German word of the day: Der Fehlkauf

This useful word literally means a faulty purchase, and describes something you have bought in good faith that has gone on to disappoint you.

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

If you have ever come home from the shops, only to realise that you have bought something completely different to what you wanted, there’s of course a word for it in German: a Fehlkauf. 

This disappointment comes in a number of forms. You would not only describe something as a Fehlkauf if it turns out to be different to what you hoped, but also if it was overly expensive or not fit for its designated purpose. 

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This post shows the greatest ‘Fehlkäufe’ for 2020, with the number one not surprisingly being a ‘Terminplaner’, or schedule.

The Fehlkauf is becoming more and more common with the rise of online shopping. When you cannot see a product in person before you buy it, you may be disappointed when what arrives on your doorstep is not quite what you expected.

READ ALSO: 11 German words and phrases we’ve learned during the coronavirus outbreak

If the new shoes you splashed out on and eagerly waited days to arrive turn out to be incredibly uncomfortable and leave you with painful blisters, they would definitely be a Fehlkauf. You would just have to cross your fingers that there was still time to return them. 

Sometimes you may not realise something is a Fehlkauf until months after purchasing it, and it may have initially been bought with good intentions.

For example, think of the droves of people who decided to spend their cash on home gym equipment during the pandemic, with the intention of using their extra time to finally improve their health and fitness.

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Muskelkater

It is easy to imagine that, months later, many of these dumbbells and yoga mats are gathering dust in corners, not touched since the early weeks of the first lockdown. What was originally intended as a healthy, sensible purchase has slowly morphed into a Fehlkauf


Mit dieser Kaffeemaschine habe ich bestimmt einen Fehlkauf getätigt.

I definitely made a mistake in buying this coffee machine. 

Das Risiko eines Fehlkaufs ist wegen Onlineshopping deutlich höher als in vergangenen Jahren.

The risk of a bad purchase is much higher than it was in previous years because of online shopping. 

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German word of the day: Umstritten

Not everyone agrees on everything - and there are some things almost nobody can agree on. If you find yourself dealing with the latter, you may need to make use of this German word.

German word of the day: Umstritten

Why do I need to know umstritten?

Because umstritten is a handy word that can be applied to multiple situations, but is especially useful when chatting about current affairs or the big social issues of our day. 

You’ll likely come across it while reading articles in German newspapers, or hear your German friends use it while setting the world to rights in the pub. 

What does it mean?

Umstritten is best translated as “controversial” or “disputed” in English. As usual in German, you can easily work out – and remember – what it means by breaking it down into smaller components. 

The first is the prefix um, which tends to mean “around”. Think of German words like umkehren, which means to turn around or reverse, or umarmen, which means to put your arms around someone (or hug them in other words!). 

The second component is the verb streiten, which means to argue. So something that’s umstritten is something that there are lots of arguments around, like a controversial new law, a social debate or a public figure. 

Use it like this: 

Die Pläne der Regierung waren hoch umstritten.

The government’s plans were highly controversial. 

Sein Erbe als Fußballtrainer ist immer noch umstritten.

His legacy as football manager is still disputed today.