German word of the day: Zeitverschwendung

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
German word of the day: Zeitverschwendung
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Learning this quintessentially German word will definitely not be a waste of time.


Why do I need to know Zeitverschwendung?

Because using this word at the right moment can help you to win the hearts and minds of your German conversation partners - especially if they work in a Behörde (authority).

What does it mean? 

Die Zeitverschwendung is a classic German compound noun made up of die Zeit ("time") and die Verschwendung ("waste" or "squandering") from the verb verschwenden ("to waste"). Together they make - you've guessed it - "waste of time". 

Living in a country with a crumbling reputation for efficiency which, at the same time, has a love for punctuality, knowing how to succinctly express the loss of precious time really is a must. 

Though the concept of wasting time is not unique to the German language, the presence of a specific term like Zeitverschwendung highlights the cultural emphasis placed on time management in German society. It reflects a cultural expectation that people should make the most of their time and that inefficiency or idleness are often viewed with disapproval.

From my own experience, in my numerous run-ins with local authorities regarding over-complicated bureaucratic procedures which have resulted in unnecessary time losses, I've often found that pulling out the phrase Das ist eine totale Zeitverschwendung ("that is a complete waste of time") to be very helpful in winning people around to my point of view. 

Use it like this:

Das stundenlange Warten am Flughafen ist eine reine Zeitverschwendung.

The hours of waiting at the airport are a pure waste of time.


Die endlosen Meetings ohne klare Ergebnisse sind eine Zeitverschwendung.

The endless meetings with no clear outcomes are a waste of time.

Das stundenlange Scrollen durch sozialen Medien kann schnell zur Zeitverschwendung führen.

Hours of scrolling through social media can quickly lead to time wasting.


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