Gedöns basically means “stuff”, “fuss” or “sham” and is mostly used in a rather disapproving way.
For example, if someone is acting up, you can say “Mach nicht so ein Gedöns!” (“Don’t make a fuss about it!”).
Another time where it is used quite frequently is when listing stuff: “Wir haben Gemüse, Obst und anderes Gedöns gekauft” means “We bought vegetables, fruit and other stuff.”
As you might already see from those examples, Gedöns is a colloquial and even pejorative word.
The origins of Gedöns come from the Low German word Gedööns, which means “gossip”, “fuss” and “stuff.” There are also connections to the Mid High German word dinsen, which means “to pull” or “to drag.”
Despite its use as a colloquialism, Gedöns is official and even has its own entry in the Duden since 1973.
It is said that the word got a larger popularity in 1998, when then-chancellor Gerhard Schröder was looking for a new minister for the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, which he just called “Familie und das andere Gedöns” (“family and the other stuff”). That notion was received as derogatory.
So if you want to use the word Gedöns, make sure you remember the context.
Gerhard Schröder brought 'Gedöns' into politics while chancellor (pictured here in 2001). Photo: DPA
Ich muss das ganze Gedöns hier wirklich mal wegräumen.
I really need to clean all this stuff up.
Unser Keller beherbergt allerlei Gedöns.
Our basement holds all kinds of trash.
Jetzt mach mal nicht so ein Gedöns!
Don’t make such a fuss about it!
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