German word of the day: Der Frauentag

With Friday marking International Women’s Day, let’s have a deeper look into the German word for it.

German word of the day: Der Frauentag
Photo: Depositphotos

Der Frauentag is a combination of the words Frau, meaning woman and Tag, meaning day.

Frau comes from the Middle High German word vrouwe, as well as from the Old High German word frouwa, which means Herrin. Herrin translates to “mistress” or “lady” and is the female version of Herr, which was the way to address the old gods.

Nowadays, the word frau is also used as an indefinite pronoun. For many years, the pronoun man had been used when referring to men and women alike.

A lot of women felt discriminated by that, though, since man is derived from the word Mann (“man”). Hence, feminists created a new version of that indefinite pronoun and started saying frau instead of man.

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated as early as 1911 and is used to fight for women’s right, emancipation and gender equality. The idea for a worldwide day especially for women came from the German socialist Clara Zetkin, who got the idea from the USA. Back then the day was celebrated on March 19th.

The date changed because of a strike. On March 8th, 1917, the female inhabitants of the poor districts of Petrograd in Russia went on a strike and caused the so-called “February Revolutions” (according to the Julian Calendar, which was used in Russia back then, it was February 23rd.)

At the International Conference of Communist Women in 1921, the date was changed to remember those women.

2019 was also the first year that the Frauentag has been declared an official holiday in Berlin.

SEE ALSO: What you should know about Frauentag, Berlin’s newest public holiday


Heute ist der internationale Frauentag.

Today is the International Women’s Day.

Das könnte frau so machen.

One could do that.

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German word of the day: Kladderadatsch

Whether it’s a pile of clothes on the floor or even the downfall of a political system, this is a German word for all things messy and chaotic.

German word of the day: Kladderadatsch

The German language is full of wonderful words that don’t have a true English translation: a personal favourite is Verschlimmbessern, which means to try and improve a situation only to end up making it worse. Der Kladderadatsch is another word which defies simple translation, meaning something like “unholy mess” or “clutter”, but also “chaos”,  “collapse”, or “crash”.

The reason for this slightly strange combination of meanings is that Kladderadatsch is onomatopoeic: it describes the sound that disorganised things make. When the word is used to describe a crash, an English onomatopoeic equivalent would probably be “kerblam!” or something similar. When you’re explaining that your bedroom is a mess, however, you’re most likely instead hoping to convey the idea of clutter – not that your laundry is making a “kerblam” noise! 

In a political sense, Kladderadatsch can also mean a particularly messy scandal.

Although Kladderadatsch can most likely trace its origin back to early 19th century Berlin, the word only became particularly popular following the first publication of a satirical magazine called Kladderadatsch in 1848. This magazine, published weekly from 1848 until 1944, was born out of the radical student protests of the time, which many believed were the signs of the old political system collapsing. 

According to legend, the founders of the magazine – Albert Hofmann and David Kalisch – came up with the name after watching a dog jump up onto a tavern table, knocking over bottles and glasses alike. Watching the chaos before them, they recognised the parallels with their political times, and so Kladderadatsch was christened.


Ich habe den ganzen Kladderadatsch in den Müll geschmissen.

I threw the whole mess into the rubbish

In unserer Stadt gab es deswegen einen großen Kladderadatsch

There was a big scandal in our town because of it

Seine Geschäfte endeten mit einem großen Kladderadatsch

His businesses ended in a big ‘crash!’