from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Judaism A sexton in a synagogue.
  • n. Judaism The candle used to light the other eight candles of a Hanukkah menorah.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A sexton in a synagogue
  • n. The candle used to light the other eight candles of a Hanukkah menorah.


Yiddish shames, from Hebrew šammāš, from Aramaic šammāš, servant, minister, probably from Egyptian šmsw, servant, from šms, to follow, serve.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Yiddish שמש (shames), from Hebrew שמש (shamásh). (Wiktionary)


  • In a festive atmosphere, he is received by participants of both high and low rank; in the midst of all the excitement, a humble shammes (synagogue caretaker) approaches him with a letter.

    Janette Fishenfeld.

  • Its petty ambitions, jealousies and internal intrigues contrasted vividly with the humility of the shammes, whose son was indeed the only Zionist in the practical meaning of the word, since he was “there,” in Israel.

    Janette Fishenfeld.

  • Meyer Landsman is the most decorated shammes in the District of Sitka, the man who solved the murder of the beautiful Froma Lefkowitz by her furrier husband, and caught Podolsky the Hospital Killer.

    Excerpt: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

  • But the solution was temporary, and the lease has almost expired, so our hero shammes I always thought it was shamus, but this is the Yiddish version is trying to crack his case under the shadow of Reversion, when the land will revert back to the U.S. and the Jews may be homeless once more.

    Archive 2007-04-11

  • In later years, Asher Washinsky, now assumed to be a ruined man, was reported to be working as a shammes, a janitor, in a small synagogue in South America, or was it South Africa, or was it South Australia, but he could just as easily have been out drinking himself to death.

    Kalooki Nights

  • The shammes screams that the gay shul is two blocks down the street, and that the gay should get the hell out of this normal shul.

    jonnycarston Diary Entry

  • The gay takes a seat, and the shammes seeing a new face, invites him for an aliya.

    jonnycarston Diary Entry

  • That's basically 13 shammes an hour, and the pitch takes about 5 minutes, and then you start again.

    Original Signal - Transmitting Digg

  • And finally they too flake away, the shammes among them.

    Brit Lit Blogs

  • In Hebrew, however, perhaps unknown to the shammes, there is an official notification to the father of the fact that the letter was found among the dead son’s belongings, with the recommendation that it should be sent to his father.

    Janette Fishenfeld.


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