German word of the day: Der Streber

Nele Schröder
Nele Schröder - [email protected]
German word of the day: Der Streber
Is being a 'Streber' (or its female equivalent 'Streberin') really such a bad thing? Photo: DPA

Today’s word of the day has harmless origins, but is often meant as an insult.


Let’s start off with an example: You are at university and you just love it. Learning new things is fun, you don’t mind studying and the teachers are all nice. You also don’t mind showing off your good grades a bit.

READ ALSO: 10 words that perfectly sum up student life in Germany

At some point, though, people seem to have had enough, as one of your fellow students turns around and hisses “Streber” in your face.

Now, that might hurt. Mainly because Streber means “nerd”, “dweeb” or “swot” and is almost never used in a nice way. But then again, have a look at the word's origin: Streber comes from the verb streben, or nach etwas streben, which means “to strive for something.”


Hence, a Streber is basically just someone who has a goal and does everything to reach it – not a bad thing.

The bad part comes with the rest of a Streber’s concept. A Streber counts as a very egocentric person, a person who is willing to throw anyone else under the bus to reach their personal goal.

Maybe even a person who usually sweet-talks teachers and other authority persons to be in their favour.

This addition is usually forgotten when people call each other Streber, unfortunately. Especially in education institutions, people who are just good at what they do, but would never throw anyone under the bus are often called Streber.

So if someone ever calls you Streber and you are not an egocentric person, you should probably just feel flattered.


Er hat gute Noten, aber er ist ein ziemlicher Streber.

He’s got good grades, but is a pretty big swot.

Sei vorsichtig bei dem Streber, der verpetzt dich sofort.

Be careful with this dweeb, he will snitch on you.

Ich wäre gern ein Streber – das würde bedeuten, dass ich gut in der Schule bin.

I’d love to be a nerd – that would mean I’d be good at school.

Read more of our words of the day here


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