German word of the day: Scheinheilig

Today’s word of the day is one of those that significantly changed its meaning over the last couple of decades.

German word of the day: Scheinheilig
Photo: depositphotos

Scheinheilig literally translates to “seemingly holy,” which doesn’t really sound like a good thing to start with. A possible figurative translation in its present use is hypocritical.

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Originally, scheinheilig was known as the word “bigot”, which exists in German as well (bigott.)

This notion comes from the old English bī god, which means “with god.“ It was used to describe people who are sanctimonious, but don’t accept or even tolerate any other form of religion or view.

The French language used the word bigot since the 15th century; the English language adapted it in the 17th century.
Nowadays, scheinheilig isn’t used in the same way anymore. Scheinheilig means that even though you appear to be innocent, your intentions aren’t the best ones.

Or that you know that you did something wrong, but act like you are completely innocent.

An example: Your children played a bit too rough and knocked over a plant, which is now dead.

You come home and ask your children who did it. They stand in front of you, probably with their arms behind their backs, looking completely innocent. This is a scheinheiliges Verhalten (pretentious behaviour.)

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Political art: Mainz' carnival in February 2016 featured a statue called 'Scheinheilig' of Russian president Vladimir Putin dressed like an angle. Photo: DPA


Jetzt tu mal nicht so scheinheilig, ich weiß was du getan hast!
Now, don’t act all that innocent, I know you did it!

Ihr scheinheiliges Getue geht mir auf den Geist.
Her hypocritical fuss is annoying the hell out of me.

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This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.


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German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.