German words of the day: Der Ehrenmann, Die Ehrenfrau

The historical term Ehrenmann is experiencing a revival thanks to the Deutschrap scene, so much so it was named the Youth Word of the Year in 2018, alongside its feminine equivalent Ehrenfrau.

German words of the day: Der Ehrenmann, Die Ehrenfrau

What does it mean?

Ehrenmann and Ehrenfrau can literally be translated as “gentle(wo)man” or “(wo)man of honour”. 

Ehrenmann and Ehrenfrau could equally describe a person who is trustworthy, stands up for themselves and takes responsibility for their actions. 

It could also be someone who does something special for you. 

What are its origins?

Ehrenmann has already been a word for a long time in German; however Ehrenfrau only recently became part of the language. 

Ehrenmann and Ehrenfrau were introduced back into common usage thanks to Deutschrap. Ehrenmann appeared in Bushido’s popular 2013 track Leben und Tod des Kenneth Glöckler with the lyrics “Ihr Vater war ein Ehrenmann (Her father was a man of honour).”

READ ALSO: A controversial rap: How German hip-hop continues to build and burn bridges

Though it is less common, Ehrenfrau is also used in Deutschrap by rappers such as Kollegah in his tracks Bossmove: “Denn sie war ’ne Ehrenfrau (Because she was a woman of honour” and Wasserleichen (water corpses).

How is it used?

According to Youtuber Fabian Grischkat, the terms Ehrenmann and Ehrenfrau should be used to describe anyone who does a good deed, which is particularly important as it sends a positive message in times of hatred.

Oliver Bach, an academic at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität notes that the word is no longer limited in its usage to describing men of higher social status.

Both Fabian and Oliver sat on the 21 person jury, alongside journalists, bloggers, students and the police commissioner from Berlin-Kreuzberg, who decided the Youth Word of the Year (Jugendwort des Jahres). 

The criteria for the word is described by Langenscheidt, the organizers of the award, as “originality, creativity, distribution as well as cultural, social and future relevance.” 

READ ALSO: How did Germany's top 10 youth words of the year originate?

Uses of Ehrenfrau/Ehrenmann: 

“Vielen Dank, du bist ein echter Ehrenmann!“

Thanks very much, you’re a real gentleman!

“Eine Ehrenfrau weiß, was sie will.”

 An honourable woman knows what she wants. 

“Ich interessiere mich nur für Ehrenmänner.“

I am only interested in gentlemen. 

“Eine Ehrenfrau muss keine Nonne sein.“

An honourable woman isn’t necessarily a nun. 


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


German word of the day: Belastung

Sometimes things can be too hard to carry - but keep this German word to hand and you may be able to lighten the load.

German word of the day: Belastung

Why do I need to know Belastung?

Because this versatile little word can be found everywhere, from articles about contaminated waterways to discussions about teen mental health.

What does it mean?

Die Belastung (be.last.ung) can mean numerous things depending on its context, but generally it’s used to refer to a “load” or a “burden” of some kind. This can, of course, mean a physical load such as goods on a cargo train, but more often it’s a metaphorical one.

That’s why you may hear politicians in Germany talking about a “finanzielle Belastung” (financial burden) on citizens through inflation, or have a friend write to you about how their hectic new job is “eine Belastung” (a strain). 

Occasionally, Belastung can be a liability or debt, and other times it could be a heavy workload. 

If you hear it in an ecological context, it’s sadly most likely to be referring to pollution or exposure to a toxic substance.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Beharren

Where does it come from?

The word Belastung appears to come from the noun ‘Last’ in Old High German, which was used to describe something that weighed a person down – in other words, a load. In Middle High German, ‘Last’ could also be used as a measurement to mean an abundance or large quantity of something – again, similar to the English ‘load’.

‘Last’ has the same meaning to this day and can be found tucked away in several German words with similar connotations. For example, as well as burdening someone with a Belastung, you can also free them of their heavy load with an Entlastung. Incidentally, the latter is the word usually used to describe financial relief measures taken by the government. 

Use it like this: 

Ich will an der Universität studieren, aber momentan sind die finanzielle Belastungen zu groß.

I want to study at university, but at the moment the financial burdens are too great.

Mein rücksichtsloser Freund ist eine Belastung.

My reckless friend is liability.