Word of the Week: Löwenzahn

Apr 25, 2014

Löwenzahn Enlarge image (© picture alliance / Arco Images GmbH)

The German word Löwenzahn combines the words "lion" (Löwe) and "tooth" (Zahn). But this word has nothing to do with lions or teeth; instead, it describes a type of weed known in the US as a dandelion.

If you look closely at a Löwenzahn, what do you think it looks like? Does it remind you of Simba? Some say that its jagged leaves resemble teeth that could belong to a lion -- and that its yellow flower head resembles a lion's mane. 

But the German word Löwenzahn wasn't the first that described the weed-like plant this way: it stems from the French word dent-de-lion ("tooth of the lion") - which originated from Latin in the 1400s - and has since been incorporated into many languages. The German word came into use in the mid-1500s, and the American word dandelion came into use around the same time.

Löwenzahn Enlarge image (© picture alliance/chromorange) During the months of April and May, Löwenzähne bloom across Germany's many fields and parks, adding splashes of yellow to the greenery. When each plant ripens, it is topped with a seed head that is dispersed by wind and weather. The German word Pusteblume ("puff flower") is another variation of Löwenzahn, describing the plant in its ripest stage - a stage in which its head can be blown off the stem, often in a single "puff" (a popular activity for children in both Germany and the US!).

So next time you speak of Lowenzähne or dandelions, take a closer look at the flower, and you might see the lion in it. Roar!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

© Germany.info

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