For members


German word of the Day: Verdienstunterschied

An important term for equal pay activists or those simply wanting a wage increase.

German word of the Day: Verdienstunterschied
Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know Verdienstunterschied?

Because it is a word which often appears in reports and debates on the topic of wage differences between men and women in Germany.

As Germany has one of the largest gender pay gaps in Europe, it’s a topic that is not likely to disappear from the headlines any time soon. 

What does it mean?

der Verdienstunterschied is a compound noun made up of der Verdienst – meaning “income” and der Unterschied – meaning “difference”.

While it can be used in a number of contexts relating to differences in earnings, it appears most often in discussions on the topic of the gender pay gap.

To talk about wage differences specifically related to sex in German, you can simply use the term Gender-Pay-Gap, or the slightly less catchy geschlechtsspezifische Lohngefälle (“sex-specific wage gaps”).

The most recent report from the Federal Statistical Office showed that, in 2022, women in Germany earned on average €4.31 per hour less than men – a wage gap of almost a fifth.

This puts the so-called unbereinigt (“unadjusted”) gender pay gap at 18 percent in Germany, though there is a clear east-west divide in the difference in earnings between women and men.

According to the statistics, the pay gap between women and men currently stands at seven percent in eastern Germany, while the western states have a much higher gender pay gap of around 19 percent.

The differences in salary between women and men are often down to the fact that women generally take up more Teilzeit (“part-time”) work and they also are more likely to have jobs that pay less.

Use it like this:

Seit 2002 ist der Verdienstunterschied zwischen Frauen und Männern fast konstant
Since 2002 the wage gap between men and women has been almost constant
Thüringen gehört zu den Bundesländern mit dem geringsten Verdienstunterschied
Thuringia is one of the German states with the smallest wage gaps

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For members


German word of the day: Sicher

This seemingly simple German word is an essential addition to your vocabulary, whether you're struggling in a language class or discussing extremist politics.

German word of the day: Sicher

Why do I need to know sicher?

This helpful German word is used in a huge range of everyday contexts, from expressing your certainty to discussing your safety. 

What does it mean?

Sicher (pronounced like this) has a variety of meanings: understanding which one applies involves becoming sensitive to the context.

You’ve probably heard the word used to mean “sure” or “certain”. If you ask someone for directions on the street and they tell you, “Ich bin mir nicht sicher”, you may need to ask someone else, as this person isn’t sure. On the other hand, if someone gives you directions but you’re convinced they’re leading you in the wrong direction, you may want to double check by asking, “Bist du dir sicher?”, meaning, “Are you sure?”.

In a similar vein, you can add sicher to any statement you make to emphasise your certainty and reinforce your point. For example, if a friend is worrying about their performance in an exam, you could tell them: “Du hast die Prüfung sicher bestanden”, which would roughly translate as: “I’m sure you’ve passed the exam”. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day – Also

Of course, if you’ve made a good investment recently, you can also look forward to “sichere Gewinne”, or assured profits, sometime in the near future. 

Just like in English, sicher can normally be used interchangeably with “sicherlich”, which translates as “surely” and also expresses a feeling of certainty. 

Another common translation of the word sicher is “safe” or “secure”, which can relate either to literal safety, or a feeling of comfort and security. For instance, “Ich fühle mich sicher zuhause” would express a feeling of safety and security (Sicherheit) in your own home, while “Er fährt sicher” would mean: “He drives safely”.  

You may have also heard the phrase, “gesichert rechtsextrem” when it comes to discussions of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and other extreme forces in German politics.

If this sounds legalistic, it’s because it is: “gesichtert rechtsextreme”, or confirmed far-right, is a term used by officials who have gathered enough evidence about a party or its members to brand it an extremist organisation and track its activity in the name of national security. 

READ ALSO: Germany labels far-right AfD’s youth wing ‘extremist’

How do I know which meaning of sicher applies?

Though you’ll often need to rely on context in order to understand how the word sicher is being used, there are some easy ways to tell. 

When you hear it used as a reflexive adverb along with the dative, i.e. “Ich bin mir sicher” it always means: “I’m sure”, whereas “Ich fühle mich sicher” (with accusative) would describe feeling safe or secure.

If there’s no reflexive pronoun (i.e. mir oder mich) the meaning ist more ambiguous. For example, saying: “Meine Tasche ist sicher im Büro” could mean both “My bag is safe in the office” and “I’m sure my bag is in the office.” In most of these cases, though, you’ll have a bit more context to go on, so you can normally work out what someone is trying to tell you. 

Use it like this:

Sind sie sicher an ihrem Ziel gekommen?

Have they arrived safely at their destination? 

Du wirst den Job bekommen – da bin ich mir sicher!

You’ll get the job – I’m sure of it!