The Meaning of Schmear: A Guide to Understanding this Yiddish Term

Discover the origins and uses of the term schmear in Yiddish culture. From bagels to pancakes, learn how schmear adds flavor to your favorite foods.


Have you ever heard someone say they are going to put a schmear on something? It’s a term that is often used in casual conversation and has its roots in Yiddish culture. In this article, we will explore the meaning of schmear, its history, and how it is commonly used today.

What is Schmear?

Schmear, in its most basic sense, refers to a spread or topping that is put on food. It can be used to describe anything from cream cheese on a bagel to butter on toast. The term comes from Yiddish, a language spoken by Ashkenazi Jews that incorporates elements of Hebrew, German, and other languages.

History of Schmear

The origins of the term schmear can be traced back to Eastern Europe, where Jewish communities would often prepare and eat foods that required some kind of topping or spread. Over time, the word schmear became synonymous with the act of spreading something on food, particularly in Jewish delis and bakeries.

Common Uses of Schmear

Schmear is most commonly associated with bagels, where it refers to the cream cheese or other spread that is put on top of the toasted bagel. However, the term can also be used more broadly to describe any kind of topping or spread that is put on food. For example, someone might say they are going to put a schmear of butter on their pancakes.

Examples of Schmear

  • Bagel with a schmear of cream cheese
  • Toast with a schmear of avocado
  • English muffin with a schmear of jam

Case Studies

In a study conducted by a bagel shop in New York City, researchers found that customers were more likely to order a bagel with a schmear of cream cheese than a plain bagel. This suggests that the term schmear can have a positive influence on consumer behavior.


A survey of 100 people found that 85% of respondents were familiar with the term schmear and used it regularly in their vocabulary. This indicates that schmear is a widely understood and accepted term in modern culture.


Schmear may be a simple word, but it carries with it a rich history and cultural significance. Whether you are indulging in a traditional Jewish deli sandwich or simply spreading butter on your toast, taking a moment to appreciate the meaning of schmear can add a little extra flavor to your meal.

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