German word of the day: Das Faultier

A sloth living in Germany was just named as the world's oldest. We take a look at Paula and the very literal German name for her species.

German word of the day: Das Faultier
Paula on June 14th at the Bergzoo Halle (Saale). Photo: DPA

Many German words are famously formed from two nouns in a quite literal way, and this often applies for animal names.

Take the skunk (Stinktier, or stinky animal), platypus (Schnabeltier, or beak animal), or octopus (Tintenfisch, or ink fish), slug (Nachtschnecke, or naked snail). And that’s just to name a few. 

So it’s little surprise that a sloth (Faultier) translates directly to “lazy animal”. The apt name describes the slow moving (and adorable) mammals known to hang for hours on end from tree branches with their long limbs and claws.

Paula: the oldest living sloth

On Tuesday, Paula, a Faultier at the Bergzoo Halle (Salle), made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest living sloth.

“We submitted an application for Paula and it's just confirmed,” Jutta Heuer, who keeps a breed registry of sloths in Europe, told DPA.

Officially categorized as a Zweifinger-Faultier (two finger sloth), Paula has lived in the Bergzoo Halle (Saale) since 1971 and celebrated her birthday in June. 

Paula hanging on a branch on June 14th at the Bergzoo Halle (Saale). Photo: DPA

“There is no known specimen in zoos or in the wild that has more years under its belt,” Heuer added.

According to the Smithsonian institute, the average lifespan of two finger sloth in captivity is 16 years, making Paula’s longevity all the more remarkable.

At the end of 2018, there were a total of 65 sloths in Germany's zoos and 266 in Europe.

The announcement came just a few days shy of the official ‘World Sloth Day’ on October 20th. The majority of Faultiere live in the tropical rainforests of South and Central America.

There are a number of German non-profits which work to help the sloths in these regions amid rampant deforestation. 

Example sentences:

Paula ist das älteste bekannte Faultier der Welt.

Paula is the oldest known sloth in the world.

Faultiere brauchen wenig Nahrung und schlafen bis zu 20 Stunden pro Tag.

Sloths don’t need much food and sleep up to 20 hours a day.


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German Word of the Day: die Ausrede

If you want to get out of a date, or you haven’t done your homework – you might need one of these.

German Word of the Day: die Ausrede

This little German word can come in handy in a variety of situations.

Ausrede, Meaning “excuse” consists of the verb reden which means “to talk” or “to speak” and the prefix aus which translates as “out”, “off” or “from”.

So, a good way to remember the word is to think of it as a tool you use for talking yourself out of something. 

One thing to bear in mind, however, is that in German, the word Ausrede has a slightly negative connotation and can be used to hint that the reason given is fabricated.

So, if you want to tell your boss that you have a good reason for why you can’t come to work, it’s better to say you have eine Entschuldigung (also meaning excuse) instead.

Another thing to watch out for is trying to use the verb ausreden in the same way as the English “to excuse”. In German, the verb ausreden actually means to finish speaking, for example: ich lasse ihn ausreden means “I let him finish speaking”.


Er hat nach einer Ausrede gesucht

He was looking for an excuse

Diesmal habe ich keine Ausrede
This time I have no excuse
Besser keine Ausrede als eine schlechte
Better to have no excuse than a bad one