German word of the day: Ernsthaft

Not in a laughing mood today? Whether used literally or to express astonishment, this word should be part of your vocab.

German word of the day: Ernsthaft
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What are its meanings?

“Ernsthaft” is composed out of the word “Ernst” meaning serious, grave or stern, and the suffix “-haft” (which changes nouns into adjectives).

Put together it has four meanings.

The most common one refers to something being meant seriously or sincerely, and not as a joke.

The second refers to someone’s stern and serious expression – for example a grumpy look after losing a game – or an earnest way of behaving.

The third definition describes a matter or action that is very important, insistent or weighty due to its high importance.

And the last usage refers to something being dangerous or alarming, for example when you want to convey the graveness of someone’s situation.


“Sein ernsthafter Ausdruck machte mir angst.”

“His stern expression scared me.”

“Das ist eine ernsthafte Angelegenheit.”

“This is a weighty matter.”

“Ich meine es todernst!”

“I am dead serious!”

“Das ist eine ernsthafte Krankheit.”

“This is a serious illness.”



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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