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

Word of the Week: 08/15

broken shoe

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Abmagerungskur

Water, bread and an apple

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Abschiedsschmerz

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Abseitsfalle

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Adventskranz

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Affenhitze

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Affentheater

White-throated Capuchins, female with young, Honduras

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Alaaf / Helau

Karneval

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Allerheiligen

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Alternativlos

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Alter Schwede

to be astounded

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Altweibersommer

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS

"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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Aufbrezeln

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Aufheben

© colourbox

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Angsthase

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: 'Arbeitstier'

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Aus dem Häuschen

A "Spreewaldhaus" near Berlin

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.

Word of the Week

B

Word of the Week: Backpfeifengesicht

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Balkonien

© dpa - Report

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Bananenflankenkönig

Bananenflanke

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: bauchpinseln

Colors

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Bauernregel

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Begrüßungsgeld

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hals- und Beinbruch

close-up of female legs lying on grass

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Bergfest

Reaching the summit on the Zugspitze

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Besserwisser

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Beziehungskiste

Red heart with bandaid

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Bierernst

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?

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Blaumachen

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...

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Blümchenkaffee

(c) picture-alliance/dpa

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Bratkartoffelverhältnis

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Brotzeit

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Brückentag

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Butterfahrt

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

C

D

Word of the Week: Dachlawine

Dachlawine

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Dampfplauderer

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Dauerbrenner

Gas Burner

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Dreckspatz

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Dreikäsehoch

Käse

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.”

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Durch die Blume Gesprochen

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

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Duzfreund/ Siezen/ Duzen

Female student learning (c) www.colourbox.com

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!

Word of the Week

E

Word of the Week: Eierlegende Wollmilchsau

"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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Eiertanz

Traditional Sorbian Easter eggs

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Eigensinn

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: einbestellen

Foreign Office Berlin

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: einen Zahn zulegen

Zahn

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Einwanderungsbewegung

Statue of Liberty in New York

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Erbsenzähler

peas

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Erklärungsnot

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Es geht um die Wurst

Bratwurst © picture-alliance / Revierfoto

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!"

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Eselsbrücke

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Elefantenrunde

© dpa - Bildarchiv

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.

Word of the Week

F

Word of the Week: Fahrvergnügen

Made in Germany - Porsche Sportscars

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Fallrückzieher

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Fanmeile

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Faulpelz

A young giant panda chills out on a tree stump.

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Feierabend

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

"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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Fernweh

Thai paradise

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Filmriss

Filmriss

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Fingerspitzengefühl

"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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Firlefanz

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Fisimatenten

Mach keine 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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: FKK

An FKK sign in Germany

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Frauchen, Herrchen und Hündchen

"Sturm der Liebe", Episode 1681

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Fremdschämen

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Freundschaftsdienst

Freundschaftsdienst

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

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").

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Frühjahrsputz

Frühlingsputz

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 ...

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Frühlingsgefühle

© colourbox

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Frühschoppen

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: fuchsteufelswild

Red Fox, Denali National Park, Alaska

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Fußgängerzone

Fußgängerzone (Fussgängerzone) - Pedestrian Promenade / Precinct

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.

Word of the Week

G

Word of the Week: Gartenzwerg

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Geborgenheit

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. 

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Geisterbahnhof

dpa

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Geisterfahrer

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: geflügeltes Wort

wings

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Gemütlichkeit

© colourbox

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Gestaltungsmacht

Vacancy

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Gießkannenprinzip

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Glücksbringer

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

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Glühwein

"Glühwein" - Osnabrück Christmas Market (2012)

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Gretchenfrage

Film of "Faust"

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Gulaschkanone

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?

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Guten Rutsch

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Gute Vorsätze

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

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.

Word of the Week

H

Word of the Week: Habseligkeit

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hackenporsche

Hackenporsche

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hagestolz

Hagestolz

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hausdrachen

Hausdrachen

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Heimat

Deutschlandkarte im Kohlfeld

"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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hexenschuss

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hitzefrei

Education

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hitzkopf

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hochstapler

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hoffnungsträger

Three Friends

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Holzweg

A wooden path in Norway.

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Honigkuchenpferd

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?

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Hüftgold

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!

Word of the Week

I

Word of the Week: Innerer Schweinehund

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

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.

Word of the Week

J

Word of the Week: ja

© dpa

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Jeck

© picture alliance/dpa Fotografia

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

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”.

Word of the Week

K

Word of the Week: Kaderschmiede

A metalsmith at work

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Kaffeeklatsch

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").

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Katzensprung

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Katzengold

Katzengold

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Kaufrausch

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Kleinod

Glass stones at Egyptian bazaar Khan el Khalili in Cairo

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Kobold

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

Word of the Week: Kohldampf

A German boy holds a cabbage in the Dithmarschen region of Germany's northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein. © picture-alliance/dpa

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Knuffig

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

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Krass

© picture-alliance/ dpa

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Kuckucksei

Kuckucksei/Cuckoo egg

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Kuddelmuddel

"Kuddelmuddel" - a mish-mash of buttons

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Kummerspeck

Cured Bacon

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).

Word of the Week

L

Word of the Week: Lampenfieber

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Lampenfieber

Spotlight

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Lebenskünstler

Colors

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Landpartie

Landpartie in Brandenburg

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Lebkuchen

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Leseratte

Leseratte

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Liebestöter

Retro Laundry

"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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Löwenzahn

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Luftschloss

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.

Word of the Week

M

Word of the Week: Mahlzeit

Leibniz University Hanover canteen

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?

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Maloche

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Mauerblümchen

Mauerblümchen

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Mauerspecht

fall of the wall

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Mäusemelken

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

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.)

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: meschugge

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Minnelied

Minnesänger

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Mittelstand

Arranging a display at the Herrnhuter Sterne company in Saxony

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Moin

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?

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Morgenmuffel

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")!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Muffensausen

scared

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Mummenschanz

Venetian-style carnival in Hamburg

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Musikantenknochen

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Muttermal

Baby Girl (6 months)

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Mutterseelenallein

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.

Word of the Week

N

Word of the Week: Narr

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Nervensäge

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Nesthocker

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Nibelungentreue

Nibelungenlied

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Notbremse

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?

Word of the Week

O

Word of the Week: Ohrwurm

Pop Music Made in Germany

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest 'Playmate' 2010

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Ossi / Wessi

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Ostalgie

Ampelmann

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: O'zapft is!

Nina Bott

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.

Word of the Week

P

Word of the Week: Pantoffelheld

Pantoffeln

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Papperlapapp

What is this 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

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Paragraphenreiterei

Legal Symbols

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Pechvogel

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Plattenbau

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Platzhirsch

A red deer buck in Germany's Black Forest.

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Plaudertasche

Mädchen zusammen in Küche

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Plombenzieher

© colourbox

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Postfaktisch

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Popometer

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Purzelbaum

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...

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Pustekuchen

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!

Word of the Week

Q

Word of the Week: Qual der Wahl

"Wer die Wahl hat, hat die Qual"

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Quälgeist

Dennis - der 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."

Word of the Week

R

Word of the Week: Rabenmutter

Ravenmutter

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Rennpappe

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Republikflucht

ladder

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.”

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Word of the Week: Revoluzzer

Les Misérables (1998)

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Riechkolben

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Rübengeister

pumpkin

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")!

Word of the Week

S

Word of the Week: Schenkelklopfer

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schneidersitz

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").

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schwalbenkönig

Schwalbenkoenig

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Spargelzeit

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Sehnsucht

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schwarzfahrer

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Sitzfleisch

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schreibfaul

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Saftladen

orange juice

"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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Saukalt

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

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Sauwetter

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schattenparker

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schlafmütze

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schlaumeier

A "Schlaumeier" may also be a "Besserwisser"

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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schlitzohr

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: 'Schmuddelwetter'

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schmutzfink

Could he grow up to be a "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."

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schokoladenseite

Elke Sommer, 2005

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: 'Schnäppchen'

Sale sign

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"!).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schneebesen

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schneematsch

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schneidersitz

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").

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schiri

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Schrottwichteln

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Sinsamsodara

© picture-alliance/chromorange

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Sommerloch

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Sonnenwendfeier

© picture-alliance/dpa

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Sonntagsfrage

© dpa - Report

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Spinnefeind

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Sparwitz

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Spaßgesellschaft

(c) loveparade.com

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".

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Spatzenhirn

Spatz

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Speckgürtel

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Spießer

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

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Stacheldrahtsonntag

Stacheldraht

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

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Steckenpferd

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).

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.

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Word of the Week: Stein im Brett

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.

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Word of the Week: Sternsinger

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.

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Word of the Week: Sternstunde

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

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.

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Word of the Week: Suppenkasper

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!

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T

Word of the Week: Taschenbuch

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.

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Word of the Week: Tatendrang

Hiking

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."

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Word of the Week: Tohuwabohu

Baum in Kenia

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?

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Word of the Week: Tollpatsch

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

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.

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Word of the Week: Torschlusspanik

Soccer Ball in Stadium (Zurich, 2011)

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.

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Word of the Week: Trostpflaster

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Turniermannschaft

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."

Word of the Week

U

Word of the Week: Überhangmandat

© dpa

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.”

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Word of the Week: Überzeugungskraft

German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a speech.

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Umtrunk

© colourbox

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!

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Word of the Week: Unwetter

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".

Word of the Week

V

Word of the Week: Verschlimmbessern

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.

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Word of the Week: Vitamin B

Vitamin Capsules

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.

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Word of the Week: Vorfreude

Young family

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.

Word of the Week

W, X, Y, Z

Word of the Week: Waldeinsamkeit

St. Trudpert's Abbey

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.

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Word of the Week: Wandervogel

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.

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Word of the Week: Weiberfastnacht

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".

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Word of the Week: Weichei

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

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.

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Word of the Week: Weltschmerz

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

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.

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Word of the Week: Weihnachtspyramide

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Weihnachtsstern

Poinsettia plant (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.

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Word of the Week: Welpenschutz

© colourbox

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

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Word of the Week: Wendehals

wall

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.

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Word of the Week: Wiesn

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

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!

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Word of the Week: Winterdienst

snow plow

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!

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Wintermärchen

© colourbox

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.

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Word of the Week: Wolkenkuckucksheim

Buildings float atop "smog clouds"

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).

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Word of the Week: Wolpertinger

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.

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Word of the Week: Wundertüte

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Wutbürger

The 2010 Word of the Year: 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.

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Word of the Week: Zeitzeuge (and) Zeitreise

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.

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Word of the Week: Zimtzicke

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

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Zuckerpass

soccer

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.

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Word of the Week: Zugzwang

chess

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.

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Word of the Week: Zukunftsmusik

(c) dpa - Report

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.

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Zwangsumtausch

Deutsche Mark

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").

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Zwickmühle

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

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).

Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Butterfahrt

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

do Deutsch

Do Deutsch

The German language opens up a wealth of opportunities. Learn why you should "just add German" here on our do Deutsch pages.

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