German phrase of the day: O’zapft is

With Oktoberfest back in full swing after a two-year pause, we're looking at an iconic Bavarian beer fest phrase (and a few more you might find helpful).

German phrase of the day: O'zapft is
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I have to know O’zapft is?

Because this is one of the most iconic Oktoberfest sayings. And it’s distinctly Bavarian. 

What does it mean?

O’zapft is is the Bavarian dialect for the German Es ist angezapft, meaning “it’s tapped”.

When the mayor of Munich taps the first beer barrel at 12pm on the first day of Oktoberfest and shouts: O’zapft is! you know that the festival has officially started. 

And it’s actually a bit more than a little tap – the ceremony involves the mayor using a large mallet to tap open the beer keg (as seen in the news report below). 

The tapping tradition dates back to 1950 when, on September 16th, former Munich mayor Thomas Wimmer opened the Munich Electric Fair before rushing over to the Schottenhamel festival tent on the Theresienwiese. He was greeted by reporters and photographers and, with the mallet and tap at the ready, he performed the first official tapping of the barrel at the Oktoberfest.

In the 1980s it became the tradition to offer the Bavarian state premier the first beer from the keg. 

This year tens of thousands of people braved the rain for the first weekend of the festival. It runs until October 3rd. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus 

What else might you say at Oktoberfest?

If you want to impress the locals, you’re not going to talk about how much you love Oktoberfest, you’ll call it Wiesn.

A sentence like I moag die Wiesn (“I like Oktoberfest/Wiesn”) will quickly capture those proud Bavarian hearts.

Meanwhile, asking for ein Maß, bitte will get you a litre of beer. 

And before you drink your beer you want to invite your friends to raise their glasses by saying: Trinkspruch. 

And then: Oans, zwoa, g’suffa – which means “one, two, drink!”.

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German word of the day: Los

This tiny German word has a huge range of meanings.

German word of the day: Los

Why do I need to know los?

Because it’s a very common word in spoken German which crops up everywhere, from yoga classes to unemployment offices. We explain how it’s used below. 

What does it mean?

The word los has a wide variety of uses in the German language – it can be a noun, adjective, adverb, interjection, as well as a prefix and a suffix.

As an adjective it means “loose” in English and is used to describe something not firmly or tightly fixed in place. This is the kind of los you’re most likely to encounter in everyday life. If a German friend asks you why you’re looking a bit down, for example, they’ll probably say:

Was ist mit dir los?

This literally means “what’s loose with you?” but is used to mean “what’s up”?

Similarly, if there’s some commotion on the street outside your office, a German colleague might ask:

Was ist da los?

What’s up there?

Los is also commonly used as an exclamation, meaning “Go!”

Riders hold their grips on the steering wheel at the start of the second stage of the Tour de France in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/BELGA | Pool

At the start of a race, for example, instead of “On your marks – get set – Go!” you’ll hear auf die Plätze – fertig – Los!

You’ll also hear this type of los as a general encouragement or as an order to someone to make a move:

Worauf wartest du? Los!

What are you waiting for? Go!

Los as a prefix and suffix

When it appears at the beginning of a verb, los expresses the idea of starting or going. The verb losgehen, for example, means “to get going”, while loslassen  – a favourite of German yoga teachers – means “to let go”.

When it appears at the end of a word, however, -los has a similar meaning to the English suffix “-less,” such as nutzlos (useless), harmlos (harmless) and arbeitslos (jobless).

Los as a noun

As a noun, das Los has a very different definition and means “fate” or “lot”. Stemming from this meaning, das Los is also a common word for “lottery ticket” in German.