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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Servus

Today’s word of the day is one you are likely to stumble on if you're making it to Munich for the last days of Oktoberfest. It's widely used in southern Germany (and Austria).

German word of the day: Servus
Photo: depositphotos

Servus is a general, friendly way of greeting someone – so it can be used for saying hello as well as for saying good-bye. The roots of this greeting date far back; it comes from the Latin word servus, which means “slave” or “servant.”

SEE ALSO: Grüß Gott, Moin, Hallo! The complete guide to regional dialects around Germany

So if someone greets you with Servus, it roughly translates to “I’m your servant” or “At your service!”

In wide parts of Southern Germany, it’s quite common to greet people with a hearty “Servus!”

But this notion is actually spread even further – it is a traditional greeting in wide parts of Central Europe. Servus, or slight variations of the word, are used in other parts of southern Germany, Austria, Poland, Croatia, Hungary and Romania, to name a few.

This video takes a look at how “Servus” and other words in Bavarian German are used.

Usually, servus is a colloquial way of greeting people you know better, especially friends. It is also one of the few historical words that is widely used amongst teenagers.

In Bavaria, servus has another meaning as well, though: If you hear someone say “Na servus,” that usually means that they are surprised, but in a disapproving way.

Examples:

Servus, lieber Freund.

Hello dear friend.

Servus miteinander!

Hello everyone.

Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.

Member comments

  1. Wow, that video gave me a headache. I never knew Bavarian was so different to standard Deutsch. So, if I move there, will people be able to understand and reply if I speak standard Deutsch?

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GERMAN WORD OF THE DAY

German word of the day: Kneipe

This is a spot you might visit at the end of the working day - or Feierabend.

German word of the day: Kneipe

Why do I need to know Kneipe?

Because you may be invited to one or need to find one on the map. 

What does it mean?

Die Kniepe, which sounds like this, is the name for a pub in German where people gather to drink beverages. This isn’t a fancy cocktail bar – it’s a neighbourhood watering hole, and forms part of the make-up of towns and cities across Germany. It’s usually unpretentious, often small and in some places – like Berlin – it can be smoky. In that case, you might see a a Raucherkneipe (smoking pub) sign on the door or window. 

The word has been around since the 18th century and is an abbreviation of Kneipschenke. A Kneipschenke was a super-cramped premise where guests had to pack in and sit squeezed together.

The noun Schenke is a tavern, while Kneipe is said to come from the verb kneipen meaning “to press together” or “be close together”, which has been documented in Middle German and is a loanword from the Middle Low German word knīpen. That word is related to High German’s kneifen, which means “to pinch”. 

Kneipen don’t always have the best reputation. You might also get some suspicious looks if you crash a very local Kneipe that is used to only serving regulars or Stammgäste. But they are usually friendly and charming, and give an insight into life in Germany. So perhaps ask your German friends for a tip on a cool Kneipe to visit. Just don’t expect the staff to speak English like you usually find in hipster bars! 

If you’re hungry, keep in mind that Kneipen usually don’t serve food. Pubs that do serve hot food are more likely to be called a Wirtschaft or Lokal.

You can also do a pub crawl (eine Kneipentour machen) if you can handle the amount of booze (or switch to non-alcoholic drinks). 

How to use it:

Treffen wir uns am Freitag nach Feierabend in der Kneipe.

Let’s meet in the pub on Friday after work finishes.

Ich gehe mit den Jungs in die Kneipe.

I’m going to the pub with the lads.

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