consonant cluster that can represent five distinct sounds in English; it first was used by Middle English writers to render Old English sc-, a sound now generally pronounced (and spelled) "-sh-." Sometimes it was miswritten for ch. It also was taken in from German (schnapps) and Yiddish (schlemiel). In words derived from classical languages (school (n.1)), it represents Latin sch-, Greek skh-, but in some of these words the spelling is a restoration and the pronunciation does not follow it (as in schism; Middle English sisme, cisme).
The Yiddish words with it, often derisive or dismissive, tended to come into 20c. American English. In addition to those with entries here, Saul Bellow used schmegeggy, "Portnoy's Complaint" has schmatte "a ragged garment;" schmeck "a sniff" figures in heroin jargon, and schmutz "dirt, filth" has been used. Directly to English from German also are some specialized words: Schmelz "enamel," schmerz "grief, pain, sorrow,"
updated on January 31, 2022