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German word of the day: Die Engstirnigkeit

German word of the day: Die Engstirnigkeit
Photo: Depositphotos
Our word of the day could be a useful one for family gatherings if you ever have to call relatives out.

Now that Christmas is over, you might be happy to have a rest from some of your more narrow-minded relatives. You could say their Engstirnigkeit endangered the peace at the Christmas dinner table.

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Engstirnigkeit literally translates to “narrow foreheadedness“, which doesn’t make any sense, we know. Luckily, there’s a handy English word for it: “Parochialism.” Parochialism describes a state of mind, where a person focuses on a small section of an issue without considering its wider context. You could say they have a limited or narrow outlook.

The German word engstirning, however, is a much more figurative word for parochialism. The Stirn (forehead) stands for the brain in this case. An accurate English equivalent could therefore be “narrow mindedness.“

An example that brings us right back to the Christmas dinner table: Your uncle Klaus had one or two drinks too many and started ranting about immigrants.

To make his point (perhaps it was something like: “immigrants are all criminals“ or the like) clear, he uses examples he read in a tabloid that is known for taking a certain stance.

This tabloid might have written about a case of robbery, where it mentioned that the robber had a, let’s say, Tunisian background. It failed to mention, though, that the man is from a family who has lived in Germany for three generations.

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Your uncle Klaus completely disregards the wider picture and paints a picture of criminal immigrants overflowing Germany.

In this case, it would be very good to tell him: “Onkel Klaus, sei mal nicht so engstirnig“ (Uncle Klaus, stop being so narrow minded!“) and present the wider picture to him.

In many cases, Engstirngkeit can be avoided quite easily. The key is education and to look at the whole picture, not just a part of it.


Ich verstehe nicht, wie man so engstirnig sein kann.

I don’t understand how a person can be that narrow-minded.

Deine eigene Engstirnigkeit steht dir im Weg.

You are blocking yourself with your own parochialism.

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This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.

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  1. Good grief! The Local should look up “tendenziös” and make that their word of the day. And their official motto, while they’re at it.

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