German word of the day: Zocken

Zocken has undergone an evolution in the past few years. Here's what you need to know, writes Antonia Harrison.

German word of the day: Zocken
A gamer with the PS2. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

While it originally meant ‘to gamble’, more recently the colloquial verb has been used in online forums to mean ‘to game’, in the sense of playing (and often streaming) video games online. 

Internet slang in Germany is often rife with Anglicisms, leading to worries about ‘Denglish’ and the English language’s perceived influence over the way German is spoken, particularly by young people. ‘Zocken’, unlike its popular synonym ‘gamen’, bucks this trend. 

As in much of Western Europe, the popularity of gaming in Germany has skyrocketed in recent years. Germany has the second largest gaming market in Europe after Russia, generating a record high of €8.5 billion in revenue in 2020. 

Gaming in Germany also spans a wider demographic than in most countries: the German Games Industry Association estimates that almost 10 million gamers in Germany are 50 years or older, and also highlights that there is a more-or-less even gender ratio among German gamers. 

READ MORE: German phrase of the day: Das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen 

The industry has expanded in a number of different directions: whilst some are using games to make social change and to facilitate education, others are raking in a fortune streaming established games from platforms such as YouTube or Twitch. There are a number of globally high-profile German gaming YouTubers who are foundational to the industry: for instance, Gronkh (4.9 million subscribers), Paluten (4.2 million subscribers) and GermanLetsPlay (3.5 million subscribers). 

Gaming is also subject to relatively strict regulation: the State Media Treaty introduced late last year contained a specific regulatory framework for live streamers which has sparked some controversy. 

It states that anyone averaging more than 20,000 viewers on their streams requires a broadcasting license, meaning that games rated 16+ cannot be played until after 10pm, whilst games rated 18+ cannot be played until after 11pm. In April, Germany’s biggest Twitch streamer MontanaBlack described feeling ‘forced’ to leave the country in order to maintain his income and freedom over his streams. 

As a colloquialism, you are more likely to run into ‘zocken’ on online forums such as Reddit than in a German classroom, but it is a versatile verb with a simple conjugation which you can easily throw into a conversation with your friends. 


Ich werde am Wochenende bestimmt zocken. 

I will definitely play video games on the weekend. 

Du hast den ganzen Tag im Internet verbracht. Was hast du gemacht?

You spent the whole day on the internet. What were you doing?

Ich habe gezockt. 

I was gaming.

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German word of the day: Abgefahren

If you enjoy things that are a bit out of the ordinary, this German word is perfect for you.

German word of the day: Abgefahren

Why do I need to know abgefahren?

Because ironic German slang words can be pretty fun to use – and because it tells us quite a bit about what the German youths were up to back in the 1970s. 

What does it mean?

Literally, abgefahren is the past participle of abfahren – which means to depart or to leave. For instance, “Der Zug ist abgefahren” means “the train has departed”, which can either be used to say that you’ve missed your train or to indicate a missed opportunity (think of the English phrase: “That ship has sailed.”)  

But to uncover the really fun side of abgefahren, you need to know its meaning in German slang. When used in a casual conversation, abgefahren is a big happy exclamation that can mean crazy, awesome, cool, weird or even trippy. 

A word to the wise: this isn’t the most modern slang word around, so you may get some amused looks if you start using it all the time. But funnily enough, we have heard a few younger Germans drop this into conversation recently – possibly as a semi-ironic or retro statement like the words “wicked”, “phat” or “radical” in English.

Where did it come from?

As you might have guessed, abgefahren is very much a relic of the 1970s – and particularly the hippy subculture. 

When experimenting with psychedelic drugs or other mind-altering narcotics, people would depart (abfahren) to go on a fantastical journey – otherwise known as a “trip”. In the midst of their trip, they’re fully abgefahren – probably to somewhere in outer space. 

Like a lot of slang, the meaning of abgefahren became a lot more broad once it entered into common usage. A bit like the English phrase, “far out” – an exclamation beloved of hippies in the ’60s and ’70s – you can basically use it for anything cool or interesting. 

Use it like this: 

Das war echt total abgefahren.

That was totally awesome. 

Es wäre verdammt abgefahren mit ihm abzuhängen.

It would be pretty awesome to hang out with him.