Word of the Week: Überzeugungskraft

Aug 17, 2012

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

Überzeugungskraft

German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a speech. Enlarge image German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a speech. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Top politicians tend to possess it. So do the best trial lawyers and the most charismatic of silver screen sirens. It's called "Überzeugungskraft" - literally "the power to convince" - and it's something most of us either admire in others or aspire to achieve ourselves in various fora, from the personal to the political.

There is no plural form for this compound noun composed like so many German expressions of (at least!) two separate words - "Überzeugung" (conviction or - depending on the context - convincing) and "Kraft" (strength, power).

So it literally means "the power of convincing," as opposed to "the power to persuade" which is "Überredungskraft" (which essentially means the power to persuade or talk someone into something).

The verb form is "überzeugen" (to convince). If someone is "überzeugend," they are "convincing." And if an individual is "überzeugt" he or she is "convinced" (or dedicated) or - in the religious sense - "devout."

In this vein, you could for instance say: "Die Deutsche Mannschaft hat überzeugend gespielt." (The German team gave a convincing performance.) Or one might say: "Sie kann sehr überzeugend sein." (She can be very convincing.)

To ease the mind of a supporter of renewable sources of energy you could moreover, for instance, suggest: "Sie dürfen überzeugt sein, dass Deutschland die Energiewende schafft." (You may rest assured that Germany will achieve its energy transition. - In this context: from a complete phaseout of nuclear power by 2022 towards more renewable sources of energy.)

At the same time, the expression "zu der Überzeugung gelangen / kommen dass ... " translates into "to become convinced that ... " or "to arrive at the conviction that ... " something or other may be the case.

"Kraft" - not to be confused with a certain American company that produces cheese products and other foodstuffs - meanwhile adds the "oomph" to round out this expression.

Alternatively, a lack of strength in the physical sense is described via the adjective "kraftlos," whereas a lack of power in the political sense is "machtlos." Someone who has been stripped of their power, in turn, has been "entmachtet."

Power, pure and simple, is "Macht" in German. But to achieve bona fide power, at least in the democratic sense of the word, you will need to convince others to genuinely believe in the particular course you would like to chart. To this end, you would be well advised to burnish your own personal powers of conviction, or "Überzeugungskraft."

© Germany.info

Word of the Week

Word of the Week

do Deutsch

Do Deutsch

The German language opens up a wealth of opportunities. Learn why you should "just add German" here on our do Deutsch pages.