German word of the day: Durchbeißen

This word will help get you through something tough, both literally and figuratively.

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

This word can be broken up into “Durch” (through) and “Beißen” (bite), meaning to bite through something. When used literally, this verb describes the action of crushing, cutting, or penetrating something with your teeth. 

Chowing down on a crusty (or perhaps stale) baguette? Then you must durchbeißen

Trying to rip through pesky packaging that seems impenetrable? Perhaps putting your teeth to work and gnawing through is the right method. 

Durchbeißen is also often used figuratively, and means to struggle through something persistently. This word describes the tough reality of facing an uphill battle and having no choice but to stick it out. As Robert Frost wrote in his poem Servant of Servants, “The only way out is through.”

This German term, then, is uniquely fitting for a year as tumultuous and trying as 2020. Struggling through isolation and mandatory quarantine? Far away from loved ones, and have no choice but to hunker down, and stick out these unprecedented and difficult times alone? Durchbeißen describes this act of daily perseverance. 

When I first moved to Germany, like most new arrivals, I had a tough time tackling all of the bureaucratic necessities of settling in a new country. I had a hard time opening a bank account, getting my visa paperwork together, and registering for health insurance.

A colleague gave me good advice and said, “Livy, du musst einfach eine große Tasse Kaffee trinken, und durchbeißen.” (Livy, you must simply drink a large cup of coffee and struggle through.) 

This word follows in a uniquely German tradition of assigning very specific words to describe the toil and hardship of life, that simply do not have an apt English equivalent.

Words like Weltschmerz, Lebensmüde, and Mutterseelenallein are words that are similar in their unique ability to  a less-than-cheery reality.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Mutterseelallein


Im neuen Job war es für Fritz am Anfang nicht leicht, aber er hat sich durchgebißen.

At the beginning, Fritz’s job was not easy, but he stuck it out.

Das Brot war so abgestanden, dass er mit aller Kraft durchbeißen musste.

The bread was so stale that he had to bite through with all his strength.


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German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

If you want to really make sure you don’t forget what Rücksicht means – you can watch the following video of Germany’s 1983 Eurovision song contest entry. The catchy ballad – called “Rücksicht” – came in place 5 of the competition that year. 

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.