German word of the day: Fisimatenten

Today’s word of the day is just as interesting to learn about as it is to pronounce.

Blackboard shows the word 'Fisimatenten'
Photo: Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

We have all been guilty of fretting over nothing, making silly excuses or simply messing about. 

All of these are classic examples of what the Germans would call Fisimatenten

The word can be translated into English in various ways, including ‘excuses’ or ‘shenanigans’, while the corresponding phrase Fisimatenten machen usually translates as ‘to make/kick up a fuss’.

It is often suggested that the word came to be around the 19th century, emerging as a German interpretation of the French phrase je visite ma tante (I am visiting my aunt), which was often used as an excuse to get out of unwanted situations.

READ ALSO: This is how French has influenced the German language

Alternatively, some believe it comes from visitez ma tante (visit my tent), used by French soldiers fighting in the Franco-Prussian war from 1870 to 1871 to invite women back to their garrisons.

As fun as these theories may be, they are unfortunately false. The actual origin of the word is thought to stem from Medieval Latin, more specifically from the 16th century term Visae Patentes (officer commissions).

The process of being commissioned as an officer was long and complicated, which meant that the term Visae Patentes soon became synonymous with unnecessary fuss. 

A second word, die Visamente, was initially used to refer to the appearance of a coat of arms in the Middle Ages

Increasingly complicated designs soon led this word to take on a similar meaning, and the two terms were soon combined to form Fisimatenten.

Example Sentences:

Mach keine Fisimatenten! 

Don’t make a fuss! 

Schluss mit diesen Fisimatenten! Du musst jetzt zur Schule gehen.

Enough with these excuses. You’ve got to go to school now.


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German word of the day: Lüften

One of the first lessons you learn when living in Germany is that airing out rooms is extremely important.

German word of the day: Lüften

Whether you sublet, rent a flat or own your home in Germany, it’s likely you’ve been told how important it is to lüften, or open your windows and let air in and out regularly. 

Lüften can be a verb or noun in Germany. As a noun it uses the ‘das’ article and stands for ventilation. The verb lüften means to air out something. It comes from the German word die Luft which means air.

The proper airing out of rooms is a very German thing. Hell, it’s a way of life. 

Just check your rent contract. Foreigners in Germany are often surprised to find that ventilating their homes is usually written into their contract and accompanied by instructions. That means it’s literally legally binding! 

There are very important rules to remember, and German even has a set of vocabulary dedicated to getting fresh air safely in and out the room. 

Words like Stoßlüften – which translates to shock or impact ventilation. This is needed at least twice a day (and more in summer) and involves opening the windows or balcony doors wide to let a ‘shock’ of cold air in. According to experts, you should do this for about five minutes a time in winter, 10-15 minutes each time in autumn and spring, and up to half an hour in summer.

Meanwhile, Querlüften or cross ventilation involves opening all the windows of a house or building and letting the fresh air flow through.

The aim of all this lüften is to stop mould from forming, get rid of smells and to stop rooms from getting too humid. The more people that live in your home, the more airing out you’ll have to do. 

Germans recommend that you turn off your heating while airing out your room (to save on money and to protect the climate) – so be sure to have a big jumper on if you’re airing out in winter. 

READ ALSO: Why Germans are obsessed with the art of airing out a room

Lüften took on a whole new meaning in the pandemic as other countries – or at least those that didn’t have the same culture for airing out – began recommending it to people as a way of helping protect against Covid-19 transmission.  

A good German habit

Lüften can quickly become a habit. Whereas before Germany, I was happy to leave a window tilted open for a while to get some fresh air, I’m now obsessed with the proper way to do it. 

I throw open the windows of my flat wide at regular intervals to get that fresh air circulating, even in the dead of winter. When I’m at home in Scotland or on holiday somewhere else, I do the same thing, which can be alarming to people who think you are trying to freeze them.

I find myself feeling pleased when the neighbours across the road from my Berlin flat open their windows or balcony doors wide. It’s like we’re all part of the secret society of fresh air.

There is nothing now that stands between me and Lüften. When I tweeted about this habit, lots of people said they felt a similar way. 

One Twitter user said: “Been telling my family this for years – as they shiver and complain about how cold it is, and my partner and I passive-aggressively follow each other around shutting and reopening windows. Makes for fun times.”

Another said: “My little sister spent an exchange year in Germany before me and when I visited was thoroughly disturbed by her obsessive window opening. A couple years later I was living in Germany and had become a convert, too.”


Hey Karl, Kannst du bitte dein Zimmer lüften?

Hey Karl, can you please air out your room?

In Deutschland muss man die Zimmer richtig lüften.

You really have to air out rooms the right way in Germany.