German word of the day: Flanieren

Feeling a little aimless? Take yourself on a wander with this word.

German word of the day: Flanieren
People wandering around in the Herrenhäuser Gärten in Hanover in April 2020. Photo: DPA

“Flanieren” is a German verb that means “to wander about aimlessly” – but with panache. For the “Flaneur,” it’s all about getting an impression of the surroundings – and making an impression on the people. 

The word has a long-running history. It originated from the old Icelandic and Old Norse word “flanna” (to wander), as early as the 11th century. But the German word is actually borrowed from the French “flâner” (to mill about or to meander). 

The French noun “Flâneur” is used in English, French and German alike to describe a certain type of character popular in Fin de Siecle literature (late 19th and early 20th century literature). Its first definition, in Pierre Larousse’s dictionary, describes the character’s personality traits as “equal parts curiosity and laziness.” 

READ ALSO: The German words we use everyday – that are actually French

In writing, this character is meant to allow for a lot of reflective and observational writing, combining philosophy and poetry with occasional reference to suitably aesthetic snapshots of city life, people and the objects they come across in their walk. 

The German verb borrows a faint fragrance from its literary cousin, but its emphasis lies on the ‘planlessness’ of the action. It’s the action of someone who has gone beyond purposelessness – they dawdle on the go, they drift along the currents of life. 

This can be emphasised even more in German with the prefix “herum-” which means as much as ‘around’ or ‘about’. So, “herumflanieren” is some next-level meandering. 

Example Sentences: 

Nach ihrem Studium, flanierte sie erstmal durch Südasien.
After her studies, she milled about in South Asia for a bit. 

Wie der Dichter durch die Stadt, flanieren die Sätze durch das Buch.
Like the poet through the city, the sentences meander aimlessly through the book. 

Flanieren ist eine Kunst.
Aimless wandering is an art. 

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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.