European Jews tend to use the word “pushka” for ‘charity box’. What is the origin of the word?

As far as I can tell, Slavic languages use somewhat similar sounding words for ‘container’. In particular, in Polish ‘puszka’ means ‘[tin/metal] container’. Perhaps it evolved from there being that coins deposited in such a container would jingle thereby calling attention for almsgiving.

I realize the above theory may be the origin but I’m curious if others agree or if there are other theories.

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From Yiddish Word of the Week here:

Etymology: There seems to be a dispute about etymology here. Leo Rosten, in his Joys of Yiddish (p. 296; unfortunately not available online), argues that it derives from the Polish word for can, “puszka.” Thus, a pushke is simply “a little can or container kept in the home, often in the kitchen, in which money to be donated to a charity is accumulated.” While this would seem to be the simplest explanation, I am intrigued by another, which I found here: Apparently (at least according to the Jastrow dictionary), the Aramaic word pushka (פושקא) or (פושכא), means “handsbreadth, palm.” As such, the word, in its Yiddish context, refers to the stretching out of the hand to receive alms. When taken together, the two sources form a whole: One stretches out one’s pushka with a pushke in it in order to receive tzedoke.

Also, Shaul Stampfer agrees that it comes from the Polish, see here, footnote 1.

  • 2
    Though it most definitely comes from the Polish word, the fact that an interesting chiddush can be made from the Aramaic word is awesome! +1 – ezra Mar 10 at 3:58

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