German word of the day: Der Filmliebhaber

A Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Lights dimming as opening credits roll. A Werner Herzog film. The crunch of popcorn. A Fritz Lang throwback. These are just a few things that may be enjoyed by today’s word of the day.

German word of the day: Der Filmliebhaber

In Germany, a person who seriously enjoy movies is often known as der Filmliebhaber. In the English-speaking world, we call our Marlene Dietrich quoting friend a film buff, cinephile, or just a downright movie lover.

The plural for der Filmliebhaber is die Filmliebhaber.

As the Berlin International Film Festival, also known as the Berlinale, kicks off later Thursday in the capital, Filmliebhaber can look forward to almost 400 movies set to be screened. Seventeen of those are competing for the Golden Bear, the festival’s top prize.

SEE ALSO: Berlin film fest turns focus on women, Netflix

Additionally, Filmliebhaber of German cinema can celebrate Werk Ohne Autor (or, the English title, Never Look Away) as a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The Academy Awards will take place on February 24th.

SEE ALSO: 'A gross distortion': Why Germany's 2019 Academy Award winner is caught in controversy

Filmliebhaber in the Berlin and Brandenburg region also have opportunities beyond Netflix and ins Kino gehen (going to the movies) to indulge in their interest. Die Deutsche Kinemathek: Museum für Film und Fernsehen in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz currently has an exhibition on the history of the Berlinale, in addition to its permanent exhibits on film and television history in Germany.

Later this year, Weimar-era Filmliebhaber will be able to view an exhibit on that important period in German cinema.

The Filmmuseum Potsdam also explores movie-making, namely at nearby Babelsberg Studios. In the Spring, at Babelsberg Filmpark, visitors can, in addition to going on rides and attending shows, go behind the scenes and tour film lots where movies and series have and continue to be filmed.

SEE ALSO: 10 epic German movies you have to watch before you die

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


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German word of the day: Witzfigur

You may like to think your jokes are "witzig" - but beware of getting labelled with this German word. It's not nearly as funny as it sounds.

German word of the day: Witzfigur

Witz, the German word for “joke”, is one of the first words a lot of foreigners come to learn when they start learning German. But it may be a little longer until you encounter what’s known as a Witzfigur.

Combine the word der Witz (joke) with the word die Figur (figure or character) and you get die Witzfigur (wits·fii·guur) – someone who may well be (unintentionally) funny, but is more likely to be the butt of somebody else’s joke. 

Think of it a little bit like the English expression “figure of fun”, or – more commonly used – a laughing stock. 

A Witzfigur may pop up in jokes, stories and songs as a clownish sidekick who offers some light relief.

In some cases, these Witzfiguren are there to act as the wise fool and reveal some deeper insight into what’s going on. In many cases, though, they’re just there to get a cream pie chucked in their face. 

It’s worth remembering that not every character in a joke is the butt of it – that is to say, not every Witzfigur is a Witzfigur.

In German, there’s a tradition of jokes involving Klein Fritzchen (little Fritz) – a fictional boy who pops up time and time again in various comedic scenarios, usually in order to say something insulting to someone. 

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Der Zappelphilipp

Little Fritz is not so much a figure of fun as a literal Witzfigur: a character in a joke. And in fact, his role in the jokes often involve delivering the punchline that makes someone else the laughing stock. 

That said, if you hear someone described as a Witzfigur in real life, it usually doesn’t mean anything good.

In fact, it often means they’ve done something pretty peinlich (embarrassing) or deserving of public mockery. And yes, it can often be applied to politicians.

By way of example, the term was recently used by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) to describe Gerhard Schröder, the former chancellor of Germany who has recently been stripped of many of his perks for insisting on taking Kremlin-linked jobs.

When asked about Schröder, Lauterbach said: “He has succeeded in being a former chancellor (who is) now on the verge of being a laughing stock.”

So, by all means, make a “Witz” or two, and definitely don’t be afraid of doing anything “witzig” (witty or funny), but if you ever find yourself on the verge of become a Witzfigur, it could be time for a change of course.


Er ist nur eine Witzfigur. Vergiss ihn. 

He’s just a joke. Forget about him. 

Ich habe angst davor, eine Witzfigur zu werden.

I’m afraid of becoming a laughing stock.