German word of the day: Jawohl

Nele Schröder
Nele Schröder - [email protected] • 28 Dec, 2020 Updated Mon 28 Dec 2020 13:48 CEST
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Today's word of the day has a military background but is now used in a mocking tone, or as a colloquial way of agreeing.

Let's start with an example. Imagine you have a teenager, who you leave alone at home while you run some errands or go to a work meeting. Before you head out the door, you give your son or daughter some instructions: to empty out the dishwasher, to clean their room and to keep the door locked.

After you finish, your child stands up straight, salutes and yells: “Jawoll!”

As you've probably gathered, this word, which can be pronounced as jawohl or jawoll, has its origins in the military, where soldiers used jawohl to address higher-up officers, so it translates to something like "yes, sir!"

In our example, the teenager is mocking the military tone. 

SEE ALSO: Das ist ja mal wichtig: The complete guide to German particles

So now that we got the situation straight, let’s look into the word in a bit more detail. Jawohl, or Jawoll  consists of the words ja and wohl. Literally translated, those mean “yes” and “well” or “indeed.” You can also translate jawohl with “Aye” or “Yes!”

The word has its origins in the mid high German word ja wol, which means ja, freilich. Freilich is an old way of saying “of course.”

Jawoll, however, is the more colloquial way of agreeing. In the military, saying jawohl (with a sharper sounding 'o') was more common. But since the tone in the military is harsher than everyday language, jawohl lost its long 'o' sound and started sounding more like jawoll.

Nowadays, jawohl and jawoll are mostly used to mock the military tone. So if your child responds to you this way, you should probably give them a little telling off...or ask if they really understood what you said.


Jawoll, Kommandant!

Aye, Commander!

Jawohl, ihr habt richtig gehört. Ich bin schwanger.

Yes, you heard right. I am pregnant.

Und ich sagte: “Nein.” Und er sagte: “Jawohl.”

And I said “No.” And he said: “Yes.”



Nele Schröder 2020/12/28 13:48

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