Wunderbar! 7 German Loanwords You Can Still Adopt

The Burnett doppelganger
We’re seeing doppel.

Last week we brought 10 of the coolest words we can’t believe no one has adopted. Today we have seven excellent German loanwords that are also still available. They might be called untranslatables — that is, words that don’t have corresponding word in another language, in this case English — or you can just call them wunderbar.

doppelganger

Quick, adopt doppelganger before your evil twin does! An apparition or double of someone still living, the term translates literally as “double goer” and originally had a paranormal sense.

UPDATE: Doppelganger has been adopted! Thank you Mark Cohen aka @gliageek! We’re so happy this good word has found a good home.

schadenfreude

We can hardly believe it ourselves, but schadenfreude is still unadopted. Translating literally as “damage” (Schaden) “joy” (Freude), this term refers to pleasure that comes from another’s misfortune.

ersatz

Call something ersatz and you’re calling it an imitation or substitute, usually an inferior one. The term first appeared in English in 1875, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, and comes from the German Ersatz meaning “units of the army reserve” and translating literally as “compensation, replacement, substitute.”

zeitgeist

In addition to being the original name of the Wordnik community page, a zeitgeist is the spirit of a particular time or the defining taste or outlook of a generation or period. The earliest recorded use in English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), was in 1848 by poet Matthew Arnold. It translates from German as “time” (Zeit) “spirit” (Geist).

gestalt

A gestalt is the “configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts.” The word first appeared in English in 1922, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, coming from the German term Gestaltqualität, which was introduced in 1890 by German philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels. Gestaltqualität is from gestalt meaning “shape, form, figure, configuration, appearance.”

weltschmerz

Feeling sad about the evils of the world, but in a kind of romantic or sentimental way? You’re feeling weltschmerz. Translating literally as “world pain,” the term first appeared in English in 1875, says the OED.

zugzwang

In addition to being fun to say, this word is perfect for chess and German language lovers alike. In a zugzwang, a chess player is forced to make “an undesirable or disadvantageous move.” It translates literally as “pull compulsion.”

Find out some more ways you can support Wordnik.

The 10 Coolest Words We Can’t Believe No One Has Adopted

Surprised

Since launching our adopt-a-word program back in 2014, hundreds of words have been taken into loving homes. We love all the adoptees, from distinctive and lovely petrichor adopted by @logicalelegance, to capricious quixotic by @digdoug, to loose-lipped loquacious by @misskorbikay. But there are some words we can’t believe are still up for the taking. Here are our 10 most interesting words that are still available for adoption.

phantasmagoria

1867_interpretation_of_Robertson's_Fantasmagorie

Interpretation of Robertson’s Fantasmagorie, 1867

We love this word and not just because of its cameo in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. While it now refers to a fantastic series of images that one might see in a dream or fever or such imagery in art, a phantasmagoria was originally a display of optical illusions produced by a device called a magic lantern, an old-timey slide projector that used light and shadow to produce large, spooky images on a wall or screen.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), this kind of entertainment was first shown by Étienne-Gaspard Robert (also known simply as Robertson) in Paris in 1798, then in London by Paul de Philipstal in 1802 (the word first appearing in English as that time), and by early that century had become popular throughout England.

The word is an alteration of the French phantasmagorie, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, said to be coined the year before by French dramatist Louis-Sébastien Mercier to mean “crowd of phantoms,” and coming from the Greek phantasma, “image, phantom, apparition,” and perhaps agora, “assembly.” However, this second part “may have been chosen more for the dramatic sound than any literal sense.”

pulchritude

This is our favorite word that sounds like the opposite of what it means. Pulchritude, meaning great physical beauty, comes from the Latin pulchritudo, “beauty; excellence, attractiveness,” and originated way back in the 14th century.

eldritch

Another word that doesn’t sound like its definition, eldritch is a 16th-century Scots term that means strange, unearthly, or eerie. The origin is unclear. While the OED finds a connection with elf, the Scottish variant of which is elphrish, the American Heritage Dictionary says it comes from the Old English el-, meaning “strange, other,” and the Old English rīce, meaning “realm.”

vespertine

evening

This word meaning pertaining to the evening comes from the Latin vesper, “evening.” Vespers is a religious term that refers to “the sixth of the seven canonical hours,” or times of day devoted to prayer; a “worship service held in the late afternoon or evening in many Western Christian churches”; the “time of day appointed for this service; evensong; or in the Roman Catholic Church, a “service held on Sundays or holy days that includes the office of vespers.” Vesper singular refers to the summoning bell for vespers or the evening star, and is an archaic term for “evening.”

portmanteau

Humpty_Dumpty_Tenniel
Humpty Dumpty explains the meaning of ‘portmanteau’ to Alice in ‘Through the Looking-Glass’

Wait, portmanteau is still up for the grabs? Indeed it is! This excellent word originally meant a kind of suitcase that opens into “two hinged compartments” but now perhaps more popularly (at least to us) refers to a word that’s a blend of two or more other words. The latter definition was coined by Lewis Carroll: “Well, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’… You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

supercilious

800px-Vivien_Leigh_Gone_Wind_Restored

We love this term meaning “feeling or showing haughty disdain” because of where it comes from: the Latin supercilium, which refers to “haughty demeanor, pride” but translates literally as “eyebrow.”

auspicious

sunset-birds-flying-sky-70577

Auspicious is another word with an excellent etymology. Meaning lucky or prosperous, this term ultimately comes from the Latin auspicium, meaning “divination by observing the flight of birds.”

lambent

Lambent’s origin is bit a lascivious. Meaning flickering over a surface (as “lambent moonlight”), “effortlessly light or brilliant” (as “lambent wit”), or having “a gentle glow,” the word comes from the Latin lambere, “to lick.”

limerence

Got an unrequited kind of love? That’s limerence, a term introduced by psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her 1979 book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love. Tennov says the word has “no etymology whatsoever.”

iridescent

hummingbird-bird-birds-349758

This beautiful word can mean producing “a display of lustrous, rainbowlike colors,” or “brilliant, lustrous, or colorful in effect or appearance.” According to the OED, iridescent was coined by Irish geologist Richard Kirwan in his 1794 book, Elements of Mineralogy: “When polished, becomes iridescent.”

Have we piqued your interest? Find out more about adopting a word and other ways you can support Wordnik.

 

And now a Word of the Day from our sponsor

wordnik_onemillionwords

Our Kickstarter campaign is winding down, and you might have heard: we met our goal! (Thank you once again to our wonderful backers.)

We still have a few days left and have added a stretch goal to develop a “show the word love” page, a place where we can highlight your most-loved words. One of the ways you can help us meet that goal is by sponsoring Words of the Day for a whole week.

How we pick WOTDs

Selecting Wordnik’s words of the day — or WOTDs, in word nerd vernacular — is definitely one of the most fun parts of keeping our online dictionary going. You might have noticed that the words we pick tend to be more unusual. This is because we’re a sucker for words that make us go, “Hmmm!” whether it’s onomatopoeia like ree-raw, a giggle-inducer like buttocker, or an old favorite like petrichor.

Sometimes we also select words for holidays, like fancy-sick for Valentine’s Day or mare’s-nest for April Fool’s Day. Off-beat fetes are no exception. For example, for Bat Appreciation Day we featured flittermouse, and for I Forgot Day, lethe, the river of oblivion. We also like honoring birthdays such as Shirley Temple’s with buck-and-wing; Steve Jobs’s with biffin, a kind of apple; and H.P. Lovecraft’s with, what else, Cthulhu.

Why sponsor?

Why should you think about sponsoring a week’s worth of Words of the Day? It’s a great way for you to promote your product, service, or very own Kickstarter while at the same time showing your love of words and supporting a good cause.

What do I get?

With the $500 sponsorship, you’ll have the opportunity to pick a week’s worth of words that reflect your personality, voice, brand, or cause. You’ll also get:

  • Your name and link on our Word of the Day page.
  • A banner featuring your promotional message (of 300 words or less) and a link of your choosing on our Word of the Day email that goes out Monday through Friday to  over 7,000 subscribers.
  • A twice-a-day tweet to our 19,300+ followers and a posting on our Facebook page to our over 8,000+ fans.

When can I do it?

The first two backers will be able to sponsor in December while the rest will be available in 2016.

How do I do it?

Just visit our Kickstarter page!

Thanks but no thanks.

A week’s worth of Words of the Day not for you? There are still lots of ways you can become backer, whether it’s selecting a random word for exactly one clam, getting a limited edition Wordnik T-shirt for $30, or opting for cool wordy poster for $75. Happy sponsoring!

Why That Word: Adopters reveal why they chose their words

wordnikstickers

First of all, thank you thank you thank you! Because of you, our wonderful backers, we’ve met our Kickstarter goal — and ahead of schedule!

A big reason we met our goal was because of our wonderful word adopters. We’ve seen such a variety of terms taken into loving homes that we became curious as to why people chose the words they did. For instance, our fearless founder, Erin McKean, adopted erinaceous “because it seemed mean to call something [her] favorite word and then NOT adopt it.” So we asked! And the reasons folks gave were as varied as the words themselves.

Some words aligned with adopters’ personal philosophies. Susan Gallant adopted ataraxia because the word “perfectly expresses the relaxation response during meditation — that wonderful feeling of serenity and perfect calm.”

The great word compersion, “the feeling of joy associated with seeing a loved one love another; contrasted with jealousy,” was chosen by Winnie Lim because the word “serves as a constant reminder of the person [she is] and [wants] to be.”

Adrienne McPhaul selected resistant instead of making a New Year’s resolution. “It is a word I felt like described the root of many obstacles in my life,” Adrienne told us, “and I wanted to own it and explore it.” Speaking of exploring, Algot Runeman opted for this adventurous word because, as he said, “What could be better use of one’s time?” We agree.

A couple scooped up words they had coined, such as lovematism, the “passionate magnetic bond of lovers connecting the body, heart, mind, and soul,” by Sherrie Rose, and impert for Bill Solberg, who created the term to “describe a person who makes valuable contributions in a field of knowledge despite lacking formal training or professional connections in that field.” Moreover, “the impert’s contributions typically diverge from conventional styles, thinking, or theories.”

A few folks elected for terms that represented their online brands or identities. Felix Jung wanted blog since he’s been running his own blog with nearly daily updates (admirable!) since June 2002. Karen Conlin honored her awesomely named blog, GRAMMARGEDDON!, by going with armageddon.

Sarah Allen, who goes by the Twitter handle @ultrasaurus, snagged, natch, ultrasaurus, which, in case you were wondering, is a really big dinosaur. Meanwhile, Merchbar optimized SEO by adopting band merch.

Some adoptions reflected adopters’ professions or interests. Trademark was taken by Alexandra Roberts, a “professor who teaches trademark law and researches and writes about trademark issues.” Rachel Houghton, a photographer, snapped up photographer, while Rob Root, a member of the National Numeracy Network and a reviewer for the journal Numeracy, nabbed, not surprisingly, numeracy.

Metaphor is Dr. Mardy Grothe’s “all-time favorite figure of speech,” while John Kelly fed his word origins obsession with etymology. Lenore Edman hooked up robotics since she sells robotic kits, builds art robots, and is a mentor for a high school robotics team. “I liked the idea of adopting the entire field of robotics,” Lenore told us.

Some honored an important person in their lives. Richard Wills decided on dodecaphonic to recognize Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg “and his two most prominent students Alban Berg and Anton Webern.” Seventeen was selected by Rosie Perera, who told us she was “inspired to love the number 17 by [recently retired] Professor David Kelly who ran the Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics.”

John Dove lassoed unicorn in honor of his father, Dr. W. Franklin Dove, who in the 1930s created “a unicorn bull to see if the psychology of that animal would be significantly different and of value to herdsmen.” Dr. Dove “offered the hypothesis that the single horned animal would be a natural leader of the herd,” and “pointed out that the Dinka tribe in Southern Sudan have traditionally manipulated the horns of selected members of their herds in order to create such unicorns.” He also “suggested that this might have been an origin of the myths regarding unicorns.” Fascinating!

Some words were chosen out of sheer fun. Lightwood Games partied with party because it made them smile (and also because of their game, Word Party). Kelli Krieger jumped at jocular, “a happy word to ward off the darkness in the world.”

Nick Seaman opted for archipelago just because “it’s a fun word,” while Filip Salomonsson got recombobulated since he has “always seen [recombobulate] as a great example of how there is a lot of playfulness in how language works and how words are formed.” Non Wels plucked poppycock because it exemplifies the absurdity and wonder of both life and words. “It also reminds me of something my grandparents would say,” he said. “Which just makes me happy.”

Joan Hall likes the “mouthfeel” of bobbasheely (and also had fun discovering its etymology for DARE), while Karen Mulholland enjoys the “onomatopoeic nastiness” of besmirch. But, she told us, “This judgmental little word won my heart in the usual way – by making me laugh,” reminding her of a tweet that said, “Whenever someone responds to a statement by saying ‘Word,’ I want to yell some random word like ‘BESMIRCH!’” (Karen also assures us that her word “gets excellent care and regular exercise.”)

Then there are the “because I’m 12” words. John picked butts (ahem) because he “was amused by the idea of using [his] very adult paycheck to ‘buy’ the most childish word in the dictionary,” and Rachel White got boners because, as she revealed, “boners are hilarious.”

Finally, we wanted to give an appreciative shout-out to a few of our “forever” adopters: design guru John Maeda who took in design; Craigslist founder Craig Newmark who claimed nerd; editor Jan Freeman who embraced idiolect; and Roger McNamee who tamed wombat. And we’re looking forward to revealing the words Duck Duck Go and MailChimp choose once our campaign is over!

Want to adopt a word but can’t decide on which? We’ll include helpful suggestions for all our Kickstarter backers!

Kicking off our Kickstarter: Let the word hunt begin!

wordnik_onemillionwords

As you may know, Wordnik became a not-for-profit last year, and shortly afterwards, we launched our Adopt a Word program. Today we’re excited to announce we’re expanding our efforts through our Kickstarter campaign, Let’s Add a Million Missing Words to the Dictionary.

You’ve probably noticed that many words, especially neologisms, technical terms, jargon, and slang, are still missing from most standard dictionaries, and that it takes a long time for new words to be added. While Oxford’s online dictionary is updated regularly, the more traditional Oxford English Dictionary is another story. For instance, twerk, which Miley Cyrus popularized in in 2013, dates all the back to 1820 but was only added to the OED this past June.

In fact, a 2010 study published in the journal Science estimated that as much as 52% of the unique words of English are missing from major dictionaries!

Wordnik is different. We think every word should be lookupable. We believe that users of English are the best judges as to whether any particular word belongs in their vocabulary, and that examples of real use by real people are the best evidence to drive those decisions.

With this Kickstarter, we hope to give each and every one of these missing words a good home on the Internet.

How? First, we’ll find the words! We have lists of hundreds of thousands of words that have been looked up on Wordnik that we don’t have good data for. We’ll start with those.

Next, instead of taking a long time to write definitions for these words, we’ll look for definitions that have already been written — not in dictionaries, but by journalists and writers who found a cool word, and wanted to explain it to their readers. We call these “free-range-definition examples” (FRDs, or “Freds”).

Here’s a good example of a FRD, for the word echoborg, from a recent article in the BBC: “Sophia is an ‘echoborg’ – a living, breathing person who has temporarily given themselves over to become a robot’s mouthpiece.”

We already have thousands of these FRDs labeled and can use them as a training set to drive machine learning to find many, many more.

We’ll also update Wordnik so that any time a word is looked up that we’ve never seen before, we’ll kick off a search to find more data about it. We won’t limit ourselves to words that are more frequent than one-in-a-billion, either. If a word exists at all, we’ll show you what we can!

Of course all of this takes time, people-power, and your help. And there are so many ways you can do so!

  • RANDOM BACKER: For one measly greenback, you can be a random word adopter. We’ll add your name to a “random sponsor” list that will display one random sponsor’s name every time someone clicks the “Random Word” link at Wordnik.com. We’ll also choose one random backer to receive all the other under-$500 rewards!
  • WE ❤️ STICKERS BACKER: At $10, we’ll send you a complete set of Wordnik stickers, plus a sticker conferring membership in the Semicolon Appreciation Society. We’ll also add a “Backer” badge to your Wordnik profile page.
  • ADOPT A WORD:  For $25, we’ll list you as the proud adopter of your word for a year, and send you a full set of Wordnik stickers, plus special word adoption stickers and a downloadable commemorative adoption certificate. We’ll tweet about your adoption to Wordnik’s wordy followers, and we’ll also add an “Adopter” badge to your Wordnik profile page. Words are first-come, first-served, so back early!
  • YOU DESERVE A MEDAL!: Seriously. For helping Wordnik and adopting a word, backers at the $45 level will get an honest-to-goodness backer medal, plus all the Adopt a Word rewards!
  • OOH, POSTER: For $75, we’ll send you an 18×24 poster featuring a selection of the new words added to Wordnik! What will it look like? We don’t know! But we’ll be sending regular updates to backers at this level to get your input on the design! (Extra $15 shipping for international backers) [Limited reward: only 500]
  • NOMINATE A WORD: Want to suggest a specific missing word? At the $100 level, we’ll add your candidate to our research list and update it (data permitting) in the first batch. You’ll also be able to record the audio pronunciation for your word! Of course, you’ll also get all the $25-level adopter perks, and your Wordnik user page will show a “Nominator” badge! [Limited reward: only 1000]
  • WORDSMITH: For $250, not only can you suggest a specific missing word and record the audio pronunciation, we’ll also include the example sentence of your choice and link to its source. (Great for writers!) And we’ll make your word one of our words of the day for 2016, through the Wordnik site, our email list, and Twitter. You’ll also be the adopter of record for your word for TWO years, and get the full set of $25 adopter perks. (Your Wordnik user badge will read “Wordsmith”.) [Limited reward: only 45]
  • WORD-OF-THE-DAY TAKEOVER! At the $1000 level, you choose our words of the day for a whole week. Yep, choose any seven words you want (with the examples of your choice!), and we’ll send them out to thousands of word-hungry recipients! {Limited reward: only 12]
  • FOREVER ADOPTION: For $5000, adopt the word of your choice … FOREVER. We’re only making ten slots available! Obviously you’ll get all the other adoption perks, and your Wordnik user badge will read “Patron”. [Limited reward: only 10]
  • NEOLOGISM FOR YOU: Looking for a word that just doesn’t exist? At the $7500 level, we will create one for you to your specifications! Obviously you’ll get all the other adoption perks, and your Wordnik user badge will read “Neologist”. [Limited reward: only 5]
  • SPONSOR A LETTER: For $10,000, your name will appear on every word beginning with the letter you sponsor! Letters will be first-come, first-served. (The letter S has already been sponsored.) [Limited reward: only 25]

To learn more, check out our Kickstarter page and video starring our fearless founder Erin McKean. We hope you join us in helping to find those million missing words.

Philanthropy’s Kindly Origins: A Conversation with Ruth Ann Harnisch

ruthannharnisch

Eight months ago we announced Wordnik’s not-for-profit status, and shortly after we launched our Adopt A Word program. To date more than 300 words have been taken into loving homes.

Each time a word is adopted we’re delighted and grateful — every cent helps to keep Wordnik ad-free — so you can imagine our surprise and delight when philanthropist and “recovering journalist” Ruth Ann Harnisch adopted not one, not two, but six words, and then going even farther by offering to sponsor a whole letter.

We had a chance to catch up with the founder of the The Harnisch Foundation (and 2014 honoree, along with Wordnik founder Erin McKean, of Forty over 40) and found out more about why she selected the words she adopted, how she arrived at sponsoring the letter S, and how anyone can be a philanthropist.

First of all, thank you so much for your sponsorship and adoptions! You adopted six words: feminism, feminist, philanthropy and philanthropist, and filmanthropy and filmanthropist. Why these words? How do they reflect your beliefs and what’s important to you?

I’m a feminist. I believe that women (and all genders) should be treated fairly and equitably, in equal rights under the law, and equal dignity in society. I’m grateful to everyone in history whose courage and cultural disruption are part of the change that will be a new way of life in the future.

I’m also a philanthropist. I know the joy and satisfaction of actively working to disrupt unfair institutions and helping to create a world that works better for everyone.

People are intimidated by the word or concept of “philanthropy,” but I’d love for everyone to look at the origin of the word and see that it’s not very intimidating at all. [Editor’s note: philanthropy comes from a Greek word meaning “kindliness, love to mankind”.] Philanthropy doesn’t equal money. Money is only one way to express one’s value of caring for others.

In addition to being a philanthropist, I’m a filmanthropist — I make philanthropic investments in film and other media. While others engage in filmanthropy to advance the environment, stop war, etc., my specific intention is putting more women’s stories on the screen, and hiring more women and other underrepresented people to direct, produce, write, edit, shoot, star, and fill the crowd of extras.

How about the letter S? What’s so special about it?

I picked the letter “S” because as is my custom in making philanthropic investments, I did research to see what would produce the biggest bang for the buck. When Erin told me about sponsoring entire letters, I asked if the “popularity” of the adopted letter affected the size of the donation required to sponsor it. When I was told that all letters were going for the same price at this time, I asked which letters would be the best bargains. Well, I’m always learning something new, and if you click the link you will too. Word to the wise: “C” what the next best bargain is!

What advice do you have for those who want to give more but may feel like they don’t have the time (or resources)?

Anyone can be a philanthropist. If you can give nothing else, giving your attention to a cause, an organization, or a leader you care about can be a welcome gift indeed. You’d be surprised how many opportunities there are for you to have impact by making the tiniest of contributions of time, skill, grunt work, or actual currency. Share their story on social media, retweet them, talk them up to others, and when an opportunity presents itself, be aware and be bold.

Adopt a Mother’s Day Word

Mum

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and what better way to honor Mom than by adopting a word in her name? And to further the maternal celebration, from today through Sunday, May 10, we’re letting you name the price for any unadopted, mother-esque word.

You might already be familiar with our Adopt the Word program, in which for just $50 you can “own” a word for a year. Plus your name and Twitter handle will appear on that word page, and you’ll get a downloadable certificate, suitable for framing (and giving).

Over 200 words so far have found loving homes, but that still leaves lots of “orphan” words. Each day we feature one special orphan, which, instead of the usual $50, you can pay any price for. Take a look at all the orphan words still in need of adopters.

Now what about those mother words? There’s mother of course, which we can hardly believe is still motherless, and other mother monikers like ma, mama, and mommy; mum and mummy, if you’re British; mudder, if you’re from Brooklyn; and the American-as-apple-pie mom.

Or you may want to honor the mom-like figure in your life, such as your stepmother; mother-in-law (once known as good-mother); your aunt, auntie, tia, and tante; or your grandmother, grandma, gram, granny, grandam, nana, or oma. You might also want to give a shout-out to all the nannies, amahs, au pairs, governesses, and other professional caretakers out there.

Symbolic mothers deserve love too, like Mother Earth, the motherland, and the mothership. Or you might prefer mom-in-charge terms like matriarchy, a community governed by women; matrilineage, line of descent through the mother’s side; materfamilias, a woman who’s head of a household; and mother-right, “alleged supremacy of the mother in the primitive family and clan.”

Another word for babytalk? That’s motherese. Innate intelligence or common sense? Mother wit of course. A mother’s love? Well, mother-love. Or perhaps you’d like to give some lovely mother-of-pearl, mother-of-emerald, or mother of amethyst.

For even more orphan mother words to adopt, check out these mummy dearest words, this mother of a list, and these motherhoodish neologisms.

Happy Mother’s Day words and happy adopting!

[Photo via Flickr: “Mum,” CC BY 2.0 by Jonathan Rolande/HouseBuyFast.co.uk]