German Dictionary

5,000 words added to German dictionary from Queer to emoji and more unexpected updates

Language is always changing and adapting, and this means that new words are created each and every year. It’s not just one language that morphs in this way; every single one that is spoken across the globe is constantly evolving to keep up with new, modern ways of life. And one way we can track these changes is by looking at the new words that are added to dictionaries every year.

The Duden is Germany’s version of the Oxford English Dictionary. It is the main resource when it comes to the German language, and features all official German words. Even though it is steeped in history and tradition, the Duden recently announced that 5,000 words would be added to the dictionary. Some of these words sound very 21st Century indeed, including fake news, selfie, queer, and emoji.

Known for always adding new words to its contents, there is nothing new with the Duden adding a bunch of new words. In fact, the dictionary has grown since it started in 1880 from 27,000 words to its current 145,000. But what seems to be notable this time around is just how much the modern world has impacted the use of the German language.

There are some new words that have strong technological significance. For example, Facebook has had a huge impact on our language. Liken, which means ‘to like on Facebook’, and facebooken, ‘to use Facebook’, and entfreunden, ‘to unfriend’, have also been included into the dictionary. Other tech words include the German word for cyber warfare – cyberkrieg.

It looks like the English language has also had a big influence on modern use of German as there were a few words with English origins that have been added to the new Duden. Most of them have come from pop culture and current lifestyle trends. They include low carb, urban gardening, hoodie, work-life-balance, and roadtrip.

It’s not just English that has infiltrated the German language, though, as the very popular Danish word hygge is also in the list of newly added words. This word means ‘coziness’ and has become a very high-profile trend over the past few years.

There is also a clear American influence on some of the new words, as some of the Duden’s new words have their origins in the US’s current administration. Brexit has also been added and is another word that reflects how international affairs are having a big consequence on the German language. The German word for post-factual (postfaktisch), another new addition, also reflects the current political climate and how debates now try to appeal to emotions rather than policies.

The previous Duden came out in 2013 and sold 850,000 copies. The team behind the dictionary are hoping that the new edition will also be as popular, even though there aren’t any controversial additions such as 2013’s inclusion of shitstorm. New slogans such as ‘not at all sexy: if you spell tinder wrong’ are hoping to reach a younger audience and persuade them to spend €26 ($31) on this latest addition.

Jenny has been reporting on small business issues since 2001 where she held a number of freelance positions across the leading SME publications in the UK. Specialist subjects included SME financing and tax.

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