What is the Etymology of “Krepel”?

Krepel is a 3 cornered stuffed piece of dough that we eat on Purim, Hoshana Rabah, and Erev Yom Kippur.


4 Answers 4


Wikipedia says it's "probably derived from the Old High German kraepfo meaning grape." However, I would think it's more likely related to crepe (French for a type of pancake that's often filled, much like a krepel).


I don't know.

However, the Online Etymology Dictionary says English grapple is from Middle English grapple from Old French grapil, "hook", diminutive of Old French grape, "hook", from a Germanic source.

Wikipedia claims (without any source given) that Yiddish קרעפל is "probably derived from the Old High German kraepfo meaning grape. The Middle English word grapple is related (from a grape vine hook)", which seems to have multiple mistakes (if we believe the Online Etymology Dictionary), but may be correct in that Yiddish קרעפל is related to Germanic words meaning "hook".

Note also German Krapfen, "doughnut", which, Wiktionary claims, is from OHG krapho, given as "hook".

R'Alex's answer suggests a relation to French crêpe, which is purportedly, and again purportedly, from Latin crispus, "curled", via Old French. While this may be possible, of course, this layman would sooner believe a derivation from Germanic sources.

Update: I've now asked for assistance from someone on Wiktionary who actually knows some etymology, at least in Germanic languages, and in response to my request he's posted the etymology to Wiktionary Entry. He says it's actually from (not, as I had suspected, cognate to) German Kräppel, "a fried pastry", related to Krapfen, etc. (See there for all the gory details.)

  • msh210, Why would you sooner believe a derivation from Germanic sources? Plenty of other languages strongly influenced Yiddish. Among them Hebrew, Aramaic, the Slavic languages, French, Spanish and even Turkic! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish_language hubpages.com/hub/Origin-of-Yiddish-words merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yarmulke I understand that Yiddish is a dialect of the old High Germanic family but that is just the skeleton of the language.
    – Yahu
    Mar 2, 2011 at 23:48
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    Sure, many Yiddish words come from non-Germanic sources (compare English, which has loads of words from Old French (via the Norman conquest) and many from other languages, too), and there's nothing about this word in particular that makes me think that it didn't. But considering the plausible Germanic derivation supplied by etymonline and Wiktionary (both of which are generally good sources) for similar-seeming words, and considering Wikipedia's derivation of קרעפל, my money is on a Germanic root.
    – msh210
    Mar 3, 2011 at 5:21
  • ...but, as I said, I'm a layman.
    – msh210
    Mar 3, 2011 at 5:35
  • What is plausible about the Germanic derivation? In what way are krepelach like hooks?
    – Yahu
    Mar 7, 2011 at 21:08
  • What I called plausible was the derivation of similar words, like Krapfen and grapple. Grapple means "hook". I would have guessed Krapfen is from the utensil used to pull them out of the hot oil in which they fry, but dwds.de/?kompakt=1&qu=Krapfen claims (if I understand it correctly with the help of Google's machine translation) that it's actually from the original hook-like shape of such things.
    – msh210
    Mar 7, 2011 at 21:31

The Yiddish word kreplach is plural of krepl, a diminutive of krap or krep which supposedly comes from Yiddish's primary ancestor language, Middle High German, where krappe or krapfe meant "a (unit/serving/piece of) pastry".

From the same source come the German Krapfen ("deep-fried pastry") and its East Central German dialectal variant Kräppel, which sounds identical to the singular form of the Yiddish word "krepel/kreplekh" / "קרעפּל/קרעפּלעך".

Duden's etymological information about the word "Krapfen"/"Kräppel" is as follows:

Krapfen, m[asculine noun, der] : "a bakedgood/pastry fried/baked in fat/lard, [i.e.] doughnuts/pancakes/Pfannkuchen ([the meaning & word is] predominantly Upper German), Old High German, krapho ‘hook, claw, similar shaped pastry’ (9th century), Middle High German "krapfe"/"krap(p)e".
The noun has been traced back to [metathesis and therefore a sound change based on] labial extension [a labial addition to the sound], ie. "*greb-" [the Indo-European word root &] the word root [of that is/was] "*ger-" which means "to turn, to wind[, to twist or manually spin]" (whence/therefore also [the words] : ↗Kringel/["ringlet/curl/loop & "a looped/curled a type of pastry") ↗Krampe =cramp, ↗Krampf[=cramp], ↗Krume[/Mod.Hi.German:Krumme =crook&crumb], ↗Krüppel[=cripple]; no further data. Diminutive forms [of Krapfen] are Kräpfchen, Kräpfel(-ein), Middle German [dialect]'s Kräppel(-chen).

[Krapfen, m. ‘in Fett gebackenes Gebäckstück, Pfannkuchen’ (vorwiegend obd.), ahd. krapho ‘Haken, Kralle, ähnlich geformtes Gebäck’ (9. Jh.), mhd. krapfe. Das Substantiv ist auf eine Labialerweiterung ie. *greb- der Wurzel ie. *ger- ‘drehen, winden’ (wozu auch ↗Kringel, ↗Krampe, ↗Krampf, ↗Krume, ↗Krüppel, s. d.) zurückzuführen. Landschaftliche Deminutivformen sind südd. Kräpfchen, Kräpfel(-ein), md. Kräppel(-chen).]

If this is so, Krampf "cramp", Kringel "crooked or looped pastry, squiggle, curl, loop", Krüppel "cripple", Krapfen/Kräppel "do(ugh)nut", & "krepel/kreplekh" / "קרעפּל/קרעפּלעך are all related words.

There are, therefore, many other words related to "Krapfen/Kräppel"/קרעפּל through the Proto Indo-European word root, "*ger-".

Proto Indo-European word root informations listed in the rest of this article are copied here from entries taken from etymonline.com & wiktionary.org

*ger- Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to gather" came to also be used for "turning/herding" something & not merely "cramming" (from this PIE root through "*gremb-") or bringing things together.   It forms all or part of: aggregate; aggregation; agora; agoraphobia; allegory; category; congregate; cram; egregious; gregarious; panegyric; paregoric; segregate. It is the hypothetical source of[ &/or ]evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit gramah "heap, troop;" Greek ageirein "to assemble," agora "assembly;" Latin grex "flock, herd," gremium "bosom, lap;" Old Church Slavonic grusti "handful," gramota "heap;" Lithuanian gurgulys "chaos, confusion," gurguolė "crowd, mass;" Old English crammian "press something into something else."

Of course, words related to the more recent PIE word root " *greb-"/"*g(h)reb(h 2)-" would seem closer in meaning to "krepel/kreplekh"'s origin, but words related to PIE "*gremb-" are just as close while "*ger-" is further distanced in meaning except that the secondary meaning of "*ger-" is "turn/twist/curl" & you can see how that second meaning is tied to "*greb-" ("bent/hook(ed)" shape & verb), "*g(h)reb(h 2)-" ("grab/grasp/hook/take"), & "*grem-"/"*gremb-" ("cram(med)"; "hooked/crooked, bent, not-straight") forms having "curled/unstraight" aspects to their meanings & all share the PIE metathesis of "*ger-" to "*gre-".

Basically, "*ger-" is "gather", or "twist, turn, wind (verb)" , "*greg-" is "herd, group, gathering (noun)" (IEW: 382f) , "*greb-" is “hook (the shape & the verb)” , "*g(h)reb(h 2 )-" is "grab/hook( verb), seize, grasp’ (IEW: 455) , "*gremb-" is “crooked, uneven” .

As pointed out by the user who mentioned "grappler"/"grapple": The modern English word, grape is also from Middle English grape, from Old French grape, grappe, crape (“cluster of fruit or flowers, bunch of grapes”), from graper, craper (“to pick grapes”, literally “to hook”), of Germanic origin, from Frankish *krappō (“hook”), from Proto-Indo-European *greb- (“hook”), *gremb- (“crooked, uneven”), from *ger- (“to turn, bend, twist”). Cognate with Middle Dutch krappe (“hook”), Old High German krapfo (“hook”), whence: German Krapfen (“Berliner doughnut”).

According to the German dictionary by Jakob and Wilhelm ("The Brothers") Grimm, there is also the adjective "krapp" which means 'hard baked' in the Lower Rhine region.

The Scottish English noun "crump" means "old, hardened/stale bread" or an older meaning (becoming obsolete) "fresh (intentionally/accidentally) hard baked bread". It is clearly reported in academia to be related to "crumb", which comes from proto Germanic "*krumbaz", also related to Proto Indo-European "*gre-" through "*gremb-".

Whereas, "crook(ed)" comes from Middle English croke, crok, from Old English *crōc (“hook, bend, crook”), from Proto-West Germanic *krōk, from Proto-Germanic *krōkaz (“bend, hook”), from Proto-Indo-European *greg- (“tracery, basket, bend”), from PIE "*gre-". It is cognate with Dutch kreuk (“a bend, fold, wrinkle”), Middle Low German kroke, krake (“fold, wrinkle”), Danish krog (“crook, hook”), Swedish krok (“crook, hook”), Icelandic krókur (“hook”).

So, to summarise, "crook(ed)", "crump" & some senses of the words "crumb", "crumpet" (through "cram" & "cramp") are related to the origin of the Yiddish word "krepel/kreplekh".

Originally, at least since the 9th century, Krapfen/Kräppel & other items like donuts were mainly used as festive breads & "fasting biscuits" [lard laden buns/pastries with fillings] and they became increasingly popular in the Roman Catholic areas of Europe during the carnival period of fattening festivities for physical preparation during what's ostensibly a time of spiritual & physical preparation for 40 days of fasting during all the days of the holiday called Lent, which precedes the Christian pascha(l) (or Easter related) holidays of passion/suffering week & so forth.

European Christians used pork lard in these breads or pastries so of course all Jewish bakers & pastry makers or cooks would use a different & kosher form of lard or fat.

Therefore, kreplakh (the kinds which were not of the dumpling variety) are & were often made with some form of fat in the dough & they were also pan or pot fried in a fat or lard (such as beef, chicken or vegetable derived fat ("schmaltz") mostly for the savoury & dumpling versions of the kreplakh.

Both, the fried pastry or the boiled dumpling type of kreplakh, never had animal fats whenever the kreplakh were made in any way that had dairy in the middle (such as a sweet soft cheese or yellower cheeses).

I mention all of that about Christians & kosher practices because there is a suggestion I have heard said by many I have asked about the dish (over the course of my life).

The suggestion I have heard very often is that the dumpling kind of kreplekh caught on so much more than the fried kind among Yiddish speakers because of how difficult it could be to source enough kosher fats for frying more than one kreppel during anything other than important Jewish holidays, because its easier to eat well in preparation for a fast & the special occasions make it more likely kosher slaughters have been performed in a high enough number for someone to finally have enough fat make a bunch of the kind of fried & filled (savoury/meat or sweet/jelly/fruit) kreplekh that don't conflict with eating meat dishes.

By Jewish folk etymology, the three consonants in the word "קרעפּ" ("KREP") has been sometimes explained as standing for the initials of three festivals: K for Kippur, R for Rabba, and P for Purim, which together form the word Krep.

Lastly, it may indeed turn out that "cripple", "Krepel/kreplekh", "Kräppel/Krapfen", "crumpet" & "crump (hard bread)" & "crump(-s/-ed/-ing, as in "crumpling")" & "crumple" & "crumble" & "crumb" & "cramp" & "cram" & "grape" & "grapple", "crook ("the kitten fell asleep on the crook(s) of my arm(s)")" & "crooked" all seem to be related with most of the "grab/cram/crumple/hook (verb&noun)" forms being related to the shape of a hooked hand or an hook object & the verb of doing so to grab things from the earlier sense of "*ger-" ("bring together") which somehow led to "the hook shape" & "turn/twist" being the sense carried in derived forms that gave rise to "crumple/crumble/crinkle/wrinkle" senses relating to the "turn/twist" sense & the words like "cram" bring related to the "gathering" sense.

"Cramp" & "cripple" are related to the "hooked/seized/grabbed/spasm" sense which is related to the "twist/turn" sense, just as your muscles switch & seize when they cramp, I suppose.

Nevertheless, the "hook shaped pastry" of the 9th century became a "filled savoury or sweet pastry" called "Kräppel" in the Central area of the modern German country's landmass by the 11th century when Middle High German was in vogue; whence the word entered Yiddish "krepel/kreplekh", & the plural form suffix ending in "-ekh" instead of "-(e)n" due to slavic languages' influence on Yiddish by the 13th century.

Thank you for reading & please chase down any corrections if you find them.

P.S. I am aware that "(a small) crumb" is thought to come through crumble/crumple & from Proto Germanic "*kremma", but I assure you the experts are almost sure that particular "uncertain origin" of the PG verb comes from PIE "*grem(b)-".

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    Welcome to MiYodeya Elle and thanks for this first answer. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Jun 26, 2021 at 18:21

ספר הפרנס סימן קיב לקשנוס שקורין קרעפליכה

The earliest mention of kreplach seems to be a 13th century Judeo-German writer called the Parnas. It reads luchsohns which are called krepalicha. So it would be Old French or High German.

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    Hi user2217! Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for this interesting data point. If you can know any other biographical information about this Sefer Haparnes please consider editing it into your post. Also, you should consider choosing a more meaningful user name for yourself, unless you have some particular affinity to the number 2217. I look forward to seeing you around!
    – Double AA
    Dec 28, 2012 at 7:14

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