Friday, July 27, 2007

Origin of the Yiddish term 'Chunyuk'

Many of you may be familiar with the Yiddish word 'Chunyuk' literally a super religious fanatic but are unaware of the origin of the term.

Some time ago I came across a small booklet entitled Yiddish; the holy language by Rabbi David Cohen, Rabbi of Congregation Gvul Yaabetz in Brooklyn, NY. The book contains a listing of Yiddish terms and expressions and highlights their origins. According to the Sefer the origins of the term Chunyuk are as follows (translation mine):

During the early years of the Second temple period, Shimon Hatzadik (Simon the Just) officiated as the High Priest (which was at the time the most senior political and religious Jewish leader). Shortly before his death he bequeathed his position to his younger son Chonyo instead of his older son Shimi. Shimi was overcome with jealousy and decided to play a cruel trick on his younger brother. On the day that he was to enter the Temple to perform the sacrifices, Shimi called to his brother and told him that he wanted to assist him in doing the rituals properly. He then proceeded to dress him up in women's clothing and when Chonyo ascended the altar, those present became enraged at this perceived sacrilege and sought to kill him. Chonyo eventually fled to Egypt where he built the famed "Mikdash Chonyo" [1] [2].


[1]. Yiddish; the holy language by Rabbi David Cohen. pg. 96

[2]. See Tractate Menachot 109B.


At Friday, July 27, 2007 10:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What proof does he have to connect this event with Yiddish, and why does it sound Slavic?

At Friday, July 27, 2007 12:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont understand the connection. Why would it come to mean "super religious fanatic" based on this story? Do religious fanatics wear woman's clothing?

At Friday, July 27, 2007 5:05:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...

I guess it would denote someone who tries too hard, or wants to do something better than everyone else, someone misguided, gullible or naive.

At Saturday, July 28, 2007 12:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chonyo is comparable to Yigal Amir except his motive was jealousy. Actually, there are many flaws comparing it to Yigal. Maybe some can find a better person to compare to?

I was thinking about the women who accused Moshe Katsav but that is even more flawed.

At Saturday, July 28, 2007 10:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yigal Amir? how do you figure?

At Sunday, July 29, 2007 8:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yigal Amir? how do you figure?"
I guess that is why he said that comparaison is flawed.

Let Chonyo be Chonyo.

At Tuesday, July 31, 2007 11:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking at wikipedia.

Few questions:
Temple of Chonyo = Temple of Leontopolis?
Onias = Chonyo

etc. if this is correct. Wikipedia is doubling up articles for Jewish termonlogy and Greek/Christian termology.

At Monday, August 06, 2007 6:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or Latin.

Any comments?

At Tuesday, August 07, 2007 3:50:00 PM, Blogger Ha-historion said...


I am not familiar with the 'Temple of Leontopolis'.

Onias is indeed Greek for Chonyo.

Wikipedia is often times notoriously unreliable and I would never use it as a definitive source.

At Monday, August 20, 2007 12:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds like a highly unlikely etymology.

Although R. Cohen is a groisse talmud chacham and respected posek, I don't think his etymologies of yiddish should be taken as definitive.

-Joe Socher

At Monday, August 20, 2007 12:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

*should be 'talmid'*
Joe Socher

At Thursday, September 06, 2007 3:59:00 AM, Blogger Mottel said...

The Slavic sound could be merely due to Slavicization of the word -as in Chutzpinyak.
Though my gut tells me, that while the story is cute, it might be an ex post facto interpretation -as is often the case with many explanations of Yiddish words.

At Thursday, January 16, 2014 8:40:00 PM, Anonymous John Stuart said...

Hi Sir/ Madam

Can you please tell me who was the High Priest serving on the Day of Atonement and to 11Q13.

When was Onias III 10th Day of Atonement?

Was the word 'Essene' from Temple of Leontopolis?


John Stuart


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