German word of the day: Halt

Today’s word of the day is another one of the big German filler words – or means “grip.”

German word of the day: Halt
Photo: depositphotos

Welcome to another word of the day, which might sound confusing at first, but trust me, it’s not as hard as it may seem. The possibility of hearing a German speaker say halt in any context is very high, so let me start off by giving examples for how it may be used.

First up, you might hear a German speaker scream “Halt!” That simply means “Stop!” and is not what we’re looking at today (but still a useful word to know.)

The second option is Der Halt, as in festhalten. Festhalten means “to hold on”, so Halt in this connection means “grip.” Also good to know, but not what we are looking for today.

So last but not least (and also the way of saying it that we’re going to be looking at) is when halt is used in a sentence, such as: “Das ist halt so.” In this case, halt is an exclamation that gives an emphasis to a request or an advice.

According to the Duden, this halt has its origin in the Mid High German word halt, which means “more” or “rather.” Connected to this, possible translations for halt are “just” or “simply.”

In German, halt is usually used to give more emphasis to what you’re saying. This way, the sentence “Das ist halt so” (“That’s just the way it is”) sounds a bit more drastic than if you just said “Das ist so.” (“That’s the way it is.”)

Halt is quite common to say in the southern parts of Germany, as well as in Austria or Switzerland, although it has made its way to the northern regions of Germany as well. Actually, especially with younger folk, it’s highly possible that you hear them say halt multiple times in a single sentence – it just gives it more expression.

“Das ist halt so,” says this woman, emphasizing that she can’t change a situation. It’s just the way things are. Photo: depositphotos/studiograndoest.


Das geht halt nicht. 

That just doesn’t work.

Ich habe ihr dann halt gesagt, dass sie sich halt melden soll.

So I just told her that she should simply get in touch.

Ich habe halt schlechte Laune.

I am simply in a bad mood.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


German phrase of the day: Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

Anyone struggling with learning German (or any big skill) could use this popular piece of reassurance.

German phrase of the day: Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen

Why do I need to know this?

If you’re getting down on yourself for not doing something you are still learning just right – be it playing the piano or speaking German – you can gently comfort yourself with this phrase. Or you can confidently cite it to reassure your perfectionist friend or family member that they are indeed making great strides towards their goal.

What does it mean?

Literally translated as “There is still no master which has fallen from the sky,” the expression gets the idea across that no one is born – or comes pummeling down from the heavens – as an expert at something.

Rather they become a Meister (or at least halfway decent) through continuous hard work and discipline. 

READ ALSO: How to remember the gender of German words

The saying is similar to the also widely used “Übung macht den Meister” (Practice makes the master) or the English version: Practice makes perfect. 

Not surprisingly, Austrians and Germans – who pride themselves on industriously reaching their goals – have several other equivalent sayings. They include “Ohne Fleiß kein Preis” (There’s no prize without hard work) and “Von nichts kommt nichts” (Nothing comes out of nothing).

Where does it come from?

The popular phrase can be traced back to the Latin “Nemo magister natus”, or no one is born a master. Another version is “Nemo nascitur artifex” or no one is born an artist. This explains why so many languages have similar expressions.

What are some examples of how it’s used?

Sei nicht so streng mit dir selbst. Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. No one is born perfect. 

Mein Trainer sagte, es sei noch kein perfekter Schwimmer vom Himmel gefallen.

My coach said that no one is born a perfect swimmer.

READ ALSO: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust