German word of the day: Die Schnulze

If your Valentine’s Day didn’t go as planned and you end up alone in your apartment, you might want to put on today’s word of the day and have a big jar of ice cream.

Published: Thu 29 Dec 2022 15:00 CEST
German word of the day: Die Schnulze
Photo: depositphotos

Die Schnulze is best translated as “tearjerker” or “schmaltzy song/movie” and covers all the guilty pleasures and break up media you can think about. That can be a very kitschy song, a movie or even a book.

Long story short: The media that’s just perfect for a post break-up day in bed, with loads of chocolate.

Schnulze is usually used in a derogatory way. The Duden German dictionary defines Schnulze as an “artistically worthless, sentimental, maudlin, corny song, play or movie. Still, they are hugely popular, especially around Valentine’s Day.

There are lists on the Internet titled “Schnulzen, die ich trotzdem mag” (tearjerkers that I still like) and the worst thing that could happen to an artist is when their new, heartfelt single is described as a Schnulze.

Some examples for Schnulzen are “My heart will go on” by Céline Dion, “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen or “Love actually.”

That shows that even though Schnulzen have a bad reputation, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be enjoyable or even considered artistically important. The German word for such media is Edelschnulze (“fine-art tearjerker”), although that word is usually used in a very ironic way.

But where does a word like Schnulze has its origin? The notion of Schnulze first appeared in newspapers of the 1950s and quickly found its way into the German everyday language. The exact origin isn’t clear, but there are theories.

According to the German linguist Wolfgang Pfeifer, Schnulze could be connected to the word Schmalz (grease) in the sense of a sentimental emotional product. The Dictionary of German Colloquialisms connects the word Schnulze to the low German snulten, which means “to talk exuberantly” or “to act emotionally.”


Wollen wir Titanic gucken? – Oh nein, das ist schon wieder so eine Schnulze.

Do we want to watch Titanic? – Oh no, that’s just another tearjerker.

Ich wusste gar nicht, dass du Schnulzen magst.

I didn’t know you were into schmaltzy songs.

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