Word of the Week: Sternstunde

Sep 23, 2011

Over the course of the year, Germany.info and The Week in Germany will highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.


A starry sky in southern Germany. © picture-alliance/dpa Enlarge image A starry sky in southern Germany. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

A positive turning point in your life might be described as a Sternstunde, a single moment in time when your personal fate hangs in the balance and is forever altered that speaks directly to the more mystical elements of the human spirit.

Composed of the two nouns Stern (star) and Stunde (hour), it literally means "Starhour". A Sternstunde is a metaphor for decisions, deeds or events that fatefully influence the future. Its origins, however, are not much of a mystery. The word is derived from astrology, or the astrological theory according to which the constellation of the stars at the precise point in time of a person's birth could influence his or her entire path in life. (Granted, this is not scientifically proven, but is based on astrological beliefs followed by some that are, given their very spiritual nature, by and large impossible to prove - or disprove.)

In more colloquial usage, the expression Sternstunde might be used to highlight a single exceptional event. For example, a person could describe the moment when they met the love of their life as a "Sternstunde meines Lebens" ('star hour' of my life). This could quite possibly be the most romantic way to use the word Sternstunde - to forever encapsulate like golddust suspended in a crystalline cloud tucked within the deepest recesses of a human heart one of the most emotionally charged moments of a lifetime.

Synonyms in German for Sternstunde, according to an online version of Germany's famous Duden dictionary, include Glanzpunkt (shining point), glückliche Stunde (happy hour), Glückstunde (lucky hour), Höhepunkt (high point), Krönung (crowning moment/high point) and Schicksalsstunde (fateful hour/moment).

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