These are the German Words of the Year 2019

These are the German Words of the Year 2019

It’s perhaps not the zingiest of words, but it did provoke a pretty hefty debate: the Association for the German Language has chosen “Respektrente” as the Word of the Year for 2019. 

Respektrente” and “Rollerchaos” top the list

The term - which translates to “respect pension” - was first coined by Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) to refer to the planned introduction of a basic pension for men and women who, despite having worked for many years, only have a small pension

The terms “Rollerchaos”, which came into vogue shortly after the arrival of thousands of E-scooters in Germany, and “Fridays for Future” took second and third place, respectively. 

The list also contains some new creations that are all wonderfully German: the term “Schaulästige” was coined earlier this year when a reporter on SWR radio accidentally squashed together the words “Schaulustige” (onlookers) and “lästig” (annoying) to describe rubberneckers who impede traffic or emergency services at crash sites.

Other gems on the list include the words gegengoogeln (to “counter google”), which describes an unwillingness to leave anything unchecked and - an adjective that surely describes us all - “brexitmüde” (“Brexit tired”). 

German Words of the Year 2019

The top 10 Words of the Year are as follows:

  • 1. Respektrente (respect pension)
  • 2. Rollerchaos
  • 3. Fridays for Future
  • 4. Schaulästige
  • 5. Donut-Effekt (“donut effect” - describes the desolation of inner-city areas)
  • 6. brexitmüde
  • 7. gegengoogeln
  • 8. Bienensterben (“bee deaths”)
  • 9. Oligarchennichte (“Oligarch niece” - refers to the alleged niece of a Russian oligarch who was the protagonist in the “Ibiza Affair” that toppled Austria’s governing coalition)
  • 10. Geordnete-Rückkehr-Gesetz (The “Orderly Return Law” that concerns the deportation of rejected asylum seekers)

Previous winners

Every year since 1971, the Association for the German Language has chosen words that, in the opinion of the jury, linguistically reflect the political, economic and social life of the year in a special way. To make the list, the word doesn’t necessarily need to be the most frequently-used of the year, but one with special significance and popularity.

The winner in 2018 was “Heißezeit” (“Hot Age” - in contrast with “Ice Age”, to describe last year’s record-breaking summer) and in 2017, the crown went to “Jamaika-Aus” (“Jamaica Exit”), which was used to describe the unsuccessful coalition negotiations between the CDU, CSU, FDP and Greens, whose colours all appear in the Jamaican flag. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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