German Language Blog

More German ‘Non-Words’ of 2020 Posted by on Jan 27, 2021 in Language

Guten Tag! Today’s post is a follow-up to the Unwort des Jahres 2020 – the German ‘non-word’ of the year 2020. To fall into the category of an ‘Unwort’, the word must do one or more of the following: violate the principles of human dignity; violate the principles of democracy; discriminate against social groups; or be euphemistic or misleading in some way. We know from that post that the winners of the title last year were Corona-Diktatur and Rückführungspatenschaften. But hundreds of words were suggested by the public before the winners were chosen by a jury. This post will list some more German ‘non-words’ of 2020, all of which were in the running for the title!

Some of the themes that dominated this list in 2020 were the coronavirus pandemic, migration, and environmental issues. Reading about these Unwörter is not just a great way of seeing the creativity of the German language, but gives you an idea of the kinds of topics that were prevalent in Germany during that year, and how people responded to them.

More German ‘Non-Words’ of 2020

Berlin, Germany. Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash.

Topic: die Pandemie (pandemic)

Systemling – This word comes from das System (the system), and refers to a person who happily follows and/or benefits from the governing system. It’s similar to the word der Gutmensch – the ‘do-gooder’.

Wirrologen – This is a play on the words verwirren (to confuse) and der Virologe (virologist), a name given to non-experts suddenly giving out advice, and/or a reference to the sometimes confusing advice given out during the pandemic.

Grippchen – This word is a diminutive of the word die Grippe (flu/cold). A word becomes a diminutive when the suffix -chen (or, sometimes, -lein) is added. It is used to describe something smaller, younger, or ‘cuter’ than its original. The word das Grippchen, used in relation to the pandemic, suggests coronavirus is a ‘small cold’. Learn more about diminutives in German by clicking here.


Heidelberg, Germany. Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash.

Topic: die Migration (migration)

Abschiebepatenschaft – This has a similar meaning to the winner of the Unwort 2020 title, Rückführungspatenschaften. While die Rückführung means ‘return’, die Abschiebung means ‘deportation’, making Abschiebepatenschaft translate to ‘deportation sponsorship’. These terms were criticised in 2020 for being in bad taste, with many deeming them ‘zynisch und beschönigend’ (cynical and euphemistic).

Ankerkinder – Literally ‘anchor children’ or ‘anchor babies’, this word refers to asylum seekers who travel to a country to give birth there, ‘anchoring’ themselves to that country via their baby. The word is made up of der Anker (anchor) and die Kinder (children/babies).


Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash.

Topic: die Umweltschutz (environmental protection)

Öko-Nazi – Literally ‘eco-nazi’, this word mocks environmentalists by likening them to nazis. The word Öko- is a prefix equivalent to ‘eco’ (for example: Ökologie– ecology; ökologisch– ecological).

Verschmutzungsrechte – Literally ‘pollution rights’, these are rights companies can buy to use resources that contribute to pollution. They are often bought if they are more cost-effective for the company than the eco-friendly versions. The word is made up of the words die Verschmutzung (pollution) and die Rechte (rights).


Related posts you might like:

Unwort des Jahres 2020

Unwort des Jahres 2019

Wort des Jahres 2020

Jugendwort des Jahres 2020

Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Patrick Mueller on Unsplash.

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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.


  1. Doris:

    I’m a German American living in the US. I also love London.
    Thank you and keep up your good work by updating us on current German.
    DORIS F.

    • Constanze:

      @Doris Thank you, Doris!!! 🙂 Take care