According to Leo Rosten, a mensch is "someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being 'a real mensch' is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous." The term is used as a high compliment, implying the rarity and value of that individual's qualities.
In Yiddish, mentsh roughly means "a good person". The word has migrated as a loanword into American English, where a mensch is a particularly good person, similar to a "stand-up guy", a person with the qualities one would hope for in a friend or trusted colleague. Mentshlekhkeyt (Yiddish: מענטשלעכקייט; German: Menschlichkeit) refers to the properties which make a person a mensch.
During the Age of Enlightenment, in Germany the term Humanität, in the philosophical sense of compassion, was used in Humanism to describe what characterizes a better human being. The concept goes back to Cicero's humanitas, which was literally translated as Menschlichkeit in German, from which the Yiddish word mentsh derives..
The word Mensch and the underlying concept have had an impact on popular culture. For example, the "Mensch on a Bench" is a Hanukkah-themed book and doll set. A life-size version of the doll has been adopted by Team Israel at the World Baseball Classic as their mascot. According to pitcher Gabe Cramer, "The Mensch is a great way to have fun in the dugout while reminding us of why we're here and who we're representing."
- "mensch." Merriam-Webster.
- The Joys of Yiddish, p. 240
- "Israel's Mensch on the Bench mascot at World Baseball Classic." Newsday.
- Modern Philology
- Gloster, Rob (7 March 2017). "Team Israel scores another surprise baseball win – with a Marin pitcher". J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Retrieved 12 June 2022.