage 2000
  • WordNet 2003

Extensive Definition

Chutzpah (/xʊʦpæ/) is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The word derives from the Hebrew word (), meaning "insolence", "audacity", and "impertinence". The modern English usage of the word has taken on a wider spectrum of meaning, however, having been popularized through vernacular use, film, literature, and television.
Chutzpah is also similar in meaning to the term "bravura" in music, and the former may be a better term to describe certain forms of musical audacity. This is especially the case as dance, jazz, and jazz dance in particular foster a competitive spirit that no longer exists in classical music to the extent that it once did. Chutzpah could describe a banality in which classical music is disrupted or turned into a competition or duel, while on the other hand a stubborn classical temperament could be viewed as equally audacious, as well as difficult and risky.
In Hebrew, chutzpah is used indignantly, to describe someone who has over-stepped the boundaries of accepted behavior with no shame. But in Yiddish and English, chutzpah has developed ambivalent and even positive connotations. Chutzpah can be used to express admiration for non-conformist but gutsy audacity. One common English adaptation of "chutzpah" is "hoodspa", which has a mostly positive connotation. Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish defines chutzpah as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts,' presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to." In this sense, chutzpah expresses both strong disapproval and a grudging admiration.
One example given of the ultimate of chutzpah is: "A boy, having just been convicted of murdering his parents, begs the judge for leniency because he is an orphan."
  • Leo Stoller controversially claims to own a trademark on the word.
  • Judge Alex Kozinski and Eugene Volokh in an article entitled Lawsuit Shmawsuit, note the rise in use of Yiddish words in legal opinion. They note that chutzpah has been used 231 times in legal opinions, with all but eleven of those after 1980.

See also


chutzpah in Czech: Chucpe
chutzpah in German: Chuzpe
chutzpah in Italian: Chutzpah
chutzpah in Hebrew: חוצפה
chutzpah in Japanese: フツパー
chutzpah in Russian: Хуцпа
chutzpah in Finnish: Chutzpah
chutzpah in Tagalog: Kapal ng mukha
chutzpah in Yiddish: חוצפה

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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