Yiddish is considered a language of fusion, with German its primary influence. About 82 percent of its vocabulary is Germanic-based. The other 18 percent is an equal mix of Hebrew and Slavic influences.
Yiddish originated 1,000 years ago as the spoken language of Ashkenazi Jews living in central and eastern Europe. The first work of modern Yiddish literature was published in 1864. Widespread emigration of European Jews help spread the language all over the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In 1939, there were believed to be 11 million Europeans who spoke Yiddish as their first or only language. The Holocaust is believed to have killed half of them. How many Yiddish speakers exist in the world today is unknown.
The 1990 U.S. census counted 213,064 people who reported speaking Yiddish in the home. The final 2000 count of Yiddish speakers has not been released yet. But a census survey performed that year estimated the number has dropped to 116,847.