German word of the day: Die Dunkelziffer

Today’s word of the day has taken on a new importance during the coronavirus pandemic.

German word of the day: Die Dunkelziffer
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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.”

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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German word of the day: Isso

Perhaps you've seen this word on social media and you're not sure what it means. Let us explain...

German word of the day: Isso

Why do I need to know isso?

Because it’s a nice colloquial expression to use if you’re feeling a little lazy since it combines a few words. It was also one of Germany’s favourite youth words back in 2016, although it’s definitely not particularly cool anymore and is used by all ages

What does it mean?

Isso is derived from the statement: ist so (short for es ist so) meaning ‘it’s like this’ or ‘it is so’ in English. When used as a response to someone’s statement, it usually means you completely agree. A good translation is: ‘right on!’, yes, that’s exactly right!’ or ‘it’s true!’.

You can also use the expression yourself to emphasise your thought. In this case you’d add it on at the end of your sentence. You often find isso used on Twitter, when someone is quoting a Tweet.

It can also be used in a more downbeat form accompanied by the shrugging of your shoulders. In this case you’re saying isso, because it can’t be helped, it’s the way it is. 

Use it like this: 

– Wir müssen gegen steigende Mietpreise in Berlin demonstrieren.

– Isso! 

– We have to protest against rising rents in Berlin. 

– That’s exactly right!

Frauen sind die besten Autofahrer, isso!

Women are the best drivers, it’s true.