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German Word Of The Year 2021 Posted by on Dec 30, 2021 in Language, News, Politics, Vocabulary

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 Wort des Jahres 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 2021!

The German Word of the Year 2021 is: Wellenbrecher!

word of the year

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Word of the Year 2021: Wellenbrecher

This word literally means ‘wave breaker’ (die Welle: wave / brechen: to break). Originally relating to coastal protection (der Küstenschutz) and ship construction (der Schiffbau), in 2021 the word Wellenbrecher took on a new meaning in Germany: it was used to refer to all the measures the country is taking to prevent the fourth Coronavirus wave. A person can also be called a Wellenbrecher for taking precautions themselves!

Now here are the runners-up for the 2021 Wort des Jahres, with a brief description of each:

SolidAHRität

word of the year

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In Platz zwei (second place) is SolidAHRität. This word is a reference to the Ahrtal (Ahr valley) flood in Juli (July). It is a mix of the words der Ahr (the Ahr river) and die Solidarität (solidarity). During this flood (die Flut), communities across the country pulled together to raise money and repair the damage caused.

Pflexit

word of the year

Photo by Luis Melendez on Unsplash

In Platz drei (third place) is Pflexit. This is a play on the word Brexit, but in Germany it relates to nurses leaving the care profession due to bad working conditions and pay. The ‘Pfl’ in Pflexit stands for Pflege; die Pflege is the German word for ‘care’ or ‘nursing’.

Impfpflicht

word of the year

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In Platz vier (fourth place) is Impfpflicht, which is the term for ‘vaccine mandate’. Impfen is the verb for ‘to vaccinate’, while die Pflicht means ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’. The Impfpflicht has been a hot topic in Germany this year; whilst the possibility of this was always dismissed, attitudes have changed in recent months as the country battles to keep Coronavirus cases down and prevent a fourth wave of the virus.

Ampelparteien

word of the year

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In Platz fünf (fifth place) is Ampelparteien, which means ‘traffic light parties’. In September 2021 there was a Bundestagwahl (federal election), which the Social Democratic Party (SPD) won. They went on to create a coalition with two other parties and called themselves the Ampelparteien (‘traffic light parties’) because their party colours are red, yellow and green respectively.

Lockdown-Kinder

word of the year

Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

In Platz sechs (sixth place) is Lockdown-Kinder, which means ‘lockdown children’. This refers to the problems children have faced during the pandemic (die Pandemie), including problems with schooling (die Schulung).

Booster

word of the year

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In Platz sieben (seventh place) is Booster, referring to the booster jab (third dose of Coronavirus vaccination) which was rolled out in 2021. The official German word for ‘Booster’ is die Auffrischungsimpfung, which translates to ‘refresher vaccination’.

Freitesten

word of the year

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In Platz acht (eighth place) is freitesten, which literally means ‘to free test’. This is a new verb for the German language, which refers to the act of testing oneself for Coronavirus (something everyone in Germany currently has to do if they are not geimpft– vaccinated, or genesen– recently recovered from the virus). This word is a great example of how language evolves in relation to national events!

Triell

word of the year

Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash

In Platz neun (ninth place) is Triell. This stands for ‘Duell zu dritt’ – ‘A duel of three’. It’s a very old term, but it was used frequently in 2021 during the Bundestagwahlkampf (election battle), as there were three main contenders battling it out to win.

fünf nach zwölf

word of the year

Photo by Andrea Natali on Unsplash

In Platz zehn (tenth place) is fünf nach zwölf, which means ‘five past twelve (o’clock)’. This term is used when it’s already too late to act, and action should have been taken sooner. It was relevant to several critical topics in 2021, including the pandemic and the climate crisis (die Klimakrise).

If you like this post, check out last year’s Wort des Jahres here!

Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!
Happy New Year! 🙂
Constanze

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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.


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