Word of the Week: Luftschloss

Aug 1, 2014

Luftschloss Enlarge image (© colourbox) Do you spend a lot of time dreaming up a life that you wish you lived? Do you create unrealistic scenarios in your mind, or visualize that impossibly expensive 20-bedroom mansion? In German, there's a special word to describe that "castle in the sky": Luftschloss.

The word Luft means "air" (or in this context, "sky"), and Schloss means "castle". The word Luftschloss therefore describes an unrealistic plan or dream that a person longs for, even though it is usually unattainable. The literal translation - "castle in the sky" - is a metaphor for those dreams: they exist only in ones mind.

It is believed that the term originated in the 15th or 16th century when people noticed friends and relatives daydreaming in the attic and accused them of "building a castle in the sky." Often times, it takes another person to recognize a Luftschloss: the dreamer may be too delusional to realize that their aspirations are unrealistic. Perhaps you know a dreadful singer who wishes to be the next Michael Jackson, or someone who counts too much on winning the lottery.

Luftschloss Enlarge image (© colourbox) Of course, reaching for the stars is a positive and healthy attitude to progress in life, but Luftschlösser signify the dreams that are far beyond reach. Synonyms include Wolkenkuckucksheim ("cloud-cuckoo land") and Fantasiegebilde ("fantasy building").

So keep dreaming -- but recognize the difference between the possible and the impossible! Have you built a castle in the sky?

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Buildings float atop "smog clouds"

Word of the Week: Wolkenkuckucksheim

The notion of a "Wolkenkuckucksheim" (Cloud-cuckoo-land) can be loosely defined, along the lines of building castles in the air (Luftschlösser), as "eine Utopie ohne Bodenhaftung oder Realitätssinn" (a utopia without grounding or a sense of reality).

© Germany.info

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