Help Googling Yiddish Books
The advent of modern technology
has made many kinds of information more easily
accessible, but potential users of this information
are often unaware of how to find it.
A case in point is the use of Google Books
for investigating Yiddish usage.
An enormous amount of Yiddish literature has been
digitized and made searchable by the Google Books
This makes it tremendously easier than in the past
to search for examples of the usage of a word or
For the Medem Dictionary project
we have made extensive use of this capability
to verify definitions, and we would like to help
others make use of this tool.
- Your query must be presented in Hebrew characters,
and so you must have the ability to type Hebrew characters
on your computer.
Configuring this capability if you don't have it already
is beyond the scope of this page;
Shoshke-Reyzl Yuni’s web site has good
for the major operating systems.
If you type your Yiddish query at
the main Google page
it will search for web pages.
This might yield interesting results,
but it usually isn't what you want
if you’re interested in literary usage.
To search for books rather than web pages,
click on “More” at the top of
the page, and select “Books” from
the pull-down menu.
Or you can start your search at the
As with other searches,
you will get a list of results, with
a few lines of the text surrounding your search terms.
You can see the actual scanned image by
clicking on the link that begins each result block,
unless the result says “No Preview”.
In most cases Google’s text analysis process
ignores diacritical marks (נקודות).
So for the best results you should probably omit them:
- type א for both אַ and אָ;
- type פ (without the dot) for both פּ and פֿ
- type יי for both ײ and ײַ
The search will only find exact matches,
so to get comprehensive coverage you
should consider doing separate searches
for each inflected form.
- plural as well as singular for nouns
- masculine and feminine etc. forms for adjectives in
their various case forms
- for verbs: infinitive, past participle,
and present tense forms
it might be useful to use quotation marks,
as described for
Google Advanced Search
There is, of course, tremendous variation in Yiddish spelling,
so it might help to try whatever alternative spellings
you might be familiar with.
- For older books, where there is no issue of copyright,
Google may allow you to see the entire book.
For newer books, you can only get a few lines, a “snippet”.
Wonderful as this new tool is, the implementation as of now
is far from perfect.
process frequently makes mistakes in recognizing characters.
The text that you see in the list of results shows you what Google
thought it recognized on the page,
and it will give you some idea of how good or bad the recognition
was for this particular book.
You may have to look at the
image yourself to figure out what the text means.
Because of the errors in character recognition, in many cases
the ‘result’ doesn't always actually contain the word(s)
you’re looking for. Similarly, you should always assume that
there are additional correct results that aren’t showing up
because the characters weren’t recognized correctly.
Another frequent (and frustrating) problem is that the snippet view
doesn’t always contain the text you’re looking for.
Apparently they sometimes get confused about the coordinates
on the page.
The page number is generally correct, so that if the example
happens to be from a book that you have a copy of,
you can use that to see the example in context.
Yiddish Dictionary Project
און אַ דאַנק דוד פֿישמאַנען: ער האָט מיר
געגעבן צו פֿאַרשטײן אַז דאָס איז מעגלעך געװאָרן!