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German word of the day: Schlau

If you want to point out a rather two-sided character trait in a friend or foe, this German word could be exactly what you're looking for.

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

Why do I need to know this word?

Schlau is not just an easy word to remember, it’s also a fun adjective that you may come across anywhere from children’s books to casual conversation. 

What does it mean?

If you think it sounds a bit like an English word you know, you’re probably right. Schlau is very similar to the word sly, and has incredibly similar connotations.

Essentially, it means clever or cunning – but it often has undertones of being a little bit conniving or calculating. In other words, someone who is schlau is generally using their intelligence to benefit themselves – and possibly also to deceive people.

If you want to impress your friends with your use of German idioms, then it’s worth remembering that the animal most associated with being schlau is the wily fox. For that reason, the moniker Schlaufuchs is often bandied around when people want to talk about the smart aleck in their family or social circle.

Incidentally, Schlaukopf (or clever head) can also do the trick – and, let’s be honest, the analogy makes a lot more sense than the English equivalent of ‘smartypants’.

Where does it come from?

The word schlau dates all the way back to Old Norse and likely relates to the word schlagen, meaning to slay or to hit. It entered into common usage in German in the 16th and 17th centuries with words like Slūhörer (eavesdropper or secret listener) and slūha, a verb meaning ‘to sneak’.

Since the 18th century, it’s been used much as it is today: to describe the shrewd folk among us who tend to have a plan – and an answer – for everything. 

Use it like this: 

Er verdient zwar am meisten, aber sie ist definitiv der Schlaukopf in dieser Familie.

He earns the most, but she is definitely the smart one in this family.

Achso, du hast die Tickets vorher im Internet gekauft? Sehr schlau!

Ah, you bought the tickets online in advance? Very smart! 

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German word of the day: Sommerlich

Dazzling blue skies and sweltering temperatures mean summer has arrived in Germany, and if you're looking for a word to describe how that feels, this is the perfect one to choose.

German word of the day: Sommerlich

Why do I need to know sommerlich?

Because this joyful word is not just easy to remember, but is also great for describing those days in Germany when the sun is shining and everyone seems to be in a relaxed and happy mood – as well as many other aspects of summer.

What does it mean?

As you might have guessed, sommerlich (pronounced like this) is an adjective that’s very close to the English word “summery” or “summer-like”. It describes anything that is typical of this time of year, whether you’re talking about the weather, what you’re drinking or the look you’ve gone for on a particular day.

For example, if you head out to the countryside for a short summer break, you might find yourself in the midst of a sommerliche Landschaft: a summery landscape with forests and fields with wild flowers in full bloom. 

Or you could be taken by surprise by a sudden heat wave and express regret that you haven’t had a chance to restock your sommerliche Klamotten, or summery clothes. 

READ ALSO: 10 words to help you enjoy the German summer

Mostly, though, you’ll find this word used to talk about those classic summer days with balmy weather and sunny skies, or weather conditions that feel like summer – even if it’s the wrong time of year. 

If you want to say something is more summery than something else, sommerlicher is the word you’ll need, and if something is the most summery of all, it’s am sommerlichsten

Use it like this: 

Bei diesen Temperaturen will ich immer ein erfrischender und sommerlicher Getränke in der Hand haben. 

In these temperatures I always want a refreshing and summery drink in my hand.

Ich liebe diese entspannte sommerliche Tage! Es ist wie im Urlaub zu sein. 

I love these relaxed summer days! It’s like being on holiday.