Word of the Week A - Z

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.

A

broken shoe

Word of the Week: 08/15

What do you call something that is mediocre or average? Germans use the word 08/15 to describe things that are "nothing special". Learn when and why this number became a part of colloquial German language.

Water, bread and an apple

Word of the Week: Abmagerungskur

After all the excesses of the holiday season and, for some folks, the fun-filled days of winter carnival, many people turn to thoughts of an "Abmagerungskur" (diet) to lose weight and get into shape before the summer.

Abschiedsschmerz

Word of the Week: Abschiedsschmerz

Few things are more painful than saying goodbye to someone you care about. In German, there's a word for this type of pain: Abschiedsschmerz.

Abseitsfalle

Word of the Week: Abseitsfalle

The World Cup quarter finals are less than a week away! With soccer tournaments this big, some teams are willing to do anything to win. Let's take a look at one type of soccer tactic that might prevent someone from scoring - the so-called Abseitsfalle.

Adventskranz

Word of the Week: Adventskranz

Visit Germany during the holiday season and you'll likely see at least one Adventskranz. These "Advent wreaths" hold four candles and are used as a countdown to Christmas.

Affenhitze

Word of the Week: Affenhitze

A sweltering heat hung over Germany last week, forcing many people to stay indoors or head over to a pool. With temperatures around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, many Germans were complaining about the so-called Affenhitze.

White-throated Capuchins, female with young, Honduras

Word of the Week: Affentheater

Literally translated Affentheater means "ape theater" (or monkey theater) but a "complete farce" probably describes its meaning most accurately.

Alaaf

Word of the Week: Alaaf / Helau

What do Germans say during Carnival season? Alaaf! Helau! Learn the meaning behind these salutations - and know where you're allowed to say them.

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (about 1223-24), National Gallery, London

Word of the Week: Allerheiligen

The spooky and sugar-charged good times had by all on Halloween precedes "Allerheiligen," or All Saints' Day, which is observed in many Christian countries on Nov. 1. Check out the Word of the Week to read more about this annual holiday.

Unwort des Jahres (Un-Word of the Year) - Alternativlos

Word of the Week: Alternativlos

Over the course of the year, Germany.info and The Week in Germany will highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native ...

to be astounded

Word of the Week: Alter Schwede

The popular expression "Alter Schwede!" (Old Swede) has a dual meaning in the German language, and is more often than not used to express astonishment of some sort about something that elicits looks of dramatic surprise.

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS

Word of the Week: Altweibersommer

"Altweibersommer" is the German expression for Indian Summer, the exceptionally balmy, warm days in September and October that feel almost like summertime just before the cooler days of late fall and winter set in.

False eyelashes for female soccer fans in the colors of the German flag - black, red and gold.

Word of the Week: Aufbrezeln

When someone is heavily made up, sporting a dramatic hairstyle, and/or wearing flashy clothes, they could be described as "aufgebrezelt," which has nothing to do with looking like a pretzel.

© colourbox

Word of the Week: Aufheben

Sometimes language is a complicated thing… so complicated that it can take on a philosophical bent. What exactly does a word mean? Sometimes it all depends on context.

Is this "Feldhase" (field hare) an "Angsthase" (coward)?

Word of the Week: Angsthase

As springtime approaches, children look forward to finding colorful eggs and candies hidden in a garden or left behind in a basket by the Easter Bunny (Osterhase). Surely this intrepid bunny is bolder than an "Angsthase" to venture out to so many different places.

An office worker gets a little closer to his beloved computer.

Word of the Week: 'Arbeitstier'

The famous fictional horse at the center of the 19th-century novel "Black Beauty" was an "Arbeitstier", but so are people who work hard at their day jobs.

A "Spreewaldhaus" near Berlin

Word of the Week: Aus dem Häuschen

If you become giddy with joy and excitement upon hearing some great news, you are "ganz aus dem Häuschen" (totally out of the house), an upbeat expression generally placed within a positive context.

B

Backpfeifengesicht

Word of the Week: Backpfeifengesicht

Do you ever look at someone and feel like punching them in the face? Well, Germans have a unique word for that face: a Backpfeifengesicht -- a face that's badly in need of a fist.

© dpa - Report

Word of the Week: Balkonien

Still missing that perfect summer vacation location? Not sure you can even squeeze in a vacation this summer? We have a suggestion: head to Balkonien. It's a lot closer than you think!

Bananenflanke

Word of the Week: Bananenflankenkönig

Sad news for all of us: Germany was defeated by France in the European Championship semi-final on July 7. But that won't stop us from learning some more German soccer terminology. Our last soccer word for this summer is a fun one: Bananenflankenkönig.

Colors

Word of the Week: bauchpinseln

If you engage in the act of "bauchpinseln," which literally translates as "belly brushing," you are usually not even remotely coming into any kind of physical contact with somebody.

Bauernregel

Word of the Week: Bauernregel

As the leaves begin to golden and northerners start preparing for the cold winter months, you might hear Germans throw out a catchy phrase known as a Bauernregel. Literally translated, this word means “farmers’ rule,” but it defines any of the folk sayings and words of wisdom that deal with weather predictions.

Begrüßungsgeld

Word of the Week: Begrüßungsgeld

The German word Begrüßungsgeld means "welcome money", a concept that was created by the West German government in 1970. This money was gift from the Federal Republic of Germany to visitors from the eastern side - the German Democratic Republic.

close-up of female legs lying on grass

Word of the Week: Hals- und Beinbruch

There is more than meets the eye to the at first seemingly malicious expression "Hals- und Beinbruch" in the German language, which is akin to the popular American saying "break a leg".

Reaching the summit on the Zugspitze

Word of the Week: Bergfest

This word has to do with a work assignment or a job function which will be completed in a predetermined period of time. “Bergfest” marks the day on which you are halfway through. As if atop the Zugspitze in the Alps, you are on top of your game and the end is in sight.

Besserwisser

Word of the Week: Besserwisser

We all know a Besserwisser. Maybe it's that classmate who constantly corrects the teacher, or that friend who points out every one of your spelling mistakes. Perhaps it's your colleague, who believes he's the only one who can do the job correctly.

Red heart with bandaid

Word of the Week: Beziehungskiste

Thinking outside the box may be just what the doctor ordered in any kind of "Beziehungskiste" scenario involving a complicated relationship between two otherwise loving individuals.

Bierernst

Word of the Week: Bierernst

If you're trying to express how serious you are about something, what word would you use? In German, you would say you are bierernst ("beer serious"). No joke! Or is it?

blaumachen

Word of the Week: Blaumachen

Do you ever wake up and feel a little blue? Maybe you're tempted to skip work or school. Well, Germans have a unique word for doing so: blaumachen ("to make blue"). If you've ever called in sick when...

(c) picture-alliance/dpa

Word of the Week: Blümchenkaffee

Although it sounds at first like a pleasant springtime beverage, a "Blümchenkaffee" (flower coffee) would generally be frowned upon in Germany. In fact, it is a far cry from the tasty, yet fattening, "Kaffee Kuchen" (coffee and cake) afternoon tradition.

"Bratkartoffeln mit Spiegelei" (fried potatoes with fried egg) is a popular, simple meal across Germany.

Word of the Week: Bratkartoffelverhältnis

A "Bratkartoffelverhältnis," which literally means "fried potato relationship," is not about how much Germans love fried potatoes, but it is about finding a meal ticket, or at the very least someone who cooks for you.

Brotzeit

Word of the Week: Brotzeit

In Bavaria, the word Brotzeit ("bread time") describes a substantive "meal-between-meals" - something you might consume mid-afternoon before dinner. It's more than a snack, but less than a hot meal.

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge

Word of the Week: Brückentag

If Thanksgiving were an official holiday in Germany, a lot of German employees would most likely turn the Friday right after it into a Brückentag, or "Bridge Day," to create an extended four-day weekend.

Butterfahrt

Word of the Week: Butterfahrt

The German word "Butterfahrt" might sound strange at first. Literally translated, it means "butter ride" and might evoke images of smooth sailing. This word, however, defines a quick trip into duty-free waters to buy cheap goods - including, of course, butter.

C

D

Dachlawine

Word of the Week: Dachlawine

East Coast residents, watch out! With every blizzard comes the danger of many Dachlawinen!

Dampfplauderer

Word of the Week: Dampfplauderer

You know that friend of yours who just won't stop talking? That person you can never get off the phone, or the person who goes on and on with pointless stories? Germans have a name for someone like this: a Dampfplauderer!

Gas Burner

Word of the Week: Dauerbrenner

If something lasts for a long time, like a hit song that tops the charts for months on end or a hot topic of conversation, it could be described as a "Dauerbrenner" given its "long run" in the limelight.

Dreckspatz

Word of the Week: Dreckspatz

If you have kids, there's a good chance they're sometimes a Dreckspatz - especially if they love playing in the mud. The German word Dreckspatz is a fusion of the words Dreck ("dirt") and Spatz ("sparrow"), and describes a person who gets him-or-herself dirty easily.

Käse

Word of the Week: Dreikäsehoch

What do you call a tiny little kid in German? A Dreikäsehoch! Literally translated, this colloquial German word means “three-cheeses-tall,” but has little to do with cheese and instead defines a child (usually a boy) that we would refer to in English as a “tiny tot.”

"Easter Bunny" in Dresden, Germany (March 2012)

Word of the Week: Durch die Blume Gesprochen

When you say one thing but really mean to impart something much more dramatic by it, you may be "speaking through the flower" - the literal translation of the less-innocent-than-it-sounds turn of phrase "durch die Blume gesprochen."

Female student learning (c) www.colourbox.com

Word of the Week: Duzfreund/ Siezen/ Duzen

Formal vs. informal - when do you use it? How often does it come into play in the German language? How do you know when to use what honorific? The Word of the Week explains!

E

"Eierlegende Wollmilchsau" (?!?)

Word of the Week: Eierlegende Wollmilchsau

Picture this: a pig, covered in fluffy fur, that lays eggs and gives out milk. The image you have in your head right now is this week's word of the week, the "Eierlegende Wollmilchsau," which could roughly be translated as "egg-laying wool-milk-sow".

Traditional Sorbian Easter eggs

Word of the Week: Eiertanz

Have you ever wondered what to do with any leftover colored Easter eggs you don't plan on saving? How about conducting an "Eiertanz" (egg dance) with them, an expression that once was taken literally but today has an altogether different meaning.

Beethoven was "eigensinnig" and possessed of a strong sense of "Eigensinn."

Word of the Week: Eigensinn

This year's theme at the annual Beethovenfest in Bonn is "Eigensinn" in honor of the legendary, hard-of-hearing German composer whose intense artistic vision produced some of the most famous pieces of music in the world.

Foreign Office Berlin

Word of the Week: einbestellen

Foreign Minister Westerwelle had the North Korean Ambassador summoned.  The verb "einbestellen" is the German term in the language of diplomacy.

Zahn

Word of the Week: einen Zahn zulegen

If someone is slacking, you might want to tell them, "Sie müssen einen Zahn zulegen" (in English: "put in a tooth"). Find out how this unique German phrase originated and how you can use it.

Statue of Liberty in New York

Word of the Week: Einwanderungsbewegung

German-American Day, observed annually on October 6 since 1987, celebrates German-American heritage in the United States, the foundation of which was laid by a massive "Einwanderungsbewegung" (immigration movement) in the 18th and 19th centuries.

peas

Word of the Week: Erbsenzähler

What do you call a nitpicky individual who is obsessed with order, details and control? An Erbsenzähler! Learn how this unique German word is related to peas and one German's trip to the Milan Cathedral.

Erklärungsnot

Word of the Week: Erklärungsnot

What do you do when you find yourself in an awkward situation that you caused? Well, you would probably try to find an explanation for your actions, but it might not be so easy. And Germans have a special word for this type of emergency: Erklärungsnot!

Bratwurst © picture-alliance / Revierfoto

Word of the Week: Es geht um die Wurst

May the better team win, but which one will it be?  A very important question to soccer fans for the upcoming finals, and that is why they say: "Es geht um die Wurst!"

Eselsbrücke

Word of the Week: Eselsbrücke

Do you have a hard time remembering information, whether you're studying for a biology test or trying to remember an address? In German, a trick that helps you retain information is called an Eselsbrücke - which literally translates to "donkey bridge."

© dpa - Bildarchiv

Word of the Week: Elefantenrunde

The word "Elefantenrunde" literally means "elephant round-up." This term describes a televised debate between leading representatives of German political parties and has occurred during most elections for the past 30 years.

F

Made in Germany - Porsche Sportscars

Word of the Week: Fahrvergnügen

Does starting your car's engine put a smile on your face? Or is driving your car from A to B more of  a chore for you? Well, maybe you need a healthy dose of "Fahrvergnügen".

Fallrückzieher

Word of the Week: Fallrückzieher

As the 2016 European Championship continues, let's take a look at another German soccer word that may come in handy if you're watching the games in German: Fallrückzieher.

Fanmeile

Word of the Week: Fanmeile

With the 2014 World Cup currently underway, Fanmeilen are popping up all over Germany. In German, this sort of area is called a Fanmeile ("fan mile") - a public space that is transformed during significant sporting events.

A young giant panda chills out on a tree stump.

Word of the Week: Faulpelz

As the mercury rises during the summer months, folks find themselves enjoying some downtime in air conditioned interiors or lounging along pools or breezy shorelines. Too much of such "lazing about" however could lead people to brand you a "Faulpelz."

A hard hangs on a wall at a Frankfurt construction site in 2008.

Word of the Week: Feierabend

"Feierabend" means "quittin' time" in German. When the workday comes to a close, Germans will often wish each other "einen schönen Feierabend" - a nice "celebratory evening."

Thai paradise

Word of the Week: Fernweh

Germans - who take both their vacation and their work time very seriously - are world champions in traveling, logging some 72.6 million trips abroad in 2010. Their globetrotting "wanderlust" is best explained by the German expression "Fernweh".

Filmriss

Word of the Week: Filmriss

Can't remember what happened last night? Then you're suffering from a Filmriss!

"Fingerspitzengefühl"

Word of the Week: Fingerspitzengefühl

Compound nouns abound in the German language. One that applies well to a variety of scenarios yet is difficult to translate precisely into English is "Fingerspitzengefühl."

"Firlefanz" can be used to describe a beautiful, yet ultimately useless, thing.

Word of the Week: Firlefanz

A quirky expression of French origin that wended its way into medieval German language usage, "Firlefanz" is a charming little confection of a word used to denote the "frippery" or silliness of beautiful yet useless things, as well as simply clowning around.

Mach keine Fisimatenten!

Word of the Week: Fisimatenten

"Mach doch keine Fisimatenten!" a stressed-out parent may tell a defiant child - "stop it, come to the point!" How is "Fisimatenten" connected to "visit my tent" as some Germans claim? Never mind, it is not.

An FKK sign in Germany

Word of the Week: FKK

FKK, or "Freikörperkultur" (Free Body Culture), is more than just freeing yourself from the burden of your clothes, it means liberating yourself from social conventions.

"Sturm der Liebe", Episode 1681

Word of the Week: Frauchen, Herrchen und Hündchen

To be a dog's "Frauchen" or "Herrchen", you must be part mistress/master, part companion, part parent and part friend. Only a dog owner can understand the bond between man and man's best friend.

fremdschämen

Word of the Week: Fremdschämen

Have you ever watched someone make a fool of themselves, only to find yourself cringing in embarrassment for them? Then you’ve most likely experienced fremdschämen.

Freundschaftsdienst

Word of the Week: Freundschaftsdienst

Sometimes you do things for other people that you don't like. Why do you do it? Because of your Freundschaftsdienst!

Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

Word of the Week: Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

When spring arrives, not everyone is struck with joy and vitality. Some are just the opposite, developing a fatigue that Germans call Frühjahrsmüdigkeit ("spring tiredness").

Frühlingsputz

Word of the Week: Frühjahrsputz

The temperatures are rising, the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming. It's time to put away those heavy winter coats and bring out the shorts! With the change of the seasons comes substantial ...

© colourbox

Word of the Week: Frühlingsgefühle

When the first signs of spring have sprung, people start experiencing their first "Frühlingsgefühle" in Germany as they develop newfound energy and a spring in their step.

Frühschoppen

Word of the Week: Frühschoppen

It's 10 a.m. on a Sunday - too early to drink? Not necessarily! There's even a German word for early-morning drinking: Frühschoppen!

Red Fox, Denali National Park, Alaska

Word of the Week: fuchsteufelswild

The word "fuchsteufelswild" is used in German to describe an enraged person who is as wild as a fox and mad as the devil. This adjective is most likely rooted in the fox's much-maligned medieval reputation as a sly troublemaker.

Fußgängerzone (Fussgängerzone) - Pedestrian Promenade / Precinct

Word of the Week: Fußgängerzone

Most German towns and cities feature a pedestrian retail district known as a "Fußgängerzone" (Fussgängerzone), where people tend to gather to take care of the business of shopping and socializing in a car-free and often charmingly cozy urban setting.

G

Gartenzwerg

Word of the Week: Gartenzwerg

If you've walked around Germany's residential neighborhoods, you've probably seen them peeking at you from behind the bushes: garden gnomes. The German word for these creatures of the garden is Gartenzwerg, and you'll find over 25 million of them in Germany.

Geborgenheit

Word of the Week: Geborgenheit

The German word Geborgenheit is difficult to translate, but it encompasses a range of feelings that make it a powerful word. Geborgenheit is the sum of warmth, protection, security, love, peace, closeness, trust and comfort. 

dpa

Word of the Week: Geisterbahnhof

The word Geisterbahnhof means "ghost train station" - and as its translation implies, it signifies an empty or out-of-service station that gives off a ghostly vibe. This word originated during the Cold War, when so-called "ghost stations" arose in Berlin's public transportation system.

Geisterfahrer

Word of the Week: Geisterfahrer

Driving on the wrong side of the road is dangerous, and can even be deadly. In German, drivers who are going in the wrong direction are called Geisterfahrer, which means "ghost drivers."

wings

Word of the Week: geflügeltes Wort

In German, terms such as "deja vu" and "carpe diem" are considered geflügelte Wörter ("winged words") -- a term that originated in Homer's works and is now deeply integrated in the German language.

© colourbox

Word of the Week: Gemütlichkeit

Is there a feeling of Gemütlichkeit around you? Wonder what that is? Think it may sound familiar? The Word of the Week explains!

Vacancy

Word of the Week: Gestaltungsmacht

The power to shape a political decision-making process, to solve macro-level problems and resolve conflicts by negotiation, as well as the micro-level power of self-determination, can all be described in German as "Gestaltungsmacht."

Giesskannenprinzip

Word of the Week: Gießkannenprinzip

Germans have a word for everything! The term Gießkannenprinzip means "watering can principle". Like a watering can distributes water evenly, the Gießkannenprinzip describes sitations where something (often money) is distributed evenly, regardless of the situation.

A "Glücksschwein" (lucky pig) made of marzipan is a traditional New Year's Eve "Glücksbringer" (bringer of luck)

Word of the Week: Glücksbringer

Germans traditionally give each other a "Glücksbringer" (a bringer of luck) on New Year's Eve (Silvester) or New Year's Day (Neujahrstag). Among the most popular of all "Glücksbringer" is a "Glücksschwein" (lucky pig).

"Glühwein" - Osnabrück Christmas Market (2012)

Word of the Week: Glühwein

No German Christmas market is complete without "Glühwein," the hot, spiced mulled wine that warms holiday merrymakers from the inside out as they stroll through these charming little villages of cloth and wood with family and friends.

Film of "Faust"

Word of the Week: Gretchenfrage

If you are asking a "Gretchenfrage," you are striking at the core of the issue. In literature, you can expose a character's intent, personality, and goals, just like Gretchen in Goethe's Faust.

Gulaschkanone

Word of the Week: Gulaschkanone

The German word "Gulaschkanone" is used to refer to a mobile field kitchen -- but what does this colloquial term have to do with goulasch soup and cannons?

Guten Rutsch!

Word of the Week: Guten Rutsch

On New Year's Eve, Germans of course wish each other a Happy New Year (Frohes Neues Jahr). But they also like to proclaim "Guten Rutsch!" - an expression most linguists agree is steeped in Jewish tradition.

Runner at sunset, Dallas Road, Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Word of the Week: Gute Vorsätze

At the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, many of us transform suddenly from inebriated revelers to neurotic dieters as we make shedding those extra holiday pounds one of our "gute Vorsätze" (resolutions) for the New Year.

H

Habseligkeit

Word of the Week: Habseligkeit

The German word Habseligkeiten is a beautiful one. Literally translated, it means "belongings", but it also means so much more! It comes from the words haben ("to have") and Seligkeit (a state of bliss, happiness or salvation).

Hackenporsche

Word of the Week: Hackenporsche

Have you ever seen an elderly individual pull their groceries home in a shopping scooter? In German, that's a so-called Hackenporsche!

Hagestolz

Word of the Week: Hagestolz

In German, there is a particular word to describe an old confirmed bachelor who loathes the idea of getting married: a Hagestolz.

Hausdrachen

Word of the Week: Hausdrachen

Do you have a dragon living in your house? Someone who brings fire beneath your roof on a daily basis?

Deutschlandkarte im Kohlfeld

Word of the Week: Heimat

"Heimat" is a loaded word in the German language. Translating it simply as "home" does not fully do it justice. The powerful emotional ties it evokes in many Germans would best be described as "a sense of belonging".

Hexenschuss

Word of the Week: Hexenschuss

Have you ever had a sharp pain in your back - one that leaves you cringing in pain or crouching in agony? Germans would call that a Hexenschuss - a shot by a witch!

Education

Word of the Week: Hitzefrei

In Germany, school holidays are spread evenly throughout the year, with some classes taking place in July and August. So if at high noon the temperature is above around 25 or 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade, the day is declared "hitzefrei" and pupils and teachers are sent home.

Hitzkopf

Word of the Week: Hitzkopf

It may be hot outside, but the word Hitzkopf has little to do with outside temperature. Instead, it refers to a person whose blood may be boiling a little bit too often - someone who's angry all the time.

"Du bist ein verdammter Lügner" (You're a damn liar)

Word of the Week: Hochstapler

A "Hochstapler" is a conman, imposter or anyone who claims to be something that they really are not. While this expression could be used in a tongue-in-cheek fashion to tease somebody, it by and large carries a highly loaded and negative connotation.

Three Friends

Word of the Week: Hoffnungsträger

A "Hoffnungsträger" is a person on whom you pin your hope, literally as if you took your hope (="Hoffnung") and gave it to this person to carry (= "tragen"). Bright young people are Hoffnungsträger, or promising prospects, such as the students in the Think Transatlantic National Finals.

A wooden path in Norway.

Word of the Week: Holzweg

If you are wandering through a forest and start sauntering up a particular "Holzweg" (wood path), you may be headed the wrong way, even though you at first believed you took a right turn.

Honigkuchenpferd

Word of the Week: Honigkuchenpferd

If you've got a big dorky grin across your face, a German might tell you that you're grinning like a Honigkuchenpferd - a "honey-cake-horse." Basically, a horse-shaped honey cake. But why the strange comparison?

Hüftgold

Word of the Week: Hüftgold

Many of us are probably carrying a few extra pounds around the middle, and in German there's a nice for word it: Hüftgold!

I

Two piglets hang out under a heat lamp in some straw on a farm near the western German city of Münster. © picture-alliance/dpa

Word of the Week: Innerer Schweinehund

To start up any post-holiday exercise regimen, for example, you may need to overcome your "Innerer Schweinehund" (inner pig dog) before getting off the couch and lacing up those running shoes.

J

© dpa

Word of the Week: ja

Sometimes even words that seem so straightforward have many extra layers to them. "Ja" is one of those words, but we're here to help you out!

© picture alliance/dpa Fotografia

Word of the Week: Jeck

Jet jeck simmer all! What in the world does this mean? The Word of the Week is here to help out with this timely phrase.

Word of the Week: jwd

“jwd” – is that even a word??  How do you pronounce it?  Easy: you say “jott-we-de” (another way to write this oddity) and an English phonetic spelling is “yot-vay-day”.

K

A metalsmith at work

Word of the Week: Kaderschmiede

A "Kaderschmiede" is a place where talented individuals study and hone their craft in a specific field or discipline, such as a famous elite school that produces top brass business, political or military leaders.

Kaffeeklatsch

Word of the Week: Kaffeeklatsch

You probably know that Germans love gathering for Kaffee und Kuchen ("coffee and cake"), traditionally in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. But did you know there's a name for this type of social gathering? Germans call their afternoon coffee-and-cake sessions a Kaffeeklatsch ("coffee gossip").

Katzensprung

Word of the Week: Katzensprung

The German word Katzensprung means "a cat's leap" and is used to describe something that is very close by. The closest English equivalent would be the phrase "a stone's throw away".

Katzengold

Word of the Week: Katzengold

Ever gone panning for gold? Probably not, but if you have, be careful not too get too excited when you find Katzengold!

Kaufrausch

Word of the Week: Kaufrausch

With Christmas a day away, the stores are filled with last-minute shoppers trying to collect gifts for loved ones. Parking is difficult, stores are overcrowded, lines are long and many items are sold out. This is all due to the so-called Kaufrausch.

Glass stones at Egyptian bazaar Khan el Khalili in Cairo

Word of the Week: Kleinod

A "Kleinod" is a jewel, or something of value, but it can also be used in a figurative sense to describe almost anything vested with deep personal meaning to someone.

Kobold

Word of the Week: Kobold

Ever heard a bump in the night in Germany? You might have a Kobold living with you. Learn about this legendary Germanic creature that has been part of the country's folklore for centuries.

Word of the Week: Kohldampf

When German speakers complain about "Kohldampf" they are not necessarily referring to heaping plates of steaming cabbage fogging up their kitchen windows - they are trying to indicate that their empty stomachs are growling and they are absolutely famished.

Wilbär pals around with his mom, Corinna, in the Stuttgart Zoo. © picture-alliance/dpa

Word of the Week: Knuffig

The digital age has served to showcase all things "knuffig" or "knuddelig" in this world, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

© picture-alliance/ dpa

Word of the Week: Krass

Have you ever had a friend tell you an amazing story and you just weren’t sure how to react? Enter the word krass, the ultimate comeback word for any situation!

Kuckucksei/Cuckoo egg

Word of the Week: Kuckucksei

Traditionally Easter eggs are symbols of rebirth and new life coming into existence and therefore have a positive connotation. But there is one sort of egg nobody wants to receive as an Easter present - a "Kuckucksei."

"Kuddelmuddel" - a mish-mash of buttons

Word of the Week: Kuddelmuddel

Given that cleanliness really is next to godliness in Germany, where a deeply ingrained sense of "Ordnung" is almost regarded as a national trait, creating any kind of "Kuddelmuddel" - as cute as it may sound - is only a good idea if you seek to either bemuse, befuddle or seriously irk someone.

Cured Bacon

Word of the Week: Kummerspeck

The holiday season is a dangerous time for anyone who tends to pack on the pounds. Whenever something gets us down some of us moreover turn to food for comfort, which can lead to a pesky problem known as "Kummerspeck" (grief fat).

L

Lampenfieber

Word of the Week: Lampenfieber

Have you ever felt that uneasy, nervous feeling right before a big performance? Or have you ever remained frozen when the camera turned to you? Then you may be suffering from Lampenfieber!

Spotlight

Word of the Week: Lampenfieber

If you've ever felt nervous about a job interview, a public speaking engagement, pitching a startup idea to a bunch of investors - or any situation in which the spotlight is turned on you - then you've probably experienced "Lampenfieber" (stage fright).

Colors

Word of the Week: Lebenskünstler

A "Lebenskünstler" is not an artist who puts people in live action happenings or installations - it is someone who manages to make life magical in myriad ways by putting a positive spin on everything and by taking pleasure in little things others might overlook.

Landpartie in Brandenburg

Word of the Week: Landpartie

Landpartie - is that when the whole country throws a party, like for soccer? Lo and behold! This is a peaceful outing, and the term comes from the times when automobiles made it possible to leave the city and come back in a day.

Lebkuchen

Word of the Week: Lebkuchen

You've probably had it - or know what it is; Lebkuchen is a German delicacy commonly found at German-style Christmas markets, as well as other festivals and events. But do you know the origins of the word Lebkuchen? They can be traced back hundreds of years!

Leseratte

Word of the Week: Leseratte

Do you read every night? Are you obsessed with your book collection? Germans would likely call you a Leseratte ("reading rat")!

Retro Laundry

Word of the Week: Liebestöter

"Liebestöter" (love killers) are not actual murderers - instead of making pulses race or people take emotional action, they tend to put a major damper on romantic passions.

Löwenzahn

Word of the Week: Löwenzahn

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.

Luftschloss

Word of the Week: Luftschloss

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 those "castles in the sky": Luftschloss.

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Leibniz University Hanover canteen

Word of the Week: Mahlzeit

Your business partner takes you to the meeting room in the elevator, somebody steps in, looks at you, and says "Mahlzeit!" Have you just received an order to start eating some imaginary snack, or what?

Maloche

Word of the Week: Maloche

In the German language are several synonyms for "Arbeit" (work). But "Maloche" goes far beyond that. Take a look at how a word with Hebrew roots became a symbol of industrialization and remains popular among hard-working Germans today.

Mauerblümchen

Word of the Week: Mauerblümchen

Like the flowers growing in a wall, a so-called Mauerblümchen is a girl or woman who often goes unnoticed.

fall of the wall

Word of the Week: Mauerspecht

After the East German border was opened, countless people chipped away at the Berlin Wall with pickaxes and sledgehammers. These people were called "Mauerspechte" (wall woodpeckers).

"Es ist zum Mäusemelken!" (It's driving me crazy.)

Word of the Week: Mäusemelken

Have you ever been frustrated by a seemingly senseless task or impossible scenario? Then you may have felt like exclaiming: "Es ist zum Mäusemelken!" (It's enough to drive you up the wall.)

Meschugge

Word of the Week: meschugge

Derived from Yiddish, the adjective "meschugge" is used colloquially in German to describe someone or something as crazy. This slang expression has also been used in the United States with various spellings.

Minnesänger

Word of the Week: Minnelied

Middle High German looks as indecipherable a language as it gets, but even so some beautiful poems and stories came out of the era. One of the most well-known forms of Middle High German poetry is the Minnelied.

Arranging a display at the Herrnhuter Sterne company in Saxony

Word of the Week: Mittelstand

Germany's "Mittelstand" of small- and medium-sized, often family-owned enterprises has been hailed by experts all over the world as the backbone of the nation's export-oriented economy.

Moin!

Word of the Week: Moin

Like last week, your business partner takes you to the meeting room in the elevator, but this time you are up north, maybe in Kiel. It's 6 pm. Somebody steps in, looks at you, and says "Moin!" Did that person oversleep to wish "good morning" at the end of the day?

Morgenmuffel

Word of the Week: Morgenmuffel

Are you a grouch in the morning? Do you glare at everyone who tries to speak to you before noon? Well, my friend, that makes you a Morgenmuffel ("morning grouch")!

scared

Word of the Week: Muffensausen

When you are absolutely terrified of something that is about to happen, how do you describe your feelings? You might say you are "scared to death", "scared sh*tless" or "scared stiff". In German, you would say that you are having Muffensausen.

Venetian-style carnival in Hamburg

Word of the Week: Mummenschanz

From its historic connotation as a game of chance (Glücksspiel) played with dice, "Mummenschanz" has come to be associated with the carnival season in Germany to mean "Maskerade" (masquerade) and "Maskenspiel" (mummery, or a play involving mummers).

Musikantenknochen

Word of the Week: Musikantenknochen

When you accidentally smash your arm into a table or a door, you might scream in pain because the impact affected your Musikantenknochen - your "musician's bone".

Baby Girl (6 months)

Word of the Week: Muttermal

In German, a "Muttermal" is a birth mark. "Muttertag" means the same thing in German as it does in English - "Mother's Day".

Mutterseelenallein

Word of the Week: Mutterseelenallein

Do you feel lonely? On a scale of 1 to 10, how lonely do you feel? If it's a 10, Germans have a special word for this type of extreme loneliness: mutterseelenallein.

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Just a couple of "Narren" (fools/clowns) out for a good time ...

Word of the Week: Narr

The traditional carnival season observed in many parts of Germany brings out the "Narr" (fool) in anyone feeling "verrückt" (crazy) enough to participate in this festival of seasonally sanctioned zaniness.

Nervensäge

Word of the Week: Nervensäge

Is there someone who irritates you to the point of insanity? Does it feel like this person is sawing through your nerves every time they speak? In German, you would call them a Nervensäge.

Nesthocker

Word of the Week: Nesthocker

When you graduated, did you continue to live with your parents or did you find your own place? If you currently live in your parents' basement, you are probably a so-called Nesthocker!

Nibelungenlied

Word of the Week: Nibelungentreue

The word "Nibelungentreue" describes a fierce and unreasonable loyalty that may be consequential. The term stems from Norse and German mythology first recorded during the Middle Ages.

Notbremse

Word of the Week: Notbremse

If you speak German, you've probably heard the word Notbremse ("emergency brake"), but have you heard it in the context of a soccer game?

O

Pop Music Made in Germany

Word of the Week: Ohrwurm

Have you ever had trouble getting a song or a specific lyric or melody out of your head? Then you may have experienced the not altogether unpleasant sensation of suffering from an "Ohrwurm". The best pop artists in the music industry know how to infect you with them.

Oktoberfest 'Playmate' 2010

Word of the Week: Oktoberfest

Every year, millions of visitors flock to Munich to become part of the world's largest fair – welcome to the Oktoberfest! There are only a couple of words you need to navigate the Oktoberfest almost like a local – or at least without outing yourself as a tourist.

Ossi / Wessi

Word of the Week: Ossi / Wessi

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, generalized nicknames arose to distinguish people who lived on either side of the border. Those in the west were informally referred to as Wessis and those in the east were called Ossis.

Ampelmann

Word of the Week: Ostalgie

The year 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - a monumental day in German history. But despite modern Germany's reunification, some Germans still exhibit Ostalgie - a deep yearning for the East German way of life.

Nina Bott

Word of the Week: O'zapft is!

If you’ve ever been to Oktoberfest, there’s a good chance you’ve heard Germans joyfully shout out the phrase "O’zapft is!" and reach for the keg. Knowing the meaning of this Bavarian phrase will help you better understand German tradition.

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Pantoffeln

Word of the Week: Pantoffelheld

If you’ve ever encountered a man who fearfully submits to his commanding wife’s every will, you’ve probably met a Pantoffelheld. Learn why henpecked husbands are defined by slippers and heroism.

What is this Papperlapapp!?!

Word of the Week: Papperlapapp

"Papperlapapp" is a colloquial term deployed to express disagreement - it is, indeed, synonomous to "nonsense". By using it, you are strongly stating that your conversational opponents' words are literally meaningless.

Word of the Week: Pappenheimer

The popular word "Pappenheimer" refers to more than just a citizen of a picturesque Bavarian town. Most often, the expression "ich kenne meine Pappenheimer" is used by Germany, which means something like "I know my cardboard homies" or "I know my peers".

Legal Symbols

Word of the Week: Paragraphenreiterei

A person who really likes to stick to the written rules is sometimes called a "Paragraphenreiter" (a "jobsworth") in Germany. "Paragraphenreiterei" means something like "obsessive adherence to rules" or "pedantry".

Pechvogel

Word of the Week: Pechvogel

Some people always have the worst luck, whether they miss the bus every morning or get struck by lightning - twice. Are you one of those people? In Germany, you'd be called a Pechvogel.

Plattenbau

Word of the Week: Plattenbau

If you've ever visited East Germany during the Cold War, you probably saw a lot of grey, cheaply-built apartment buildings that might have made you feel depressed. This sort of building is what Germans referred to as Plattenbau - a structure made up of prefabricated concrete slabs. Basically, an inexpensive structure with very little originality.

A red deer buck in Germany's Black Forest.

Word of the Week: Platzhirsch

During the annual mating season, stags become territorial and engage in brutal jousting matches to gain favor with female deer. A person who seeks to dominate a specific situation is thus sometimes referred to as a "Platzhirsch" (place deer).

Mädchen zusammen in Küche

Word of the Week: Plaudertasche

A "Plaudertasche" is a slang expression for "chatterbox" which is used as a term of endearment to describe a very wordy person.

© colourbox

Word of the Week: Plombenzieher

Dentists aren't known to be fans of most candy, but Plombenziehers just may be the candy loved by children and dentists alike.

Postfaktisch

Word of the Week: Postfaktisch

The word Postfaktisch has been selected as the German Word of the Year by the Society for the German Language. This is a new word that was immensely popular in both English and German throughout 2016, especially during the time frame of Brexit and the US presidential election.

Popometer

Word of the Week: Popometer

When you're shopping for a new car, what do you rely on most as your deciding factor? Some people may rely on ratings, reviews or research, but most of us make the decision based on how the car feels when we test-drive it. Similarily, people employed to test cars rely most often on their Popometer when writing about, recommending or rating a vehicle.

Purzelbaum

Word of the Week: Purzelbaum

The German word Purzelbaum sounds like some sort of strange tree. After all, the German word for tree is Baum. But this term actually describes an acrobatic move often practiced by kids - the so-calle...

Pustekuchen

Word of the Week: Pustekuchen

What do you say when someone tells you that they're going to fly to another country tomorrow, even though a heavy blizzard is underway? "Yeah right!", "nonsense!" or (sarcastically with an eye-roll) "Ya think?" But in German, the response to an unbelievable opinion is Pustekuchen!

Q

"Wer die Wahl hat, hat die Qual"

Word of the Week: Qual der Wahl

If you have many options on the table and are finding it hard to make up your mind about something, you may be suffering from "die Qual der Wahl" (the agony of choice).

Dennis - der Quälgeist

Word of the Week: Quälgeist

When you were little, you might remember nagging your parents persistently to buy you something in a store. Germans would have called you a Quälgeist, which basically means "a pest."

R

Ravenmutter

Word of the Week: Rabenmutter

Is your mother a Rabenmutter ("raven mother")? Let's hope not! A Rabenmutter is known to neglect or abandon her children.

Rennpappe

Word of the Week: Rennpappe

If you're familiar with East German cars, you probably know that they're not the best quality. But that's probably an understatement: they were so bad, in fact, that Germans began referring to them as Rennpappe, which means "running cardboard".

ladder

Word of the Week: Republikflucht

When East Germans escaped over the inner German border during the Cold War, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) described their actions as Republikflucht, which means “desertion from the republic“ or “flight from the republic.”

Les Misérables (1998)

Word of the Week: Revoluzzer

In German the expression "Revoluzzer" refers in a more tongue-in-cheek or even downright derogatory sense to a "revolutionary" or "radical" seeking to to change the world into the utopia reflected in his ideals.

Riechkolben

Word of the Week: Riechkolben

Do you know someone who has a nose like Pinocchio? Or maybe a nose that reminds you of Rudolph? Germans would call such noses a Riechkolben!

pumpkin

Word of the Week: Rübengeister

It's Halloween! If you live in the US, you're probably carving scary faces into pumpkins and sticking a candle in the middle. But if you live in Germany, maybe Jack-o'-lanterns aren't your choice: instead, some Germans decorate their homes with so-called Rübengeister ("root vegetable ghosts")!

S

Schenkelklopfer

Word of the Week: Schenkelklopfer

A Schenkelklopfer is a simple, corny but effective joke that evokes serious laughter. The direct translation is "thigh slapper" but in English, the term "knee slapper" is a more commonly used equivalent. This type of joke is so funny that it may have listeners slapping their knees while laughing.

Schneidersitz

Word of the Week: Schneidersitz

When you're sitting cross-legged, what do you call that position? The English language lacks a noun to describe it, but in German, that's the so-called Schneidersitz ("tailor's sitting position").

Schwalbenkoenig

Word of the Week: Schwalbenkönig

To get you ready for the European Championship, we will clue you in on some German soccer terminology. First up: Schwalbenkönig - a player who repeatedly and purposefully dives to the ground in an attempt to obtain a penalty or a free kick.

Spargelzeit

Word of the Week: Spargelzeit

It's white asparagus time! Well, in Germany it is. In fact, this time of year is so significant to Germans that it even has it's own name: Spargelzeit!

Sehnsucht

Word of the Week: Sehnsucht

The German language is filled with words that do not exist in English. One such word is Sehnsucht, which is difficult to translate accurately. Sehnsucht is a deep emotional state; it describes an intense longing, craving, yearning or "intensely missing" something or someone. English translations do not do this term justice; it is a much more emotionally charged word in German.

Schwarzfahrer

Word of the Week: Schwarzfahrer

Some German-speaking countries have metro train systems without turnstiles. This honor system makes it easy for people to board trains without paying. Those who do so are called "Schwarzfahrer."

Sitzfleisch

Word of the Week: Sitzfleisch

Do you have something important that you need to finish at work? If you have enough Sitzfleisch, you may be able to get it done in one sitting!

Schreibfaul

Word of the Week: Schreibfaul

Feeling lazy today? In particular - are you feeling too lazy to respond to e-mails, letters or anything else that requires writing? In that case, you are schreibfaul! So pick up your pen and change the status quo!

orange juice

Word of the Week: Saftladen

"Saftladen" is a derogatory term used to describe a shop or any service business, really, that offers junk, a substandard choice of goods, is overpriced or just has plain bad service – no matter what they are selling.

Saukalt

Word of the Week: Saukalt

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 -- Saukalt, which means "pig-cold"!

Word of the Week: Sauregurkenzeit

With four or more weeks of vacation per year, many German workers are out of the office during the summer months - especially in July and August, when schools are also closed. As a result, this time period is often referred to as the Sauregurkenzeit, which translates into "pickle time."

Sauwetter

Word of the Week: Sauwetter

Look outside, what do you see? If it's grey, rainy and cold, you're experiencing what Germans would call Sauwetter - a term for lousy weather! Directly translated, however, Sauwetter means "pig weather". Cloudy with a chance of... pigs? Not exactly.

Schattenparker

Word of the Week: Schattenparker

In German, there's a descriptive word for almost anything - even for a man who lacks manhood. The word Schattenparker ("shadow parker") refers to a wimp - a person who would rather take the easy route because he's afraid of or not interested in the alternative.

Schlafmütze

Word of the Week: Schlafmütze

Are you nodding off at your desk, even after three cups of coffee? Can't get out of bed in the mornings? Are you always late and missing opportunities? Sounds like you might be a Schlafmütze!

A "Schlaumeier" may also be a "Besserwisser"

Word of the Week: Schlaumeier

A "Schlaumeier" is someone who is clever or cunning. Given that this expression is deployed more often than not in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, it is best to be on your guard if someone calls you a "Schlaumeier."

Could he be a "Schlitzohr" (ripped ear)?

Word of the Week: Schlitzohr

Do you know some of those people who manage to turn the tables even in the worst situations? Or those who seem to handle difficulties with extreme cleverness? So you probably already met a "Schlitzohr" at least once in your life.

A blustery day along the Baltic Sea coast in northeastern Germany.

Word of the Week: 'Schmuddelwetter'

Although Germany is the world's biggest solar power producer, its northerly regions, in particular, are prone to "Schmuddelwetter" - rainy, overcast weather, often coupled with remarkably refreshing oceanic breezes.

Could he grow up to be a "Schmutzfink"?

Word of the Week: Schmutzfink

Do you have trouble finding matching socks in the morning? Are there "mystery" containers of leftovers lodged somewhere in the darkest recesses of your refrigerator? Then you just might be a "Schmutzfink."

Elke Sommer, 2005

Word of the Week: Schokoladenseite

You don't need chocolate from the Easter Bunny to show your "Schokoladenseite": "sich von seiner Schokoladenseite zeigen" means "to show oneself at one's best", from the favorable and attractive side.

Sale sign

Word of the Week: 'Schnäppchen'

In Germany a real bargain is a "Schnäppchen," which is not to be confused with a "little Schnapps" (although it can be that too ... as a "Schnäppschen"!).

A "Schneebesen" (wire whisk) whipping up some "Eisschnee" (whipped egg whites/meringue)

Word of the Week: Schneebesen

A "Schneebesen" is a wire whisk. Literally translated, however, it means "snow broom" - a far more poetic way to to describe the process of producing "Eischnee" (egg snow) in a bowl.

Schneematsch

Word of the Week: Schneematsch

Snow is beautiful, but Schneematsch is not! This German word means "snow mud", and it defines that brown, dirty slush that seeps into your shoes when the snow melts on the streets.

Schneidersitz

Word of the Week: Schneidersitz

When you're sitting cross-legged, what do you call that position? The English language lacks a noun to describe it, but in German, that's the so-called Schneidersitz ("tailor's sitting position").

"Schiedsrichter" (referees), or "Schiri's", before a soccer match in Germany.

Word of the Week: Schiri

Although it may sound more like a cute summer cocktail, a Saharan desert wind or a new sub-species of exotic pet gerbil, a "Schiri" is actually a very serious dude who takes care of some pretty serious business - attempting to create a level playing field on game day.

Schrottwichteln

Word of the Week: Schrottwichteln

If you're American, you've probably heard of "Secret Santa" or "White Elephant" gift exchanges. In Germany, however, we have what's called Schrottwichteln, which basically means "the exchange of crap".

© picture-alliance/chromorange

Word of the Week: Sinsamsodara

Today we leave our world of "Hochdeutsch" (standard German) and peek at the wealth of colorful expressions in German dialects.  In the Oberpfalz in Eastern Bavaria, a "Sinsamsodara" is an old and cute word for a moony person.

Sommerloch

Word of the Week: Sommerloch

Although it may at first sound like a reference to a refreshing riverside swimming hole, a "Sommerloch" (summer hole) actually refers to something entirely different - the dearth of "real news" smack dab in the middle of summertime.

© picture-alliance/dpa

Word of the Week: Sonnenwendfeier

Many Germans - like the Scandinavians - celebrate the "Sonnendwendfeier", an annual midsummer festival marking the summer solstice, or longest day of the year, on June 20 or 21.

© dpa - Report

Word of the Week: Sonntagsfrage

As Germany’s federal election quickly approaches, the Sonntagsfrage (Sunday question) has progressed to the center of heated debate as the country relies on the popular questionnaire to gain insight into the election’s turnout.

Spinnefeind

Word of the Week: Spinnefeind

A spinnefeind relationship is toxic! Even though this German word translates to "spider inimical", this type of antagonistic relationship is between creatures who have two legs and not eight!

sparwitz

Word of the Week: Sparwitz

We all know someone who tries to make jokes that no one laughs at. Some people are notoriously good at telling jokes that aren't funny (or that no one comprehends). It would be ironic to call their attempts "jokes" in the first place, so Germans have a better word for them: Sparwitze!

Clubbing crowd at the P1

Word of the Week: Spaßgesellschaft

Germans are serious, cold and not very outgoing people who don't like dancing and rarely laugh or smile - fact or lie? Not if you ascribe to the view that German youth culture, in particular, is more of a "Spaßgesellschaft".

Spatz

Word of the Week: Spatzenhirn

What do you call someone who lacks intelligence? A Spatzenhirn, of course! This colloquial term means "sparrow's brain".

Egon Schiele (1890-1918): "Stadtende" (Edge of the City), 1917/1918

Word of the Week: Speckgürtel

For some it is paradise on earth, for others, it is a place of dreary boredom they seek to flee, like Virginia Woolf as she was re-imagined in "The Hours" - welcome to the "Speckgürtel," the "outside-the-Beltway" zone of sleepy suburbia that encircles cities all over the world.

"Spießer" (Spiesser), as portrayed on German TV in 1999.

Word of the Week: Spießer

Your lawn is neatly mown? You are married with just about the usual amount of children? You might even live in an average-sized town house? You think you fit in just perfectly? Bad news: you run high risk of being despised as "Spießer" (Spiesser).

Stacheldraht

Word of the Week: Stacheldrahtsonntag

The events of August 13, 1961 brought a new word into the German language: Stacheldrahtsonntag, which means "Barbed Wire Sunday".

A child kisses his homemade "Steckenpferd" (Hobby Horse) in October 2010 at an event in the northern German city of Osnabrück celebrating the Treaty of Westphalia (1648).

Word of the Week: Steckenpferd

Everyone should have their own "Steckenpferd" (hobby horse) to indulge with childlike glee in something they truly relish doing. But they should not ride their "Steckenpferd" too hard, either.

Stein im Brett

Word of the Week: Stein im Brett

If you do someone a favor, Germans might say you have a "Stein im Brett" with that person. The roots of this old German saying lie in a centuries-old board game called Tric Trac, which was popular during the Middle Ages.

Sternsinger

Word of the Week: Sternsinger

Every year between Christmas and Epiphemy, hundreds of thousands of German kids travel from house to house singing carols and collecting money for good causes. These kids are known as Sternsinger ("star singers"), and their efforts are part of a Catholic initiative that has been ongoing since 1959.

A starry sky in southern Germany. © picture-alliance/dpa

Word of the Week: Sternstunde

A positive turning point in your life might be described as a "Sternstunde", a single moment in time when your personal fate hangs in the balance and is forever altered that speaks directly to the more mystical elements of the human spirit.

Suppenkasper

Word of the Week: Suppenkasper

Were you a picky eater when you were young? Did you refuse to finish your meals, or sit in front of your plate for hours? Germans would have called you a Suppenkasper!

T

Taschenbuch

Word of the Week: Taschenbuch

In honor of the Frankfurt Book Fair, let's take a look at a word you'll be hearing constantly at the fair: Taschenbuch.

Hiking

Word of the Week: Tatendrang

Have you ever leapt out of bed on a particular morning flooded with the uncontrollable urge to get something done, such as hit the gym, clean up your home, or finally start writing that novel you've already mapped out in your mind? Then you were gripped by a sense of "Tatendrang."

Baum in Kenia

Word of the Week: Tohuwabohu

Common descriptions and stereotypes depict Germans as disciplined, tidy, dutiful and organized people who in one way or another seem to have a deep inner desire for order. If this description is right, how come there is this exotic sounding word "Tohuwabohu" in German?

"Horst", a fictional character created by Munich-based "Infoscreen", was a "Tollpatsch" (Klutz).

Word of the Week: Tollpatsch

The German language mirrors the multicultural mix of German society. Hence the word "Tollpatsch" (schlub, klutz, clumsy person) has wended its way via an original Hungarian reference regarding shoes into common usage as a tongue-in-cheek German noun.

Soccer Ball in Stadium (Zurich, 2011)

Word of the Week: Torschlusspanik

When a German soccer player scores a goal the ball has been shot into the "Tor." But when somebody experiences "Torschlusspanik" (gate-shut panic), they are worried about missing out on a different kind of chance to "score" in life.

Trostpflaster

Word of the Week: Trostpflaster

When you have an emotional wound, what do you do it? Cover it up with a bandage, of course! A Trostpflaster, to be specific!

Turniermannschaft

Word of the Week: Turniermannschaft

The German soccer team has long held a reputation as one of the best in the world. As a result, Germans call their team a Turniermannschaft, which means "tournament team."

U

© dpa

Word of the Week: Überhangmandat

With just a few days until the Bundestag election, the word Überhangmandat frequently echoes through political conversation. Überhangmandat literally translates to “overhang mandate,” but is more commonly described as an “overhang seat.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a speech.

Word of the Week: Überzeugungskraft

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 we admire in others or aspire to achieve ourselves.

© colourbox

Word of the Week: Umtrunk

Germans are thought to be disciplined and hard workers who devote themselves to their work. But even work needs a fun element every once in a while. Enter the Umtrunk!

Unwetter

Word of the Week: Unwetter

Germans have a word for everything - including really bad weather. The word for weather is "Wetter", but the word for weather that causes you to run for cover is "Unwetter".

V

Verschlimmbessern

Word of the Week: Verschlimmbessern

We've all encountered situations where we try to make something better, but only make it worse. And in German, there's a word for that: verschlimmbessern.

Vitamin Capsules

Word of the Week: Vitamin B

During the winter cold and flu season, our thoughts turn to vitamins and healthy foods to help heal the body. "Vitamin B," however, denotes a different kind of vitamin in the German language.

Young family

Word of the Week: Vorfreude

With December and the holiday season fast approaching, our thoughts turn to spending time with family and friends. If you get along with your these folks, you may even experience "Vorfreude" - a delicious sense of anticipation of what is yet to come.

W, X, Y, Z

St. Trudpert's Abbey

Word of the Week: Waldeinsamkeit

If you have ever been surrounded by nature, touched with a feeling of utter solitude, then you know what the word "Waldeinsamkeit" means. It is the intangible feeling of being alone in the woods.

Wandervogel

Word of the Week: Wandervogel

When you wake up on a cloudless Saturday morning, do you have a burning desire to throw on your hiking boots and explore the great outdoors? You might be considered a Wandervogel.

Weiberfastnacht

Word of the Week: Weiberfastnacht

Those of you who were in Cologne on February 4 may have experienced quite a party! In the US, we would call that day "Fat Thursday". But in the German Rhineland, it's known as Weiberfastnacht, which means "Women's Carnival Night".

Ben Stiller, as male supermodel Derek Zoolander in "Zoolander" (2001), would have been considered a "Weichei" (wimp) by his macho, coal-mining Dad.

Word of the Week: Weichei

A "Weichei" (soft egg) has nothing to do with eating breakfast in Germany and everything to do with insulting a (usually) male individual by suggesting he really should "man up" about something or other, lest he run the risk of mockery for his wimpy ways.

The moon at its fullest point in December 2008 in Germany. © picture-alliance/dpa

Word of the Week: Weltschmerz

The German Romantic writer Jean Paul, or Johann Paul Friedrich Richter (1763-1825), is credited with first coining the term "Weltschmerz" in his pessimistic novel Selina (1827) to describe Lord Byron's discontent.

A 'Weihnachtspyramide' (Christmas Pyramid) at a fairytale-themed Christmas market in the city of Kassel.

Word of the Week: Weihnachtspyramide

Everyone has heard of the Christmas tree. A visit to most German homes, as well as Christmas markets, will however reveal another item that is quite popular during the holiday season in Germany: a "Weihnachtpyramide," or Christmas pyramid.

Poinsettia plant (Weihnachtsstern)

Word of the Week: Weihnachtsstern

In German, a "Weihnachtsstern" is both a Christmas star in the literal sense, as well as the poinsettia plant popular all over the world during the holiday season.

© colourbox

Word of the Week: Welpenschutz

Welpenschutz. We bet you've seen it around your office!

wall

Word of the Week: Wendehals

After the fall of the wall, the word Wendehals was used to describe East Germans whose political convictions did a 180-degree turn during reunification.

"Horse race at the Oktoberfest in Munich 1823," H. Adam

Word of the Week: Wiesn

Are you going to Oktoberfest or to the Wiesn? Well, if you're going to one, you're also going to the other: the word Wiesn is basically a synonym for Oktoberfest!

snow plow

Word of the Week: Winterdienst

If you live on the East Coast, there's a good chance you received some heavy snowfall last week! And if you did, you probably stayed at home until the Winterdienst cleared the roads!

© colourbox

Word of the Week: Wintermärchen

With a third of the US hit by the worst blizzard in decades, it seems almost cynical to talk about  Wintermärchen (winter’s tale). But the German word Wintermärchen is not about the weather. Instead it refers to the satirical verse-epic Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen (Germany: A Winter’s Tale) written in 1843 by German-Jewish author Heinrich Heine and first published in 1844.

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).

Wolpertinger

Word of the Week: Wolpertinger

In the Bavarian Alps, a strange-looking creature with antlers, fangs, wings and a tail roams quietly through the forests - according to folklore, that is. This mythological creature is what Germans call a Wolpertinger - a hybrid species that you've probably never seen before.

Wundertüte

Word of the Week: Wundertüte

Everyone likes a surprise. Enter the "Wundertüte" (wonder bag), which promises like a British Christmas cracker or a Mexican piñata to reveal some delightful treats to whoever may be so lucky as to receive it.

The 2010 Word of the Year: Wutbürger

Word of the Week: Wutbürger

Over the course of the year, The Week in Germany will highlight a different "Word of the Week" in the German language that may serve to surprise, delight or just plain perplex native English speakers.

Zeitreise

Word of the Week: Zeitzeuge (and) Zeitreise

The popular German expression zeitgeist has wended its way into the English language. Two of its temporal cousins, however, are less known in the anglophone world - Zeitzeuge and Zeitreise.

"Zimtsterne" (Cinnamon Stars) are a popular holiday treat in Germany.

Word of the Week: Zimtzicke

Although it may at first sound like it could be a tasty treat, a "Zimtzicke" is wholly unrelated to the many cinnamon-based baked goods Germans enjoy during the winter months.

soccer

Word of the Week: Zuckerpass

The term Zuckerpass means "sugar pass" and it refers to a move in soccer that's as sweet as sugar! A "sugar pass" is a skillfully executed pass from one player to another - a pass that is very smooth, calculated or creative.

chess

Word of the Week: Zugzwang

In German, there is a particular word to describe the pressure you might feel in a game of chess, or any situation in which you feel the compulsion to make a move. Learn more about the meaning of the word "Zugzwang" and how you can use it.

(c) dpa - Report

Word of the Week: Zukunftsmusik

Zero-calorie butter, schools without homework, or pigs that fly - that's all just "Zukunftsmusik" (future music). Although it can take on multiple connotations today, this figure of speech was spawned by 19th-century media mockery.

Deutsche Mark

Word of the Week: Zwangsumtausch

No one likes to be forced to do anything, especially when it comes to spending money. But in 1964, the East German government began a policy known colloquially as the Zwangsumtausch ("forceful exchange of money").

A windmill in Santorini, along the Aegean Sea in Greece.

Word of the Week: Zwickmühle

Any situation in which you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place is a "Zwickmühle", a figure of speech derived from the German word for mill (Mühle).

Butterfahrt

Word of the Week: Butterfahrt

The German word "Butterfahrt" might sound strange at first. Literally translated, it means "butter ride" and might evoke images of smooth sailing. This word, however, defines a quick trip into duty-free waters to buy cheap goods - including, of course, butter.

Word of the Week A - Z

Word of the Week

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Do Deutsch

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