Word of the Week: Wendehals

Feb 14, 2014

Wendehals Enlarge image (© picture alliance/WILDLIFE)

In German, there is a particular word used to describe someone whose opinion conveniently took a turn in the opposite direction: a Wendehals.

The word Wendehals is a hybrid of the words Wende ("turning point") and Hals ("neck"). Originally, the word was used only to describe a type of migratory bird that is able to turn its head nearly 180 degrees (in English: a Eurasian wryneck). But during German reunification, the word was also used to describe any person from former East Germany whose political opinions took a stark turn in the opposite direction.

After the Berlin wall fell, some East Germans who formerly supported the GDR's communist regime drastically changed their political stance and instead declared support for the West German political parties that were taking control. To others, it often seemed as if they were adopting the convictions and principles of whomever was in power, thus gaining their favor with that party.

fall of the wall Enlarge image (© dpa-Bildarchiv) Today, the word Wendehals is also used in a more general sense to describe any opportunists whose public convictions take a turn in the opposite direction. The word Wende ("turning point") alone describes the period of German reunification, and is sure to come up in conversation this year as the world commemorates the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

© Germany.info

Word of the Week

Word of the Week

Word of the Week Dictionary

Missed a Word of the Week? Want to consult the growing Word of the Week dictionary? We have them listed from A to Z!