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1,200 new German terms coined during pandemic

Dagmar Breitenbach
March 10, 2021

Overzoomed? Covidiot? With its numerous new words inspired by COVID-19, the German language creatively reflects developments of the past year.

The word 'Corona' spelled with Scrabble letters
Hundreds of new terms starting with 'Corona' appeared over the yearImage: Andreas Franke/picture alliance

The coronavirus crisis has not only completely turned our lives upside down, it has also added to the German language like no other event before. 

Over the past year, Germans were "overzoomed" with too many video conferences, and turned the word lockdown into a Denglish verb, "gelockdownt."

They also further applied their love of abbreviations to define a set of recommendations to avoid spreading the virus. What started as the "AHA" rules was extended to "AHACL" — A for "Abstand" (distancing), H for "Hygiene," A for "Alltagsmaske" (face mask), C for "Corona-Warn-App" (Germany's virus tracing app) and L for "Lüften" (airing).

A list of over 1,000 COVID-inspired terms

The Mannheim-based Leibniz Institute for the German Language (IDS) has listed more than 1,000 new words that are all related to the pandemic. For each term, the institute quotes a newspaper article where it was used. Whether first adopted by the population or popularized through political discussions, the words reflect how German-speaking countries dealt with the pandemic over the past year. 

One of the tricks of the German language is to combine existing words to give them a new meaning, which allows it to creatively reflect different attitudes towards coronavirus-related developments, with "Klopapierhamster" (toilet paper hamsters) and "Covidiots" making headlines for their selfish behavior ahead of the first wave. 

A Carnival float ridiculing 'toilet paper hamsters'
A Carnival float mocking 'toilet paper hamsters'Image: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa/picture alliance

"Gesichtskondom" (face condom) and "Schnutenpulli" (snout sweater) appeared as humorous ways to describe the face mask.

Some of those combined words are all borrowed from the English language, such as "Social-Distancing-Shaming," which refers to people who scold others for not keeping a safe distance in a public space, or "Superspreader-Events," a phenomenon that was observed worldwide, through which some specific gatherings led to a high number of infections.

Click on the above gallery for more German words that were coined during the coronavirus crisis. 

You'll find more about Germans and everyday life in Germany on dw.com/MeettheGermans and on YouTube. Make sure to also check out our new Instagram account @dw_meetthegermans.

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