Word of the year (Germany)

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The word of the year (German: Wort des Jahres) is an annual publication by the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache, established in 1971 (on a regular basis since 1977). Each December, a German word or word group is named in a linguistic review of the year.[1][2]

Year Word of the year
English Translation
1971 aufmüpfig rebellious, insubordinate Characterization of the 1960s counterculture, especially the German student movement
1977 Szene scene, community Reference to a number of news-making communities, e.g. drug scene, gay scene, disco scene
1978 konspirative Wohnung conspirative apartment Reference to the hideout of the kidnappers of Hanns-Martin Schleyer, which the police failed to locate
1979 Holocaust Holocaust The original broadcast of the American TV miniseries Holocaust, which led to an increased public interest in Nazi crimes.
1980 Rasterfahndung dragnet investigation Proposed measures for computer-aided searches for wanted criminals that led to a heated political and public debate about information privacy.
1981 Nullösung Zero Option Reference to a proposal by then United States President Ronald Reagan for the withdrawal of all Soviet and US intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe
1982 Ellenbogengesellschaft literally "elbow society", dog-eat-dog competition Term used by critics who feared a culture lacking social skills was growing, which emphasized egoism, ruthlessness, and competitiveness
1983 Heißer Herbst hot/heated autumn Reference to a series of large-scale protests against the NATO Double-Track Decision and the strengthening peace movement
1984 Umweltauto environment-friendly car, low-energy vehicle Reference to one of the topics of the environmental movement
1985 Glykol glycol The toxic additive uncovered in a widespread wine adulteration scandal
1986 Tschernobyl Chernobyl Reference to the Chernobyl disaster
1987 AIDS, Kondom AIDS and condom The growing media attention paid to the spreading HIV/AIDS disease and subsequent campaign for safe sex
1988 Gesundheitsreform healthcare reform Reference to the dominant political discussion of that year
1989 Reisefreiheit freedom of travel The most prominent demand during the Peaceful Revolution, which was achieved with the fall of the Berlin Wall
1990 Die neuen Bundesländer The new German states The states of Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which became part of the Federal Republic of Germany in the German reunification
1991 Besserwessi compound of besser ("better") and Wessi (informal term for a citizen of West Germany), thus resembling the German word Besserwisser ("know-it-all", "smart arse") A perception by former citizens of East Germany in the post-reunification period that their lifetime achievements under communist rule were regarded as inferior and valueless by West Germans
1992 Politikverdrossenheit indifference to politics Perceived political indifference from decreasing voter turnouts and party membership numbers
1993 Sozialabbau reduction of social benefits Reference to austerity measures taken by the conservative government of Helmut Kohl
1994 Superwahljahr super election year The environment of perpetual election campaign for politicians, due to a federal election, European parliament election, and eight state elections converging in 1994
1995 Multimedia multimedia Buzzword used for state-of-the-art developments in computer and digital technology
1996 Sparpaket austerity package The dominance in political discussions of the time about how to shoulder the immense follow-up costs of the German reunification
1997 Reformstau literally "reform jam" The perceived political standstill during the later years of the Kohl government
1998 Rot-Grün red-green Reference to the coalition government of social democrats and greens, led by newly elected chancellor Gerhard Schröder[3]
1999 Millennium millennium The term was used as an ubiquitous buzzword in public anticipation of the year 2000[3]
2000 Schwarzgeldaffäre literally "black money affair" Reference to the donations scandal of the Christian Democratic Party, with Helmut Kohl as its key figure[3]
2001 Der elfte September September 11 Reference to the September 11 attacks
2002 Teuro portmanteau of teuer ("expensive", "pricey") and Euro The widespread public perception that the currency changeover from the Deutsche Mark to the Euro had led to a hidden price increase[3]
2003 Das alte Europa The old Europe A term coined by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, referring to European countries that did not support the 2003 invasion of Iraq[3]
2004 Hartz IV Name of a highly controversial set of reforms of the German labor market[3]
2005 Bundeskanzlerin female form of "Federal Chancellor" Angela Merkel becomes the first woman to hold the post of German chancellor[3][4]
2006 Fanmeile literally "fan mile" Reference to public screenings of the matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators[3][4]
2007 Klimakatastrophe climate debacle Reference to the worst possible outcome of the global warming, which came to widespread public attention, mainly due to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report and the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth[4][5]
2008 Finanzkrise financial crisis The dominance of the financial crisis of 2007–2008 in political discussions that year[6]
2009 Abwrackprämie scrapping bonus Reference to a political measure to help the automobile industry through the Great Recession, which saw a bonus of EUR 2,500 for those buying a brand new car and scrapping the old one instead of reselling it[7]
2010 Wutbürger compound of Wut ("anger", "rage") and Bürger ("citizen") Stereotype of middle-aged, socially and financially secure people without any previous experience in attending demonstrations, who protest in the streets in an emotional, heated manner (especially characterizing the opponents of the Stuttgart 21 project)[8]
2011 Stresstest stress test A reference to a series of unrelated stability simulations: the EU banking stress tests, a reassessment of nuclear power stations following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and the arbitration process concerning Stuttgart 21[9]
2012 Rettungsroutine literally "rescue routine" A rarely used term coined by German politician Wolfgang Bosbach, criticizing the series of measures addressing the European sovereign-debt crisis that passed the Bundestag in a rushed manner, possibly without sufficient debate and consideration of alternatives[10]
2013 GroKo acronym for Große Koalition ("grand coalition") reference to the upcoming governmental coalition in the Bundestag, formed by CDU/CSU and SPD[11]
2014 Lichtgrenze literally light border reference to an art installation as part of the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache: Wort des Jahres (in German)
  2. ^ Spiegel Online: Ein Jahr, ein (Un-)Wort! (in German)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h About.com: The German Word of the Year.
  4. ^ a b c Atlantic Review: "Climate Catastrophe" is the Word of the Year in Germany. Published online on 8 December 2007
  5. ^ Reuters: ‘Klimakatastrophe’ picked as Germany’s word of year. Published online on 7 December 2007
  6. ^ The Local: ‘Finanzkrise‘ German word of the year. Published online on 11 December 2008
  7. ^ The Local: ‘Abwrackprämie‘ named word of the year. Published online on 18 December 2009
  8. ^ The Local: ‘Wutbürger’ named word of the year. Published online on 17 December 2010.
  9. ^ The Local: ‘Stresstest‘ is German word of the year. Published online on 16 December 2011.
  10. ^ Mental floss: 8 Words of the Year from Other Countries. Published online of 9 January 2013.
  11. ^ "GroKo ist Wort des Jahres". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). 13 December 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013.