German word of the day: Astrein

Nele Schröder
Nele Schröder - [email protected] • 5 Aug, 2020 Updated Wed 5 Aug 2020 14:14 CEST
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Today’s word of the day is a good one to know if you want to describe something great.

Have you ever heard the story about how the well-known word "okay" came about?

Well, there are many theories out there. But one of them is that "okay" actually comes from the German abbreviation o.K., which means: ohne Korrektur (“without correction"). Long story short, okay is a word that comes from a technical notion, but began being used in everyday language.

Why am I talking about this? You might ask. Well the origins of "okay" are similar to today's word of the day: astrein.


So let’s get to it now. Astrein translates to “free of knotholes” and comes from the wood industry. When you cut up a tree to make planks, for example, it’s best if they are free of branches.

These can result in knotholes which usually leave either a hole or – if the branch is still inside – a piece of rather hard wood, which you can’t really drill into. Hence, it is better to have a plank that is astrein – with no knotholes or branches in it. 

Its meaning shifted to another peer group in the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, young people started using it as a synonym for “very nice” or “very good.” Just like “okay” shifted to mean something that's in no need of corrections, or is just as it should be. 

Nowadays, you probably don’t hear many people bursting out a heartfelt “Astrein!” whenever something is really good, though.

Actually, the English language has found its way into today’s teenage slang – so you are much more likely to hear a heartfelt “Nice!” if something is perfect or has worked out well.

Ein astreiner Kuchen? Photo: Depositphotos/Zmaris


Das ist wirklich astrein.

That is really great. 

So wie es gerade läuft, ist wirklich nicht astrein.

The way things are right now really isn’t that good.

Oma, das hier ist ein astreiner Kuchen.

Grandma, this is a perfect piece of cake.



Nele Schröder 2020/08/05 14:14

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