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.