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German word of the day: Versorgung

You’ll see this word often as you get into more intermediate German texts, in everything from financial planning to politics to senior care.

German wotd
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

What does it mean?

Versorgung, which sounds like this, literally translates as “supply” or “provision,” with its exact meaning depending on context. It’s a feminine noun and so uses the article die in the singular – die Vorsorgung.

How do you use it or where might you see it?

In German’s penchant for compound words, Versorgung is often combined with other words to provide the context that will give the new word its precise meaning and context. Recently, you’re reasonably likely to have run into Energieversorgung or Gasversorgung in newspapers or in communication from your gas or electric company. In these cases, it means “energy supply” or “gas supply,” something that’s been at the top of mind for both governments and consumers over the last year.

But Versorgung is a word for many contexts. If you start researching pensions and financial planning in German-speaking countries, you’re likely to run into Altersvorsorge. Literally translated, it means “retirement provision,” but it’s better understood as “saving for retirement” or planning for how you will support yourself when you’re no longer working in your old age.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the complicated world of German insurance

Versorgung also appears in German-speaking countries when talking about long-term care for people in their old age. If you see Versorgungssystem, you’re probably reading about the system of long-term care facilities to look after people who need extra help. The verb versorgen, is often used to mean “to take care of.”


Wie viel der Stromversorgung ist erneurbar?

How much of the electricity supply is renewable?

Wann sollte man mit dem sparen für die Altersvorsorge beginnen?

When should someone start saving for retirement?

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For members


German word of the day: Krisenmodus

If you want to talk about the past 12 months in Germany, you'll definitely need to know this word. In fact, it's recently been crowned the "word of the year" for 2023.

German word of the day: Krisenmodus

Why is Krisenmodus the word of the year – and what does it mean?

Der Krisenmodus, as you might be able to guess, translates as “crisis mode”. It denotes an all-hands-on-deck period where things feel like they are teetering on the brink of disaster and only careful planning and good crisis management can steady the ship.

If you look back at the past year – or even the past three years – it would be fair say that crisis mode has become the new state of normality.

Whether it’s the shock of the Covid pandemic to the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the Middle East, spiralling energy prices or impending budget doom, Germany’s government has lurched from one crisis to another – and much of the time has been tackling several at once.

That’s why, when it came to selecting the word of the year for 2023, there was only one that the German Language Society (GfDS) could pick.

According to GfDS CEO Andrea Ewels, German society has been in “crisis mode” since 2020, hurtling through the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a domestic education crisis, and Hamas’ October 7th attack on Israel.

“The state of emergency has become a permanent state,” she said. “This triggers fear, insecurity and powerlessness in people. These feelings dominate everyday life and you don’t know what’s to come.”

So if you, like many, are ending the year on a slightly pessimistic note, it’s fair to say you’re not the only one. 

What’s the “word of the year” all about?

Selected by a panel of linguists and media experts, the word of the year has been an institution in Germany since the early 1970s, capturing the Zeitgeist of different eras in German history with just a handful of popular idioms. 

Every year, the GfDS judges sift through hundreds or even thousands of entries to pick out the words that seem to reflect the spirit of the year in question or hold a deeper significance. This is much more an important than how often a word is used in a certain year – though the popularity of a word does play a role.

READ ALSO: What do Germany’s top 10 words of the year say about 2022?

A woman consults the Duden German dictionary

A woman consults the Duden German dictionary. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

This year, there were 1,800 entries to choose from.

The first ever word of the year way back in 1971 was “aufmüpfig” – a word that doesn’t appear to have stood the test of time, possibly because the more anglicised “rebellisch” (or rebellious) has taken its place.

Other words of the year that have cropped up over time include Besserwessi in 1991 – a term referring to seemingly snobbish and know-it-all West Germans after reunification – and GroKo in 2013, an abbreviation for the Grand Coalition of the CDU and SPD. 

What were the runners up? 

As you might expect, the two runners up were also highly topical. 

The first, “Antisemitismus”, refers to a rise in anti-Semitism in the wake of the October 7th Hamas attacks on Israel and Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip. 

The second, “leseunfähig” (unable to read), refers to the dire scores that German pupils achieved in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, which ranks 15-year-olds around the world in maths, literacy and science. 

In a damning indictment of German schools and academic attainment, the most recent PISA rankings saw the performance of pupils in Germany decline dramatically since 2019, with German media describing the results as a “PISA-Schock.” 

In reading, pupils dropped a massive 18 points from 498 to 480 – so it may come as no surprise that “leseunfähig” was a prominent idiom in this endless crisis year. 

READ ALSO: German school pupils plummet to ‘lowest score ever’ in international rankings

How to use Krisenmodus

Dieses Jahr hat mich so müde gemacht. Wann wird der endlose Krisenmodus endlich vorbei sein?

This year has made me so tired. When will the endless crisis mode finally be over?

Krisenmodus soll das Wort des Jahres sein. Keine große Überraschung, oder? 

Crisis mode is apparently the word of the year. No big surprise there, right?