For members


German word of the day: Leseratte

We all know someone who always has their nose in a book, and this jokey German word could be the perfect way to describe them.

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

Why do I need to know Leseratte?

Because this cheeky term of endearment could likely apply to fair number of people you know – or even yourself! – and having a few German idioms up your sleeve is a sure-fire way to impress native speakers. 

What does it mean?

Die Leseratte quite literally means “reading rat”. It applies to people who love nothing more than trips to the library or snuggling up on the sofa for hours with a new page-turner. As children, they were the ones who snuck the reading light back on to read just one more chapter after their parents told them to go to sleep. As adults, you may well find them emptying their bank accounts at their nearest second-hand bookshop.

As you may notice, this has very similar connotations to the English “bookworm” – and you’ll be pleased to know that you can also use this term (Bücherwurm) in German. However, you’ll probably hear Leseratte a bit more often, along with its book-hating opposite: the Lesemuffel.

The potential for cutesy artistic depictions of nerdy reading rats has also turned the Leseratte into a commonly used trope in kids’ games and books, so keep your eyes peeled for this character next time you’re out and about. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Schlau

Where does it come from?

According to literary historian Michael Krumm, the exact origins of the Leseratte are unknown, though regional variations of the phrase have been used in Germany since the 19th century. 

But why exactly would you associate reading with rats? Well, the image is probably meant to imply that keen readers – like their rodent counterparts – have a vociferous appetite, devouring books with the same relish that rats devour day-old kebabs on the street. 

It’s for this reason that the term Leseratte had a pretty negative connotation well into the 20th century. It was used to denigrate people – presumably in large part women – who seemed to consume endless books with no regard for their quality.  

These days, of course, the term has had quite a makeover, so reading rats of the world can wear their name with pride. 

Use it like this: 

Bist du eher eine Leseratte oder ein Lesemuffel? 

Are you more of a bookworm or a book hater? 

Kannst du mir ein gutes Buch empfehlen? Ich bin eine echte Leseratte!

Can you recommend me a good book? I’m a real bookworm! 

Don’t miss any of our German words and expressions of the day by downloading our new app (available on Apple and Android) and then selecting the German Word of the Day in your Notification options via the User button.

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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!