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Deutsch for the new decade: 10 German words that reflect the Zeitgeist

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected] • 22 Feb, 2020 Updated Sat 22 Feb 2020 06:25 CEST
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We take a look at 10 words which are being used more and more in German conversations and which will be indispensable for the new decade.


The German dictionary Duden, which started in 1880 with only 27,000 words, has been growing for decades and now contains 145,000 words.

We take a look at ten words, some old and some new, which are being used more and more in German conversations and which are indispensable in the new decade.

die Filterblase

die Filterblase is a direct translation from the English phrase “filter bubble” and describes the phenomenon of websites and platforms using algorithms to show information and opinions to users which correspond with their previous searches and interests.

The phrase was coined by American political activist Eli Pariser in 2010 and was the title of his bestselling book of the same name, which argued that more and more people were living in a “filter bubble” which was leading to intellectual isolation.

die Flugscham

The increased attention on environmental matters has introduced more words related to climate change into the German language.

READ ALSO: Trains instead of planes: Could domestic flights in Germany really become 'obsolete'?

This particular word, comes from the Swedish flygskam and means 'flight shame' – a guilty conscience for damaging the environment by using air travel.

die Lügenpresse

This word literally translates to “lying press” and, though it currently has no direct equivalent in English, is comparable in its use to the phrase “Fake News”.

The word has been widely publicized in Germany since autumn 2014, when it was first chanted at Pegida demonstrations in Dresden and other cities and is nowadays used primarily in populist, right-wing circles.

Although this word has become well known only in the last decade, it has in fact been around for nearly 200 years - it was first used in the Wiener Zeitung in 1835.


Not to be confused with the similar-meaning entfremden (to alienate/estrange) this German word is one which relates purely to the virtual world. Like “unfriend” in English, it describes the action of breaking off a social network friendship.

Living the good life, Danish style. Photo: DPA

die Hygge

This Danish word has recently been adopted into the German language and describes the Danish philosophy of finding happiness in everyday life. 

Hygge” is essentially a cozy, warm atmosphere where you can enjoy the good of life with nice people. 

der Shitstorm

This unpleasant word is used by English speakers to describe a messy situation characterized by arguments or mishaps.

READ ALSO: Shitstorm 'best English gift to German language'

However, when German speakers adopted the word, they assigned it a more specific meaning, namely to describe a storm of internet-based abuse and negative comments which follow the fails of companies or politicians.

The word has even been used in public on numerous occasions by Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, much to the confusion and amusement of the English-speaking world.

der Flexitarier

Almost identical to the English “Flexitarian” this word describes a person who generally eats a vegetarian diet, but occasionally eats meat. Although the word is still not as widely used in Germany as, say in the US, a study from 2016 demonstrated that a third of all German households consciously reduce meat consumption, making them flexible vegetarians.

der Frauenversteher

This word, which literally translates as "woman understander” entered the German dictionary in 2009 and is defined as “a man who is very sensitive and understanding towards women”. 

Although this may sound to most of us like a good thing, the word is most commonly used in a derogatory way, as a criticism of men who are seen as unmanly.

Why is understanding women seen as a bad thing? Source: dpa_Buena_Vista


In this modern, postfaktisch (post-fact) world, it is becoming ever-more important not to take everything at face value. This is where the verb “gegengoogeln”, meaning to check by googling, comes in. This very specific word was number seven in Germany’s words of the year 2019.


Ok, so this isn’t a German word - but it’s fast becoming one. In recent years this widely used English word is becoming deeply embedded into the lexicon of young Germans, with it appearing in many song lyrics and TV and film dialogues. It probably won’t be long until it finds itself in the official German dictionary.

READ ALSO: Could Denglisch one day kill off German?



Sarah Magill 2020/02/22 06:25

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