German word of the day: Beharren

If learning German feels too tough and you just want to give up, this helpful little verb should help you stay on track.

German word of the day
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know beharren

This elegant verb is bound to come in useful when you’re describing something you’ve been working hard at or are struggling with, and you can also use it to give your German friends an inspiring little pep talk. 

When you’re describing the traits of friends, family, colleagues or even yourself, you may also want to include its noun form: (die) Beharrlichkeit. 

What does it mean?

Beharren (be·ha·ren) essentially means ‘to persevere’. In other words, to stick at something even when the going gets tough. It’s the quality we all need when trying to learn a new skill or speak a new language: when you’re struggling through a difficult patch and feel like you’ll never succeed, perseverance – or Beharrlichkeit – is key.

Though persevering generally has positive connotations, it can also depend slightly on the context. In fact, beharren can also be used to describe someone stubbornly sticking to an idea or project, even when it no longer makes sense. In this context, you could translate beharren as ‘to persist’ – or even ‘to insist’ – and anyone who’s ever been locked in conversation with someone who won’t back down may feel slightly less positive about this character trait.

You may admire the Beharrlichkeit of a colleague who managed to train for a marathon after recovering from a serious illness, or the student who gets brilliant grades in their degree while suffering from a learning difficulty. But when your two-year-old is learning the true meaning of beharren and refuses to go to bed before watching more cartoons, the virtue of persistence may start to seem like a curse. 

Is there any history behind it? 

Absolutely. The word beharren is believed to have originated in the word harren – an old-fashioned verb that means ‘to wait patiently or longingly’. Harren became more widespread in the medieval period and was often used by the theologian Martin Luther in his writings.

Nowadays, you’ll generally only hear the word as part of other verbs with prefixes, including ausharren, which means ‘to endure’, and beharren

Use it like this: 

Er hat auf seinem Standpunkt beharrtet.

He insisted on his point of view.

Es ist mir sehr wichtig, in meiner Bildung zu beharren. 

It’s very important to me to persevere in my education.

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German word of the day: Kneipe

This is a spot you might visit at the end of the working day - or Feierabend.

German word of the day: Kneipe

Why do I need to know Kneipe?

Because you may be invited to one or need to find one on the map. 

What does it mean?

Die Kniepe, which sounds like this, is the name for a pub in German where people gather to drink beverages. This isn’t a fancy cocktail bar – it’s a neighbourhood watering hole, and forms part of the make-up of towns and cities across Germany. It’s usually unpretentious, often small and in some places – like Berlin – it can be smoky. In that case, you might see a a Raucherkneipe (smoking pub) sign on the door or window. 

The word has been around since the 18th century and is an abbreviation of Kneipschenke. A Kneipschenke was a super-cramped premise where guests had to pack in and sit squeezed together.

The noun Schenke is a tavern, while Kneipe is said to come from the verb kneipen meaning “to press together” or “be close together”, which has been documented in Middle German and is a loanword from the Middle Low German word knīpen. That word is related to High German’s kneifen, which means “to pinch”. 

Kneipen don’t always have the best reputation. You might also get some suspicious looks if you crash a very local Kneipe that is used to only serving regulars or Stammgäste. But they are usually friendly and charming, and give an insight into life in Germany. So perhaps ask your German friends for a tip on a cool Kneipe to visit. Just don’t expect the staff to speak English like you usually find in hipster bars! 

If you’re hungry, keep in mind that Kneipen usually don’t serve food. Pubs that do serve hot food are more likely to be called a Wirtschaft or Lokal.

You can also do a pub crawl (eine Kneipentour machen) if you can handle the amount of booze (or switch to non-alcoholic drinks). 

How to use it:

Treffen wir uns am Freitag nach Feierabend in der Kneipe.

Let’s meet in the pub on Friday after work finishes.

Ich gehe mit den Jungs in die Kneipe.

I’m going to the pub with the lads.