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Is Learning the Definition of Bupkis Worth Anything?

  • The definition of “Bupkis” is something that is worthless or has no value (origin: Yiddish language)
  • It can also mean “nothing.”

While it is not as common an expression as it used to be, from time to time, you may hear someone use the word “bupkis” in a sentence, or it might come up in a movie or television show.

While you can often derive its definition through context, it may not be possible depending on the situation.

We will walk through the word’s meaning, alternate spellings, and background so you won’t feel bupkis about the word “bupkis.”

What Is The Definition of Bupkis?

Well, the definition of “Bupkis” something with little value or considered worthless.

Jonathan thought the watch was worth a few hundred bucks, but it was bupkis when he had it evaluated.

Here we have a situation where Jonathan has come into possession of what he believes to be a valuable timepiece, but instead, he discovers it has no real value.

Shirley thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips, but in reality, she’s bupkis.

Poor Shirley – this person is not her biggest fan.

In other news, bupkis can also mean “nothing.” Let’s look at how to use the word with this connotation.

Talila used to update her blog every day, but for the last week – bupkis.

She probably just got busy. There’s no clear indication that anything sinister has taken place here.

We spent all day combing the beach with a metal detector. Guess what we found? Bupkis.

Sadly, this meaning implies that all those hours of searching were fruitless. Better luck next time.

It was like the professor was speaking another language. I didn’t get bupkis from his entire lecture.

The word can also serve as a substitute for “anything.” That, or the double negative rule does not apply when using this slang word.

A third possibility is a substitution for any other expression (or curse) that implies that something is worthless or a waste of time. Two familiar phrases come into play etiologically.

Here are a few examples using these similar expressions, followed by a version using our word of the day.

Her math knowledge isn’t worth a hill of beans in this situation.

Her math knowledge isn’t worth bupkis in this situation.

The expression “isn’t worth a hill of beans” means it has no value, so it shares the same meaning as bupkis. That means you can use the two interchangeably.

Harry’s story about having a girlfriend is a load of BS.

Harry’s story about having a girlfriend is a load of bupkis.

Hopefully, you can infer what “BS” means as it is a commonly used expression. Coincidentally or not, what are the first and last letters of bupkis?

Regardless, each of those expressions may have significant ties with the origin of bupkis.

The Bupkis Origin Story

Bupkis comes from the Yiddish word “bobkes,” meaning nonsense or nothing. The root word “bob” actually meant “beans” in some Slavic languages, and it took an interesting path to the word’s meaning today.

In Yiddish, the word “bobkes” became associated with goat droppings, more than likely due to their bean-like shape. Over time, when discussing how valuable something was (or wasn’t, in this case), people would essentially use the word to mean that it had a value equal to goat droppings, i.e., no value.

Do you now see how our meaning of the adapted word bupkis correlates to the last two examples above?

On the subject of modified spellings, bupkis has a relatively diverse spread, including bupkes, bubkes, bubkiss, bobkes, and more. While the spellings may be different, the meaning is the same, and bupkis is considered traditional spelling for English usage.

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the word, you can feel confident in its usage. The next time a friend sends you a text about what you did today, try it out:

What did I do all day? A whole lot of bupkis, that’s what.

C’mon – it’ll be fun. Plus, using the word will make your newfound knowledge worth more than bupkis. It’s a win-win!

More Yiddish Words!

Related: For more fund expressions, we have a whole section to rummage through!

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Posted by James Smith
By James Smith

Described as an "English Guru," James Smith holds a Master's degree in English from Arkansas Tech University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a minor in ESL. James is a sought after writer and editor with University teaching experience.

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