German word of the day: Ernsthaft

Not in a laughing mood today? Whether used literally or to express astonishment, this word should be part of your vocab.

German word of the day: Ernsthaft
Photo: Depositphotos

What are its meanings?

“Ernsthaft” is composed out of the word “Ernst” meaning serious, grave or stern, and the suffix “-haft” (which changes nouns into adjectives).

Put together it has four meanings.

The most common one refers to something being meant seriously or sincerely, and not as a joke.

The second refers to someone’s stern and serious expression – for example a grumpy look after losing a game – or an earnest way of behaving.

The third definition describes a matter or action that is very important, insistent or weighty due to its high importance.

And the last usage refers to something being dangerous or alarming, for example when you want to convey the graveness of someone’s situation.

Two characters looking very 'ernsthaft' in the German TV movie Drachenland (1999). Photo: DPA


“Sein ernsthafter Ausdruck machte mir angst.”

“His stern expression scared me.”

“Das ist eine ernsthafte Angelegenheit.”

“This is a weighty matter.”

“Ich meine es todernst!”

“I am dead serious!”

“Das ist eine ernsthafte Krankheit.”

“This is a serious illness.”



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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.