Yiddish: Tsu dir, mayn zis-lebn, tsit dokh mayn harts


Senior Member
Italy - Italian
Hello everybody.
I'd like to know the meaning of this sentence. It's written on the back of photo.
"Tsu dir, mayn zis-lebn, tsit dokh mayn harts".
Could anybody help me? Thanks a lot!
  • Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I haven't spoken Yiddish in years, but I grew up with it. Literally, I read this: "To you, my sweet life, my heart surely trembles."

    Zis-lebn, that I gave as "sweet life" is a tender endearment.
    Dokh is a word that emphasizes (like doch in German in many ways) and I don't know how to render it in English.

    It's a very nice inscription. :)


    Here's what you transcribed looks like in Yiddish:

    !צו דיר, מיין זיס־לעבן, ציט דוך מיין הערץ​

    but maybe the word after the commas was


    tsitert "trembles,"?


    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Yes, that is puzzling. I just assumed it was an error or maybe some kind of in-joke between the person who wrote it and the one receiving it.


    Senior Member
    This is a line from a song (sorry I can't type Yiddish characters):

    Papir iz doch vais, un tint iz doch shvartz.
    Tzu dir, main zis leben, tzit doch main hartz.
    'Ch volt shtendig gezesen drai teg noch an and'
    Tzu kushn dain sheyn ponim un tzu haltn dain hant.

    I have always imagined it said my heart "draws" (tzit) me to you.

    The second verse says I saw lots of pretty girls at a wedding, but none could compare with your black eyes and black hair. The third verse says "Glaich mich nit tzu kein beimele, un nit tzu kein shtop" and I hope, with G-d's help, to go with you under the khupe.


    New Member
    Yes, this is a line from the song "papir iz dokh vays".

    I believe that ציט (tsit) is the third-person singular present tense conjugation of ציען (tsien) which means to pull, draw, attract, etc. In the 6th edition of Harkavy's Yiddish-English Dictionary (which is available online) he uses the more Germanized spelling of ציעהען (tsiehen).

    In the Zemerl database of Jewish songs, the line is translated as "My heart is drawn to you, my sweet-life".

    On Ruth Rubin's "Jewish Folk Songs" record published by Smithsonian Folkways, the line is translated as "My heart yearns for my darling love."

    In Harkavy, the word לעבן (lebn) doesn't only mean "life", it can also mean "darling" (he spells it לעבען / leben). So perhaps something like "sweet darling" might be a better translation.


    New Member
    If I had to translate it, I might say something like, "You know my heart is drawn to you, my sweet darling."
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