From Lockdown to Influencer: Which words have been added to the German dictionary in 2020?

A lot has happened since the last Duden – the German dictionary – came out in 2017. And the 3,000 new words reflect that. But it's not just about the coronavirus pandemic.

From Lockdown to Influencer: Which words have been added to the German dictionary in 2020?
Are you ready for the new and improved German language? Photo: DPA

With words like Zahnfleisch (literally tooth meat or gums), it's fair to say that German vocabulary is nothing short of brilliant.

And now there are even more words that have crept into the new edition of the famous Duden German dictionary.

There are almost 1,300 pages on the new edition of the Duden, which is set to hit the shops on Wednesday.

As you would expect, the pandemic has influenced language quite a bit.

But it's not really become a “Corona Duden”, editor-in-chief Kathrin Kunkel-Razum told DPA. There have also been developments in other topics such as the climate and environment, technology and gender justice.

According to the publisher, 3,000 new words are included in the 28th edition, bringing the total number of words up to 148,000.

READ ALSO: Selfie, fake news and tablet added to German language

What are the new coronavirus-themed words?

Among the new entries are words that would have been riddles just a year ago: Covid-19, Reproduktionszahl (reproduction number) and Lockdown.

Other new corona-inspired entries include Ansteckungskette (chain of infection), Intensivbett (intensive care bed) and Atemschutzmaske (respirator mask).

“Coronavirus was already in it anyway,” said Kunkel-Raum, likely due to the Sars outbreak in 2002/03.

“Corona” was also already in the Duden but with two meanings: as a female first name and as shortened version of coronavirus disease.

The list of new entries reflects societal debates and trends of recent years. Here's a few examples:

Alltagsrassismus (everyday racism), bienenfreundlich (bee-friendly), Chiasamen (chia seeds), Dieselaffäre (diesel scandal), Erklärvideo (explanatory video) and Fridays for Future.

Gendersternchen (Gender Star), Hatespeech (hate speech), Influencer, Klimanotstand (climate change emergency), Ladesäule (charging post), Masernimpfung (measles vaccination), Netflix Series (Netflix series), oldschool.

SEE ALSO: German word of the day: Das Gendersternchen

Pestizidfrei (pesticide free), rechtsterroristisch (right-wing terrorist), Shishabar, transgender, Uploadfilter, Videobeweis (video evidence), Whatsapp-Gruppe (Whatsapp group) and Zwinkersmiley (wink smiley).

Duden editor-in-chief Kathrin Kunkel-Razum. Photo: DPA

Gender-appropriate language

For the first time, users can find information on gender-appropriate language use in the Duden.

Kunkel-Razum said she is eagerly awaiting the reactions to the new three pages on this topic because it will likely spark debate.

Editors have made an effort to describe the problems and the currently available solutions when it comes to gender in the German language.

For example, the Duden now reports on the controversial gender star. Editors say this variant is “becoming increasingly accepted” in writing practice.

It's found particularly in contexts in which gender is no longer understood as being only female or male and the possibility of further categories should be indicated. The following example is given: “Schüler*innen” (school pupils).

READ ALSO: From Fräulein to the gender star: Germany's language revolution

To find new entries, the editorial team looks at the frequency that words occur. With the help of computer software, large quantities of different texts are scanned.

The selection is made from a list of about 15,000 words. Kunkel-Razum said there is a lot of “junk” to be sorted through. Names of footballers, for example, which appear in newspapers, are of no interest.

READ ALSO: 10 English words you didn't know we stole from German

Professor of German linguistics, Kristian Berg of the University of Bonn, said the new edition will probably lead to renewed discussion about the state of the German language due to the increased use of English.

Berg said: “If there are complaints about (English words like) 'Influencers' and 'hype' in the dictionary, it is because they are systematically used in German. To blame the Duden for this is like blaming the weather forecast on the weather.”

Alexander Lasch, chairman of the Society for the History of German Languages, said the Duden today is “the best Duden we have ever had”.

The linguistics professor of the TU Dresden is relaxed about changes in language: “Language change is a sign that language is alive,” he said.

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The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German

Once you've learned the basics of German, listening to podcasts is one of the best ways of increasing vocabulary and speeding up comprehension. Here are some of the best podcasts out there for German learners.

The best podcasts for learning and perfecting your German


Coffee Break German

Coffee Break German aims to take you through the basics of German in a casual lesson-like format. It is extremely easy to listen to. Each 20-minute episode acts as a mini-lesson, where German native Thomas teaches Mark Pendleton, the founder and CEO of Coffee Break Languages, the basics.

All phrases are broken down into individual words. After new phrases are introduced the listeners are encouraged to repeat them back to practise pronunciation.

The advantage of listening to this podcast is that the learner, Mark, begins at the same level as you. He is also a former high school French and Spanish teacher. He often asks for clarification of certain phrases, and it can feel as if he is asking the very questions you want answered.

You can also stream the podcast directly from the provider’s website, where they sell a supplementary package from the Coffee Break German Academy, which offers additional audio content, video flashcards and comprehensive lesson notes

German Pod 101

German Pod 101 aims to teach you all about the German language, from the basics in conversations and comprehension to the intricacies of German culture. German Pod 101 offers various levels for your German learning and starts with Absolute Beginner.

The hosts are made up of one German native and one American expat living in Germany, in order to provide you with true authentic language, but also explanations about the comparisons and contrasts with English. This podcast will, hopefully, get you speaking German from day one.

Their website offers more information and the option to create an account to access more learning materials.

Learn German by Podcast

This is a great podcast if you don’t have any previous knowledge of German. The hosts guide you through a series of scenarios in each episode and introduce you to new vocabulary based on the role-plays. Within just a few episodes, you will learn how to talk about your family, order something in a restaurant and discuss evening plans. Each phrase is uttered clearly and repeated several times, along with translations.


Learn German by Podcast provides the podcasts for free but any accompanying lesson guides must be purchased from their website. These guides include episode transcripts and some grammar tips. 


Easy German

This podcast takes the form of a casual conversation between hosts Manuel and Cari, who chat in a fairly free-form manner about aspects of their daily lives. Sometimes they invite guests onto the podcast, and they often talk about issues particularly interesting to expats, such as: “How do Germans see themselves?”. Targeted at young adults, the podcasters bring out a new episode very three or four days.

News in Slow German

This is a fantastic podcast to improve your German listening skills. What’s more, it helps you stay informed about the news in several different levels of fluency.

The speakers are extremely clear and aim to make the podcast enjoyable to listen to. For the first part of each episode the hosts talk about a current big news story, then the second part usually features a socially relevant topic. 

A new episode comes out once a week and subscriptions are available which unlock new learning tools.

SBS German

This podcast is somewhat interesting as it is run by an Australian broadcaster for the German-speaking community down under. Perhaps because ethnic Germans in Australia have become somewhat rusty in their mother tongue, the language is relatively simple but still has a completely natural feel.

There is a lot of news here, with regular pieces on German current affairs but also quite a bit of content looking at what ties Germany and Australia together. This lies somewhere between intermediate and advanced.

A woman puts on headphones in Gadebusch, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Photo: dpa | Jens Büttner


Auf Deutsche gesagt

This is another great podcast for people who have a high level of German. The host, Robin Meinert, talks in a completely natural way but still manages to keep it clear and comprehensible.

This podcast also explores a whole range of topics that are interesting to internationals in Germany, such as a recent episode on whether the band Rammstein are xenophobic. In other words, the podcast doesn’t just help you learn the language, it also gives you really good insights into what Germans think about a wide range of topics.


Bayern 2 present their podcast Sozusagen! for all those who are interested in the German language. This isn’t specifically directed at language learners and is likely to be just as interesting to Germans and foreigners because it talks about changes in the language like the debate over gender-sensitive nouns. Each episode explores a different linguistic question, from a discussion on German dialects to an analysis of political linguistics in Germany.