While the word has several different uses, the most common at the beginning of January is for a New Year’s Resolution.
In the first days of January, the German media is full of articles on how you can make it your Vorsatz to do more sports, ditch that daily coke and pizza in order to eat healthier or spend more time with family. Or all of the above if you have several Vorsätze.
If your name is on (m)any company mailing lists, you’ve likely also been flooded with emails proclaiming something something like, “welchen Vorsatz haben Sie für 2019? Finden Sie es mit (name of gym, audio book, apparently life-changing online guru, etc) heraus.”
A typical list of Vorsätze for the new year: don't smoke anymore, lose weight, spend more time with the family and do more sport.
The word is used in a variety of ways to highlight someone’s determination. When you feel set on doing something (whether or not you achieve your end goal), it could be said that you are striving “mit dem Vorsatz, um etwas zu tun” (with the resolve to do something). If you finally make up your mind about something, you could “den Vorsatz fassen, um etwas zu tun.”
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Maybe this great goal of yours, however, is easier said than done. The equivalent idiom in German would be “Gut ist der Vorsatz, aber die Erfüllung ist schwer,” or more literally, “The resolution is good, but fulfilling it is difficult.”
If somebody strives to strengthen their resolve they can “in seinem Vorsatz bestärken.”
Yet the word does not just appear to describe positive changes or intents that a person is striving for. “Vorsatz” is often fashioned with a variety of adjectives, especially when it comes to describing a crime: “indirekter Vorsatz” (indirect intent), “verbrecherischer Vorsatz” (guilty intent), “mit strafbarem Vorsatz” (with criminal intent).
Second degree murder is usually described as “Mord mit bedingtem Vorsatz”. The phrase “deliberate action and gross negligence” could also be translated as “Vorsatz und grobe Fahrlässigkeit.”
Mein Vorsatz für das Jahr 2019 ist, jeden Tag Sport zu treiben.
My 2019 New Year’s Resolution is to do exercise every day.
Sie hat den Vorsatz gefasst, einen Marathon zu laufen.
She made up her mind to run a marathon.
Der Autofahrer fuhr mit Vorsatz über die rote Ampel.
The driver drove intentionally over the red traffic light.