German word of the day: Die Dunkelziffer

German word of the day: Die Dunkelziffer
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Today’s word of the day has taken on a new importance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Governments across the globe have been carefully tracking coronavirus infections for months – but what about those cases that manage to slip under the radar?

The German language has an exact word for this all-important figure – “Dunkelziffer.”

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The term, which literally translates as “dark number”, is used to refer to unreported cases that don’t form part of official statistics. 

READ ALSO: The German vocab you need to understand coronavirus

Its use is not limited to disease outbreaks, either – it is often utilised in the context of criminal cases that are never declared to the police or car accidents that aren’t reported to insurance companies. 

The gap between published figures and the estimated number of actual cases can often call the reliability of official statistics into question – a high “Dunkelziffer” of unreported robbery cases, for example, would be cause for concern amongst authorities.


Im Jahr 2014 wurden in Deutschland 149.500 Fälle von Einbruchdiebstahl angezeigt, aber die Dunkelziffer ist hochwahrscheinlich deutlich höher.

In 2014, 149,500 cases of burglary were reported to the police, but the number of estimated cases is most likely much higher.

Die Dunkelziffer infizierter Reiserückkehrer ist immer noch sehr hoch.

The estimated number of cases amongst returning holidaymakers is still very high.


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