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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! 

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For members


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.