Kobi writes that he has known the Hebrew word plonter – פלונטר since he was born:

Morfix, which is a Hebrew – English online dictionary, says it’s (slang) entanglement, knot; (slang) imbroglio.

I find it in the Urban Dictionary but not in the OED (I have v4.0).

Google translate finds it in Russian [Google search].

It isn’t an original Hebrew word for sure. I wonder where it comes from.

Any ideas?


  1. Yiddish also has “plonter” (Rafael A. Finkel’s dictionary defines it as “muddle, tangle, jumble”), with the verb “plontern”, which may be the direct source of the Hebrew word, but Yiddish has a lot of loans from Russian, so maybe the origin should be investigated from there (I don’t have an etymological Yiddish dictionary, if any exists, so I can’t give any etymology for the Yiddish word)

  2. It’s certainly not Russian — that Google search shows a marginal number of hits, and a Google Books search only two, both transliterations of Yiddish.

  3. OHG blantan “mix, stir” <- older “muddle”? The verb was lost on the way to Modern German, apparently. It wa lost in English too, but here the causative blend is alive — and the adjective bland.

  4. But why b > p in Yiddish?

  5. It’s probably from Polish plątać (phonetically ~~ plantach, where plant is the root) “To tangle, to confuse”.

    UPDATE: actually some sources on Yiddish confirm the same, making it more likely that the direction of the borrowing was from Polish to Yiddish, rather than the other way around. And Vasmer duly notes a possible link with Russian плута́ть, “to be lost”.

  6. Ding ding ding! I think we have a winner.

  7. Aha, and here it is in 7 Yiddish Words from Poland That Should Exist in English:

    6. plontern

    Plontern (zich) – to muddle, to become entangled in something;

    Yiddish likes this word a lot and uses it in many variants, like farplontern or araynplontern, which can mean also to implicate someone in some unclear affair. The noun is plonternish – use it for any kind of messy situation.

    Etymology: the Polish word is “plątać [się]” – to tangle, mix up, confuse.

    A great word; I’ll have to try to remember it.

  8. I concede.

  9. Derived from the Polish word “plątać [się]” – to tangle, mix up, confuse 🙂


  10. As I said above.

  11. There may be more Russian dialectal words, like reported uses of блындать “to wander aimlessly” (Novgorod), блондать which sometimes is used instead of Slavonic-derived блуждать “to be lost”, блондиться “to be away, whereabouts unknown” (Yaroslavl)

    But I don’t think there is any agreement on etymology, besides tentatively linking it with Old Slavonic блуд from Proto-Balto-Slavic *blandas, from Proto-Indo-European *bʰlendʰ- (“to wander; to see poorly; pale”). Which has an altogether different descendant in Polish. błąd pronounced more like “bwont” (a very different, dark L sound there, not like in Yiddish)

    Perhaps our resident experts on Polish and Slavonic in general can shed light and unconfuse us 🙂 ?

  12. Known since I was born, been called that for half my childhood (see last name), now I know the source 🙂

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