German word of the day: Der Purzelbaum

This simple gymnastics move has always been a childhood favorite.

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 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.” 



Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.