German word of the day: Standbein

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

Once you know what it means, this sturdy German word is likely to become a key part of your vocabulary.


Why do I need to know Standbein?

Though it has its roots in sports terminology and sculpture, the metaphorical uses for Standbein have become much more broad than that, and it's a word you're bound to come across in German news articles as well as in everyday conversation. 

What does it mean?

Das Standbein (pronounced like this) literally means the standing or supporting leg, and it refers to the leg that holds the majority of the body weight. In sculpture, that means the leg that is carrying the weight of the statue, and in sport, it refers to the leg the athlete stands on, rather than the one they play with.

For example, a football player who tends to play with their right foot would have their Standbein on the left.  

The most common use of Standbein, however, has nothing to do with these specific technical terms. Instead, the metaphor of the supporting leg can be used to describe anything that supports or holds up something else, a bit like English speakers would use the word "pillar". (Incidentally, you can also use Säule, or pillar, in this way in German.)


Probably the best translation for Standbein in this sense is "mainstay", meaning an essential component that everything else rests on. For example, you could use Standbein to describe a key part of a region's economy, or to describe an important policy in a government's programme. 

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You can also use Standbein to describe a source of income. Most often, you'll hear people talking about setting up a "zweites Standbein", or second source of income, which could be described in English as a side hustle. 

Use it like this:

In schwierigen Zeiten ist es wichtig, ein zweites Standbein zu haben.

In difficult times, it's important to have a second source of income.

Die Chancenkarte ist ein wichtiges Standbein der Migrationspolitik der Regierung.

The opportunity card is a key component of the government's immigration policy. 


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