German word of the day: Das Stehaufmännchen

German word of the day: Das Stehaufmännchen
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Despite being named after a spooky looking toy, today’s word is all about resilience and positivity.

“Das Stehaufmännchen” is the name of an old, often quite scary looking toy. In English they are called roly-poly or tumbler toys. 

These usually take the shape of a character or animal attached to a round base. The idea is that no matter how many times it gets knocked over or flung about, it will always hop back into a standing position. 

In German, the name of this toy has come to symbolise resilience. It’s used as an endearing nickname for the kind of real-life characters who always manage to get back on their feet, no matter what life throws at them. 

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Whether it’s little things like stumbling over words in a presentation or embarrassing themselves at a party, or it’s big life-changes like losing a job or having a crisis, these are the people who will not let themselves be discouraged, and always pick themselves up and carry on going. 

The word is a compound noun put together from “aufstehen” (to stand up) and “Männchen” which translates as “little man”, but in this case can refer to any person. 

A literal version of a ‘Stehaufmännchen’. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Stehaufmännchen is said to follow the philosophy of: 

“Hinfallen, Aufstehen, Krone richten, Weitergehen.” 

(Fall down, stand up, straighten crown, carry on.) 

Examples: 

Sie lässt sich von dem Vorfall nicht entmutigen, sie ist ein richtiges Stehaufmännchen.
She won’t let herself be discouraged by the incident, she’s really resilient. 

Er weinte, weil er sein Stehaufmännchen verloren hatte.
He was crying because he lost his tumbler toy. 


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