German Language Blog

German Word of the Year 2020 Posted by on Dec 9, 2020 in Culture, Language

Guten Tag! Today we will look at the Wort des Jahres in Germany. Each year, the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (GfdS) – The German Language Association – picks a word as their Wort des Jahres – ‘Word of the Year’. This is often a word related to a prominent topic in the country during the year, and is usually interesting from a linguistic perspective, too. The Word of the Year has nothing to do with how often the word has been used, but is more about the word’s significance. What’s great about learning the German Word of the Year is that it gives us an insight into Germany’s current events, politics and culture, whilst teaching us some quirks of the language, too. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the Wort des Jahres 2020!

The Wort des Jahres 2020 is:

Die Corona-Pandemie – The Coronavirus pandemic

No surprises there! In fact, many – but not all – of the words in the top 10 are related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s take a look at them now, to see what other topics were big in Germany in 2020:

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

2. Lockdown

Again, this is pretty self-explanatory! If you’re thinking, But that’s an English word?!, the German language often takes words from English, and many of them usually show up in the Wort des Jahres lists- the current lockdown in Germany is even called a ‘Lockdown Light’, due to having slightly lighter restrictions than the previous one!

3. Verschwörungserzählung

‘Conspiracy story’. This is also related to the pandemic; like many others, Germany has had a problem with conspiracy theorists breaking the rules and protesting the country’s lockdowns this year. The word is broken down into: die Verschwörung (the conspiracy) and die Erzählung (the story/tale).

4. Black Lives Matter

This is another unsurprising addition to the list, as it was just a big a topic in Germany as anywhere else in the world. I wrote a post on Black Lives Matter in Germany, which you can read here!

Photo by Chris Henry on Unsplash

5. AHA

This is an acronym used in Germany to remind people of how to stay safe in daily day life during the pandemic. It stands for Abstand (distance) – Hygiene (hygiene) – Alltagsmaske (daily mask/face covering).

6. systemrelevant

Literally ‘systemically relevant’, this word refers to the businesses and sectors of society that were deemed essential, or non-essential, during the pandemic.

7. Triage

The subject of hospital care has of course been a widely discussed topic during the pandemic, so it makes sense that a word like Triage would be on this list. By the way, this word is the same in German and English: Die Triage (triage).

8. Geisterspiele

Literally ‘ghost games’, this is how football games were described when they were once again allowed to go ahead – in empty stadiums, to prevent the spread of the virus!

Photo by Sicong Li on Unsplash

9. Gendersternchen

This is the second word of the list that has nothing to do with the pandemic. The Gendersternchen – ‘gender star’ – is an addition that aims to make the German language more gender-neutral. Please read this post for more on the Gendersternchen and how this affects the German language!

10. Bleiben Sie gesund!

And, lastly, one of the phrases seen everywhere in Germany throughout 2020: Bleiben Sie gesund!‘Stay healthy!’ .


‘Keep your head up. Everything will be fine.’ Photo by Tobias Rademacher on Unsplash

Previous years:

Wort des Jahres 2019

Wort des Jahres 2018

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.