German word of the day: Eindämmen

You may have heard this word from the German news coverage of the Coronavirus. So what does it mean?

German word of the day: Eindämmen
A nurse at Essen University Hospital works in the infectious disease unit. Photo: DPA

The word Eindämmen is a verb with two primary meanings: First, to dam something up, like a river or lake. Second: to stop the spread of something by containing it.

We're interested in the second definition of Eindämmen, which relates to Germany's efforts regarding the coronavirus. 

READ ALSO: The German vocab you need to understand the coronavirus

According to Germany's Health Ministry, completely quarantining or cutting off areas is not in yet the cards for Germany.

However, keeping better track of travelers within the country and ensuring easy contact in case of outbreak is what authorities are focusing on now.

Travelers entering the country by train or bus will have to give more information about where they plan to stay.

Washing hands for at least 20 seconds is an easy way to stop the coronavirus (or other germs) from spreading. Photo: DPA

All of these efforts are part of Germany's attempt to quash the spread of the virus. But something else might help with the Eindämmung efforts: Spring.

While cold, humid air is perfect for the spread of the virus, the higher temperatures and drier conditions of the summer months often slow down winter infections. 

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

Although it's unclear how the changing seasons will affect coronavirus just yet, let's all keep our fingers crossed. 


Gesundheitsminister Jens Spahn sagte nun, die Epidemie könne nur schwer eingedämmt werden.

Health Minister Jens Spahn has now said the epidemic could only be contained with great difficulty.

Die Eindämmung des Virus war selbst bei bestehenden Quarantänezonen nicht erfolgreich.

The containment of the virus was unsuccessful even with existing quarantine zones.

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German phrase of the day: Lügen haben kurze Beine

This phrase tells you why you should try not to lie.

German phrase of the day: Lügen haben kurze Beine

Why do I need to know Lügen haben kurze Beine?

From the serpent in the Bible to the spectacular fall of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (see the Spiegel cover below with the title ‘one lie too many’), lying has always been morally and socially unacceptable.

Yet everyone lies. Anyone who says otherwise is probably telling fibs. Past research has suggested people lie once or twice per day on average. So, the Germans have found a unique way of tackling lies with this proverb.

What does it mean?

Lügen haben kurze Beine (which sounds like this) literally translates to ‘lies have short legs’. In English you might say: ‘the truth will out’ or ‘lies won’t get you far’.

This proverb was reportedly first found in a German dictionary as early as 1663. As you might expect, this saying is based on the idea that someone with shorter legs can’t run super fast – the metaphor being that a lie won’t escape, it will be found out.

The moral of the story is that honesty is the best policy because nothing can run away from the truth. This symbolic proverb is taught to many German children by their parents. 

But what about white lies? In German, they are pleasingly called Notlüge (emergency lies) and we all know that sometimes not telling the whole truth is appropriate or needed in certain social situations. We’ll look at this in more detail in a future word of the day. 

Use it like this:

Irgendwann wird er mein Geheimnis entdecken, denn Lügen haben kurze Beine.

At some point he will discover my secret, because the truth will out. 

Lügen haben kurze Beine, vor allem im Internet.

Lies can’t get far, especially on the internet.

Ich rate Ihnen, heute die Wahrheit zu sagen. Lügen haben kurze Beine.

I advise you to tell the truth today. Lies won’t travel far.