Word of the Week: Saukalt

Jan 13, 2017

Saukalt Enlarge image (© www.colourbox.com) Feeling a bit cold? Or are you frozen stuff? In German, there's a word to describe what it's like when it's really, really cold.


The German word Sau means "an adult female pig" and kalt means "cold". Literally translated, saukalt means "pig-cold". But it has little to do with the porky farm animal.

Saukalt is an adjective used to describe the weather when it is extremely cold outside (think sub-zero temperatures). It is probably saukalt in Siberia every winter, but even Germany has days where people are cursing the cold weather under their breaths.

But why the association with pigs?

Saukalt Enlarge image (© www.colourbox.com) Sau is a prefix found in many German words. In the German language, animal names are often used as prefixes to emphasize the word in a certain way (like Bärenstark - "strong as a bear"). In the olden days, many Germans kept their own pigs as pets, but pigs did not gain a very good reputation. They were widely perceived as being dirty and with an unpleasant odor, but also as large and plump.

Thus, words with the prefix Sau often have these characteristics attached to them. The word Sauwetter, for example, describes "dirty", unpleasant weather. The word Sauarbeit describes dirty work that you would not enjoy doing. Sauwein means bad wine. And Saukalt, of course, defines an unpleasant, cold temperature.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. In modern colloquial language, words such as Sauglück ("lots of luck") saugut ("very good") have a positive connotation and use the prefix simply to emphasize the word and give it more strength.

Saukalt Enlarge image (© www.colourbox.com) Generally speaking, however, the prefix Sau is often attached to words to emphasize their unpleasantness.

So when you're running to your car in sub-zero temperatures without your jacket, feel free to curse the pigs' weather.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

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