German word of the day: Der Impfling

German word of the day: Der Impfling
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Said to become the Word of the Year 2021, and generally used a lot during the last few months, 'der Impfling' means a person to be vaccinated. Yet it has an origin that dates back way before the Covid-19 crisis.

While this word has been used by medical personnel for a long time, for example in a medical journal in 1994, it is now used more and more throughout the general public.

But where does it come from? 

Impfling is a composed word consisting of impfen (to vaccinate) and the suffix -ling.

The ending -ling is usually attached to adjectives, and more rarely to nouns or verbs. It is used to describe a person by one of their characteristics — in this case the fact that they are about to be or have been vaccinated. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: When will I be in line for a Covid-19 vaccine in Germany?

Usually, -ling is a little derogatory, like der Schönling. While schön means beautiful and one could therefore think Schönling means something positive, the opposite is the case. Der Schönling describes a vain person, whose looks matter more to him than anything else. 

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However, in the case of Impfling it is not meant derogatory, but simply turns a verb (impfen) into a noun (Impfling) in a colloquial way. (Your doctor is not trying to insult you, pinky-promise!)

In German, the word impfen stems from a term used in wine growing. It describes the practice of placing a bred grapevine onto a wild wine bush, which is said to make the plant more resistant against harsh weather conditions and vermin, while still carrying a full vine of fruits. German winemakers also call this veredeln (to refine). 

So when you’re getting vaccinated, what you’re actually getting is — more refined. 

Why has Impfling gained more popularity lately?

The answer is probably quite obvious: Covid. Before, vaccination was mainly a topic for older people, parents and avid travelers. But now, vaccinations have become important for all members of society — and many have become, or are on their way to becoming, Impflinge.


Der Impfling ist erst morgen dran. 

He will be vaccinated tomorrow. 

Bei den Impflingen gab es keine Nebenwirkung. 

Those that were vaccinated didn’t suffer from any side effects. 

Bitte informieren Sie den Impfling über potenzielle Risiken. 

Please inform the person to be vaccinated about possible risks.

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