where does the word "vellish" come from?

I was totally stumped today when someone asked me why sefardi sksav is called vellish and where the word comes from, particularly since it sounds like an ashkenazic name.



  1. A few years ago, I sent this question to Dr. Marc Caplan, Tadetnick Professor of Yiddish studies at Johns Hopkins University.

    He did some research and wrote back that "Vellish" is from the German "wälsch," which means "Foreign."

    The original German word literally means "Welsh," and is the old German/anglo saxon word for the celts, to whom they collectively labled: Welsh.

    How Vellish is that?!

  2. I also did some research on this a while ago and came up with a similar answer: "Vellish" is from the old German word welsch meaning “Romanic” — which was originally a reference to the French and Italians.

    In Yiddish the word came to refer to Jews from Spain and Portugal, and in STAM the word came to refer to all Sfardi-style writing.

  3. Good question and even better answer. Tks!

  4. A response from someone I know who has a good yedia in these sort of things...

    "My guess - and I bet I am right - is that it originally meant "Italian," since "welsch" and "welschland" were archaic German names for Italian and Italy. So it was probably the form of the ksav which originated, or was felt to originate, in Italy. Don't be thrown off by the fact that it refers to the Sefardi ksav. First of all, until recently Sefardim were called "Frenks" in Yiddish, which is obviously derived from "French." For that matter, the Sefardim in Greece and Turkey used to call Italian Jewish merchants who lived among them "Francos."

    By that token, by "Welsch" was also meant many things. See here:


    where you can see that it is a term that meant many things in different parts of Europe. It is the origin of Wales, and from it is derived the Celts and also the Gauls (which refer to the French). Similarly, it also used to refer to "Southern Europe" in general, and not only Italy.

    To sum up: I think it meant Italian, but don't assume that it actually came from Italy. Most people who used it were only calling it what they already knew it was called."

    As you can see a similar response to what is mentioned here already.

  5. i saw last week in a sefer (i forgot which, it was written at least 100 years ago), that vellish is the name of the city that first started using those letters for their printing press


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