Selfie, Fake News and Tablet added to German language in new dictionary

German language dictionary Duden has added 5,000 new words to its latest edition, including several English words.

Selfie, Fake News and Tablet added to German language in new dictionary
Duden managing editor Kathrin Kunkel-Razum holding the latest edition of the dictionary. Photo: DPA.

Duden’s new edition to be released on Wednesday has added thousands of new words, including several words of English-language origin such as Selfie, Tablet and Fake News.

“It’s simply a fact that many things in our lives are coming from the Anglo-American area, for example when one thinks of technical developments,” said Duden’s managing editor Kathrin Kunkel-Razum.

Other words that were added reflect the current political climate, such as Flüchtlingskrise (refugee crisis) and postfaktisch (post-truth). Another addition was the German language blog favourite Kopfkino (mental cinema, or daydream), which surprisingly had not been included in the dictionary before.

The editorial team at Duden also decided for the first time to how to record all chancellors' names, for example with the new entry of Merkel, Angela under the letter M.

New words are added according to specific criteria. Words must occur frequently and in various types of text. In addition, Duden takes into consideration how to document social developments, and the fact that some users may think certain words do not actually exist unless they are in Duden.

A few words spelled in traditional German language fashion have been dropped from the latest edition. Majonäse, for example, should now be simply spelled Mayonnaise.

The new edition also involves vocabulary specific to Berliners. Among the additions are Berlin classics like the personal pronoun ick/icke (me) and Späti (a convenience store that’s open late).

Duden’s database of words has been steadily growing in the last few decades. It now contains 145,000 words, whereas the reference book’s original version in 1880 contained 27,000.

The dictionary is updated every three to five years, with the last renewed edition released in 2013. 

“After this amount of time, there are enough developments in vocabulary that one would really like to depict,” said Kunkel-Razum.

READ ALSO: 10 English words you didn't know we stole from German

For members


10 ways to express surprise in German

From woodland fairies to whistling pigs, the German language has a colourful variety of phrases to express surprise.

10 ways to express surprise in German

1. Alter Schwede!

You may recognise this phrase from the cheese aisle at the supermarket, but it’s also a popular expression in Germany for communicating surprise. 

The phrase, which means “old Swede” comes from the 17th century when King Frederick William enlisted the help of experienced Swedish soldiers to fight in the Thirty Years’ War.

Because of their outstanding performance in battle, the Swedish soldiers became popular and respected among the Prussians, and they were respectfully addressed as “Old Swede”. Over the last three hundred years, the phrase developed into one to convey awed astonishment. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day – Alter Schwede

2. Holla, die Waldfee!

This curious expression literally means “Holla, the wood fairy”. It can be used both as an exclamation of astonishment and to insinuate that something is ridiculous.

Engraving of a fairy in the picnic park in Enfield in the UK.

Engraving of a fairy in the picnic park in Enfield in the UK. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Mareike Graepel

There are various explanations as to how the forest fairy made it into the German lexicon. Some say that it comes from the Grimm’s fairy tale “Frau Holle,” while others say it comes from an old song called “Shoo, shoo, the forest fairy!”

READ ALSO: 10 words and phrases that will make you sound like a true German

3. Das ist ja ein dicker Hund!

Literally meaning “that is indeed a fat dog!” this expression of surprise presumably originates from a time in the past when German dogs were generally on the thinner side.

4. Ich glaube, ich spinne!

The origin of this expression is questionable, because the word “Spinne” means “spider” and also “I spin”. Either way, it’s used all over Germany to mean “I think I’m going crazy” as an expression of surprise.

5. Ich glaube, mein Schwein pfeift!

The idea of a pig whistling is pretty ridiculous, and that’s where the phrase  – meaning “I think my pig whistles” – comes from. Germans use this expression when they can’t believe or grasp something, or to express that they are extremely surprised.

The pig Rosalie stands on a farm in a pasture.

The pig Rosalie stands on a farm in a pasture. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

6. Meine Güte!

This straightforward phrase simply means “my goodness” and is a commonly used expression of astonishment.

7. Oha!

More of a sound than a word, this short exclamation will let the world know that you are shocked by something.

READ ALSO: Denglisch: The English words that will make you sound German

8. heilige Blechle!

Often when surprised or outraged, we might let slip an exclamation that refers to something sacred. This phrase fits into that bracket, as it means “holy tin box”. 

The peculiar expression comes from the Swabian dialect and refers to the cash box from which the poor were paid by the Church in the Middle Ages.

The green house number nine which won an award for energy-efficient renovation and construction in Saxony-Anhalt.

The green house number nine which won an award for energy-efficient renovation and construction in Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

9. ach du grüne Neune!

This slightly antiquated expression literally means “oh you green nine!”, or “oh, my goodness!” and is one you’re more likely to hear among the older generation of Germans.

The origin of the phrase is disputed. One explanation claims that it comes from the famous 19th century Berlin dance hall “Conventgarten” which, although it was located in Blumenstraße No. 9, had its main entrance in “Grüner Weg”. Therefore, the locals renamed it as “Grüne Neune” (Green Nine).

Another explanation is that the phrase comes from fairs where playing cards were used to read the future. In German card games, the “nine of spades” is called “green nine” – and pulling this card in a fortune telling is a bad omen.

10. Krass!

The word Krass in German is an adjective that means blatant or extreme, but when said on its own, it’s an expression of surprise. Popular among young Germans, it’s usually used in a positive way, to mean something like “awesome” or “badass”.