German word of the day: Der Purzelbaum

German word of the day: Der Purzelbaum
In 2010 in Karlstadt, 404 students performed a Purzelbaum to break a world record, as well as celebrating their own graduation. Photo credit: DPA
This simple gymnastics move has always been a childhood favorite.

This German word describes what many English-speakers would call a somersault, the beloved childhood move of flipping head over heels while tucked into a ball.

The first part of the word is pretty easy to understand: Purzeln is used to describe the act of springing, falling or jumping headfirst. The word especially applies to children.

German footballers, such as Bayern-Munich goal keeper Alphonso Davies, are known to do a Purzelbaum to celebrate their successes. Photo: DPA

The second part of the word, despite first impressions, does not refer to a tree.

Instead, the Baum in Purzelbaum refers to the verb sich aufbäumen, which means to pull oneself upright in an abrupt motion.

Therefore, the words together mean to fall forward headfirst and then pull yourself back upright. A pretty literal description of a somersault! 


“Begeistert zeigte er seiner Mutter wie er einen Purzelbaum machen konnte.”

“He showed his mother excitedly how he could do a somersault.” 



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