German word of the day: Der Streber

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

German word of the day: Der Streber
Is being a 'Streber' (or its female equivalent 'Streberin') really such a bad thing? Photo: DPA

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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German word of the day: Umstritten

Not everyone agrees on everything - and there are some things almost nobody can agree on. If you find yourself dealing with the latter, you may need to make use of this German word.

German word of the day: Umstritten

Why do I need to know umstritten?

Because umstritten is a handy word that can be applied to multiple situations, but is especially useful when chatting about current affairs or the big social issues of our day. 

You’ll likely come across it while reading articles in German newspapers, or hear your German friends use it while setting the world to rights in the pub. 

What does it mean?

Umstritten is best translated as “controversial” or “disputed” in English. As usual in German, you can easily work out – and remember – what it means by breaking it down into smaller components. 

The first is the prefix um, which tends to mean “around”. Think of German words like umkehren, which means to turn around or reverse, or umarmen, which means to put your arms around someone (or hug them in other words!). 

The second component is the verb streiten, which means to argue. So something that’s umstritten is something that there are lots of arguments around, like a controversial new law, a social debate or a public figure. 

Use it like this: 

Die Pläne der Regierung waren hoch umstritten.

The government’s plans were highly controversial. 

Sein Erbe als Fußballtrainer ist immer noch umstritten.

His legacy as football manager is still disputed today.