German word of the day: Hüpfen

This is a great German verb for moments full of 'Freude' or just describing an especially energetic action.

German word of the day: Hüpfen
Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know it?

This jovial German word almost always carries a positive connotation – and is especially fun to pronounce. If you’re in an area with a lot of children (or feeling particularly carefree and happy yourself) you’ll have ample opportunities to use it.

What does it mean?

Hüpfen – which is also sometimes written as hupfen in Austria and southern Germany – is a very active verb. In English it could be translated as to hop, bounce, skip, leap or jump.

It is commonly used among children at play: if you skip with a rope, you would mit dem Springseil hüpfen. Or they might attempt to mimic the message of the nursery rhyme Fünf kleine Äffchen hüpfen auf dem Bett (Five little monkeys jump on the bed).

READ ALSO: These German children’s songs bring tears to my eyes

It’s also enthusiastically expressed by anyone experiencing a moment of glee: if you jump for joy then you would vor Freude hüpfen. And if you’re describing animals – be it a bunny rabbit or gazelle – you would also use this verb to describe how they get around.

Some commonly used synonyms are springen and jumpen but hüpfen is a word – with its upbeat, almost lyrical pronunciation – that seems to embody the movement it describes.

Where does it come from?

The exact origin of the verb – as written with an umlaut – can be traced back to the late 1700s, according to the Grimm Brothers’ Dictionary of the German language. Older German literature, including texts from Goethe, used hupfen. 

Both uses stem from the Middle and High German verb hoppen – which nowadays might sound like Denglish slang thrown around by teenagers, but whose use actually stretches back hundreds of years.

Examples of how it’s used:

Kannst du auf einem Bein hüpfen?

Can you jump on one leg?

Die Antilope hüpfte durch das Tal.

The antelope hopped through the valley.

Sie hüpfte vor Freude, als sie erfuhr, dass sie ihre lange verlorene Jugendliebe wiedersehen würde, die sie seit über 50 Jahren nicht mehr gesehen hatte.

She jumped for joy, when she learned that she would again see her long lost childhood sweetheart, who she had not seen in over 50 years.

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German word of the day: Sommersonnenwende

This German word marks the changing of seasons, and the longest day of the year.

German word of the day: Sommersonnenwende

Die Sommersonnenwende, pronounced like this, is the German term for the summer solstice, which is the day that marks the meteorological beginning of summer in Germany and the northern hemisphere.

Alternative names for the day are Sommer Solstitium, which comes from the Latin term, and Mittsommer.

Like so many great German words, the term for the summer solstice is a compound noun which translates quite literally. It’s made up of three simple words: Sommer (summer), Sonnen (sun) and Wende (turn or turnaround).

So the name for the summer solstice in German is meant to remind you that this is the day that the sun ends its journey northward in the sky, and turns around.

As you can probably guess, the winter solstice is called die Wintersonnenwende.

You might recognise the term Wende from another compound noun that got a fair amount of attention in recent years – Energiewende, which means energy transition, has also been used to describe Germany’s big picture plans to phase out fossil fuel use.

The summer solstice usually falls on June 21st or 22nd. But it fell on June 20th this year, due to 2024 being a leap year.

How is ‘die Sommersonnenwende’ observed in Germany

Humans have taken note of, and celebrated, the summer solstice for thousands of years.

Archaeologists suggest that Stone Age cultures were already able to determine the day. Evidence of this was uncovered in 2004 at the site of a 7000-year-old solar observatory found in Goseck in Saxony-Anhalt.

Among Germanic tribes, the summer solstice was celebrated with pagan folk festivals that often included fire rituals.

After Christianization of the region, the Catholic Church tried to abolish the pagan solstice traditions – eventually designating the day for a memorial day for John the Baptist (June 24th), and adopting the fire as a symbol for Jesus Christ. 

Most of the original solstice traditions have been lost, but some are being reinvigorated for tourism, especially on the Baltic Sea coast.

More broadly, the long daylight hours experienced in the weeks before and after the summer solstice, offer a chance to stay out or do outdoor activities late into the evening. There are also a number of music festivals around Germany at this time of year.

READ ALSO: How to make the most of Germany’s long summer days

Use it like this:

Die Sonne geht so spät unter, es muss die Sommersonnenwende sein.

The sun is setting so late, it must be the summer solstice!

Haben Sie dieses Jahr Pläne, die Sommersonnenwende zu feiern?

Do you have plans to celebrate the summer soltice this year?