Word of the Week: Masel [ˈmaːzl̩]

Noun. Masel means Luck, being lucky, a good turn, a positive development, a lucky break, often undeserved and unexpected. Root word for the German terms vermasseln (to fail, to screw up) and Schlamassel (a mess, or bad situation). Used in parallel to the more generic Glück (luck), with which it is not entirely synonymous. The nuances are subtle, but there: Glück is used more generally, as in the Viennese aphorism “Das Glück ist ein Vogerl” (“luck is a bird” – meaning it is flighty and unreliable); conversely, Masel is something you either have or don’t – and whether it’s fair or not matters little. It follows that it is used either joyously, as in “Masel g’habt!” (I lucked out!), or darkly, as in “Der hat an Masel…” (Why, that lucky bastard…). Orig. one of many Viennese loanwords from Yiddish; the Jewish community have long been authorities on the ups and downs of cruel fate, giving rise to expressions like Masel wie a Goi (lucky like a gentile).

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