Joe Schmoe

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Alternative forms[edit]


Derivative of Joe (as in average Joe). Adding a schm- or shm- to the beginning of a word (see Shm-reduplication) is meant to diminish, negate, or dismiss an argument (for instance, "rain, schmain, we've got a game to play"). This process was adapted in English from the use of the "shm" prefix in Yiddish to dismiss something; as in, "fancy, schmancy." While "Schmoe" (and alternate spellings) are thought by some linguists to be a clipping of Yiddish schmuck (penis) but not universally accepted.

Proper noun[edit]

Joe Schmoe

  1. (US, informal) The typical, everyday person who does not have any special status, frequently in contrast to some group.

Usage notes[edit]

Can be either derogatory or humorous.


  • Feinsilver, Lillian Mermin, 1956, Schmo, Schmog, and Schnook, American Speech, Duke UP, Vol. 31 No. 3, pages 236-237.
  • (etymology) schmuck, Oxford English Dictionary, 1989, Oxford University Press[1]
  • (etymology) Gold, David L., 1988, Review of Yiddish and English: A Century of Yiddish in America by Sol Steinmetz, American Speech, Duke UP, Vol. 63 No. 3, page 276.