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German word of the day: Der Zugzwang

Now a common chess term worldwide, you can use the word Zugzwang if you feel immense stress or pressure and have to make a tough decision.

German word of the day: Der Zugzwang
Photo: depositphotos

The compound noun is made up of Zug meaning ‘move' and Zwang which means 'compulsion', so Zugzwang means ‘compulsion to move', but also describes the feeling of being in a tight spot.

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According to chess historian Edward Winter, the term has been used in German chess circles since the 19th century and it is now one of the most important chess terms.

Zugzwang is a situation when a player is caught between a rock and a hard place because it’s their turn to play, but all the available moves are bad.

Any move the player who is in Zugzwang plays will clearly weaken his position, but as there is no possibility to skip a move in chess the player must make a decision; being in Zugzwang can often decide the outcome of the game.

Zugzwang can also be used in general in German to describe a situation where someone is under intense pressure to make a difficult decision.

SEE ALSO: 9 words which perfectly sum up being in your 30s

Examples:

in Zugzwang geraten

to be put on the spot

unter Zugzwang stehen

to be in a tight spot

jemanden in Zugzwang bringen

to put somebody on the spot

in Zugzwang sein

to be in a tight spot

Living in Germany? Need to learn German? Learn online, face-to-face with expert teachers

Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.

This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Isso

Perhaps you've seen this word on social media and you're not sure what it means. Let us explain...

German word of the day: Isso

Why do I need to know isso?

Because it’s a nice colloquial expression to use if you’re feeling a little lazy since it combines a few words. It was also one of Germany’s favourite youth words back in 2016, although it’s definitely not particularly cool anymore and is used by all ages

What does it mean?

Isso is derived from the statement: ist so (short for es ist so) meaning ‘it’s like this’ or ‘it is so’ in English. When used as a response to someone’s statement, it usually means you completely agree. A good translation is: ‘right on!’, yes, that’s exactly right!’ or ‘it’s true!’.

You can also use the expression yourself to emphasise your thought. In this case you’d add it on at the end of your sentence. You often find isso used on Twitter, when someone is quoting a Tweet.

It can also be used in a more downbeat form accompanied by the shrugging of your shoulders. In this case you’re saying isso, because it can’t be helped, it’s the way it is. 

Use it like this: 

– Wir müssen gegen steigende Mietpreise in Berlin demonstrieren.

– Isso! 

– We have to protest against rising rents in Berlin. 

– That’s exactly right!

Frauen sind die besten Autofahrer, isso!

Women are the best drivers, it’s true.

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