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LEARNING GERMAN

German word of the day: Die Sehnsucht

A noun with a meaning which is a combination of ‘longing’, ‘pining’ or ‘yearning’, the idea of Sehnsucht is something which can’t be summed up in one word in English.

German word of the day: Die Sehnsucht
Photo: depositphotos

Most foreigners living in Germany will at one time or another find themselves experiencing Sehnsucht for their homeland.

This emotive German word has no direct counterpart in English, but can perhaps best be described as an “internal, painful longing for someone or something”. 

The true meaning of this word however, like the feeling it describes, can be interpreted differently depending on the individual.

Where does it come from?

Sehnsucht is divisible into two parts: Sehn from sehnen (to yearn)  and Sucht (addiction, craving).

READ ALSO: These nine German words perfectly sum up being in your 20s

The origin of the word Sehnen is unknown, but there have been many attempts to assign it a definitive definition, including by the famous Grimm Brothers, according to whose own dictionary it means “to grieve, to grasp, to demand something, especially related to the pain and desire of love”.

The sucht part of the word, surprisingly, does not come from the word suchen (to search), but from siech meaning sick. 

So, put together, the word Sehnsucht literally means a sickness caused by a yearning desire. 

Photo: DPA

Examples

Sehnsucht nach Vergangenheit.

Nostalgia

Wir erwarten seine Ankunft mit Sehnsucht.

We are eagerly awaiting his arrival 

Sie ist vor Sehnsucht verzehrt.

She is consumed by longing.

Nach einem Jahr im Ausland hatte ich Sehnsucht nach der Heimat.

After a year abroad I was homesick.

 

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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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