Is there an etymological connection between the Yiddish word "shtiebel" and the English word "steeple"? They seem to overlap a lot in usage and pronunciation. A cursory search reveals that "shtiebel" may be a diminutive of the Yiddish word for "house", but perhaps the two derivations converged at some point?


Now guess this: room in German is Stube. Diminutive: Stübchen or: in dialect: Stüble (little room). The diminutive in Yiddish ususally ends in -lach. -ü- not existing in Yiddish, it is transformed into -i-. So simply Stüblein becomes stiblach (pronoucenced shtiblakh) in Yiddish.


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  • DHL, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for this convincing etymology! We'd love to have you as a fully-registered member, which you can accomplish by clicking on register/login, above. – Isaac Moses Mar 2 '11 at 14:52
  • But Yiddish, though it's closely related to German, and though it doubtless borrowed a number of words from German, is not descended from German. Do you have any particular reason to think that this word was borrowed from the German Stube, rather than that (as my answer suggests) it's cognate to (descended from an ancestor shared by) the German Stube? – msh210 Mar 4 '11 at 7:42
  • Also: I believe -lach or -lech is the plural diminutive suffix (with -l being the singular). (-lech or -lich is also another suffix, forming adjectives, as in mentschlech, but that's another story.) This doesn't detract from the thrust of your answer at all, though, of course. – msh210 Mar 4 '11 at 7:42

The only meaning of "shtibl" that I know of is "a little house". There is a song performed by the Barry sisters that begins: "In main shteitl shteit a shtibl mit a grinem dach..." - "In my village stands a little house with a green roof..."

The word for "house" in both the Galician and the southern (Ukrainian) dialects of Yiddish is "shtib". It would be "shtub" in the Lithuanian dialect. "Shtibl" is a diminutive of "shtib".

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  • Right, but it's come to mean a small synagogue. – msh210 Dec 16 '10 at 7:02
  • Really? Not that I am an expert, but I have never heard of that meaning. Could you be confusing it with "shil", which is the Ukrainian or Galician pronunciation of "shul"? – Dima Dec 16 '10 at 20:36
  • No. See also he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%A9%D7%98%D7%99%D7%91%D7%9C . – msh210 Dec 16 '10 at 21:11

There's no reason to believe that the two are related. Though I recall hearing (in my youth) that the name of Country Yossi's "Shteeble Hoppers" album was a take-off on a Steeple-related band name.

[Update: I emailed CY, and he said the name "just sounded cute" and had nothing to do with steeples. So much for that myth!]

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    Another point: The German word for room is "stube," which is quite different from the word "steeple." It's not expected that the Yiddish pronunciation-shifts which converted "stube" into "shtieble" were duplicated in other languages. – Dave Aug 30 '10 at 15:30
  • Plus one for the extra email research. – Tzvi Sep 5 '10 at 21:00

I'm guessing Yiddish shtibl is actually related to English stove, which may be from Vulgar Latin, whereas steeple is apparently from a Germanic root and completely unrelated.

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    Cool! Why would shtiblach be named after bathrooms? – WAF Sep 1 '10 at 1:14
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    Well, steambaths, apparently. Perhaps because they get crowded and hot, and people wear thick talisos? :-) No, seriously, that root descended into German via Old High German 'stuba' which apparently referred to any heated room, so my guess is Yiddish 'shtub', "house", is also a descendant. (Yiddish is also from Old High German.) From there it's a short hop to 'shtibl'. – msh210 Sep 1 '10 at 15:50

Shtiebel is usually a Hassidic type synagogue, which was/is often in a house, as opposed to being a larger, free standing building, as is more common among non-Hassidic Shuls.

Perhaps it is that often the (Hassidic) Rebbe of the shtiebel lives in the same building, which he often owns, which is not usually the case in a standard Shul, where the Rav usually lives elsewhere and does not own the premises.

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