German word of the day: Feige

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
German word of the day: Feige
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

This simple German word may seem innocuous on first glance, but its double meaning makes it a useful one to add to your vocabulary.


Why do I need to know feige

Whether you're talking about a delicious Middle Eastern fruit or berating a friend for being too cautious, feige is a useful colloquial word to know. 

What does it mean?

As you might be able to guess, die Feige (pronounced like this) is the German term for a fruit that many of us know and love: the fig. 

But unless you eat figs on a regular basis, you're far more likely to hear this word in its adjective form, being used to describe someone - or something - that's cowardly or weak. 

Given its colloquial tone, you could translate feige not just as "cowardly" but also using more informal English words like "gutless", "wimpy" or "yellow-bellied". 

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It's unclear why figs are associated with cowardly behaviour, but what we do know is that the meaning of the word has changed over time. Back in the Middle Ages, being feige meant you were condemned to death, but from the 15th century onwards the term took on its modern meaning of shying away from or being afraid of death. 


Use it like this:

Ich bin viel zu feige, um allein zu reisen.

I'm way too cowardly to travel alone.

Ich finde sein Verhalten feige und ungerecht. 

I find his behaviour cowardly and unjust.


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