German word of the day: Piensen

Sophie Shanahan
Sophie Shanahan - [email protected] • 21 Apr, 2021 Updated Wed 21 Apr 2021 11:53 CEST
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The colloquial verb directly translates to complain, but it usually means something closer to ‘have a whinge’.


There's no doubt about it: The Germans are renowned for their directness. This stereotype definitely rings true for those who seem never to hesitate in calling out friends or housemates for their questionable hygiene habits or punctuality.

READ ALSO: 10 ways of speaking German you’ll only ever pick up on the street

If a roommate complains each time a plate is left unwashed or the bins get anywhere close to overflowing, even Germans can grow tired of their fastidiousness. 

When the German directness spills over into whining, it is said that someone is a Pienser.


The title is usually given to someone with a reputation for fussiness, rather than for a single instance.

If you often find yourself criticising others on their annoying habits or you are someone for whom everything needs to be ‘just so’, you are in danger of being labelled a Pienser, though this will probably not be said to your face. 

The term has its origins in Kurpfälzisch, which falls under Pfälzisch, the German dialect of Rhineland-Palatine. 

READ ALSO: Pfälzisch: A guide to the distinct dialect of Rhineland-Palatinate

Kurpfälzisch, spoken on the right bank of the Rhine, differs slightly from other forms of Pfälzisch and is said to have a more melodic intonation, with the stress often falling at the end of a sentence. 

Piensen (which is synonymous to the word 'jammern') has been borrowed from the regional dialect, which has a lot of French influence and the loan-word is mostly used by young people, for whom reclaiming localisms is becoming fashionable again. 

If you move in with German housemates, watch out for the nitpicking Pienser lurking in the flat WhatsApp group chat - there’s always one. 


Hör endlich auf zu piensen!

Just stop your whining!

Du pienst über absolut alles. Du gehst mir wirklich auf den Wecker. 

You complain about absolutely everything, you’re really getting on my nerves. 



Sophie Shanahan 2021/04/21 11:53

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