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Überfremdung (pronounced [ˌyːbɐˈfʁɛmdʊŋ]), literally "over-foreignization", is a German-language term used in politics to suggest an excess of immigration. The word is compounded from über meaning "over" or "overly" and fremd meaning "foreign".

Political uses[edit]

The German term has had several meanings over the years, all of which have reflected the sense of "too foreign" and "threatening", and are generally negative.

Successive editions of the Duden dictionary illustrate how the meaning has changed since the term was first used in 1929, then meaning "taking on too much foreign money" (especially loans made from 1924-1929 to rebuild Germany, following the First World War). In 1934 (one year after the NSDAP came to power in Germany), the meaning changed to "immigration/imposition of foreign races", and in 1941 it became "immigration/imposition of foreign peoples". Following the Second World War, the 1951/1952 version of the Duden returned to the strictly economic definition. In 1961, the term "foreigner" came to replace "foreign races" or "foreign peoples". In 1986, the term was no longer used in economics. Since 1991, primarily the verb "überfremden" has been in use, and one could speak of a country being überfremdet ("over-foreignized").

In 1993, the Society for the German Language (Gesellschaft für die deutsche Sprache e.V.) declared "Überfremdung" to be the German Un-Word of the Year, as it makes "undifferentiated xenophobia" sound more argumentative and clinical.[1]

Linguists, philologists, political scientists and social scientists criticise the concept for its vagueness, its use under national socialism, and its continuing negative connotation.

The word is related to terms in various languages: "foreign infiltration", "foreign penetration", French surpopulation étrangère, déculturation, envahissement par des étrangers, es:extranjerización, and infiltrazione straniera, Israeli law and term of "infiltrators", which have all been used at various times to rally xenophobic sentiment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spiegel Online: Ein Jahr, ein (Un-)Wort! (in German).