German word of the day: Der Spaßvogel

Looking to describe someone who is the life of the party? This fun German compound noun will come in handy.

German word of the day: Der Spaßvogel
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Quite popular in Austria, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein, this term describes someone who enlivens the mood, amuses those around her with momentary joy, and lives for jokes and laughter. 

A Spaßvogel  enjoys spreading fun, often with the express intention of cheering up those around her. This word can be broken down into “Spaß” (fun) and “Vogel” (bird). 

While the term has nothing to do with any actual bird or animal specimen, the image of someone flying in to make a joke, only to fly away again to find her next audience, is a fitting image.

The fun friend who makes a few silly jokes and undoubtedly cheers you up is a Spaßvogel

In English we may call her a jester, jokester, or, “the life of the party.”

The word Spaß was integrated into the German language in the late 1600s and originates from the Italian “spasso.” Originally, “spasso” best translated to the German words der Zeitvertreib (pastime), die Zerstreuung (distraction), or das Vergnügen  (pleasure). 

READ ALSO: 10 German words which come from Italian

That the origins of Spaß in German are linked to the concept of passing the time, distraction, and pleasure, makes our understanding of Spaßvogel even more rich.

A Spaßvogel, then, can be understood as someone who distracts and spends time with glee and enjoyment, or at least tries to. 

While the term Spaßvogel is generally used in a light-hearted manner, it does not always have a sunny connotation.

When calling someone a Spaßvogel, it could have a more cynical undertone, and be used to call out a person for taking things lightly, perhaps even a bit too lightly. 

To some, a Spaßvogel is someone who is not to be taken seriously, someone who lives just for the sake of the joke. 

Therefore, it is important to understand the surrounding context of this word, especially if using it to describe someone you do not know very well!

READ ALSO: Nerdy flowers to alcoholic birds: The 12 most colourful German insults


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Austrian word of the day: Beisl

This is a spot you might visit at the end of the working day - or Feierabend - particularly in Austria, as Germany has a different word for these establishments. Here's what this Austrian-German word means and how to use it.

Austrian word of the day: Beisl

Why do I need to know Beisl?

Because you may be invited to one or need to find one on the map.

What does it mean?

Das Beisl, which sounds like this, is the name for a pub or inn in Austrian German where people gather to drink beverages. In Germany, it is usually called a Kneipe.

This isn’t a fancy cocktail bar – it’s a neighbourhood watering hole and forms part of the make-up of towns and cities across Austria. It’s usually unpretentious, often small and used to be very smoky before Austria banned smoking indoors.

The term comes from the Czech “pajzl”, which means pub or dive. It’s a diminutive short form of the noun “hampejz” – with meaning such as “dog house” and even “brothel”.

Other possibilities for its origins include the Yiddish bajiss (house) , and the Austrian dialectal diminutive of the word Beiz – which was a low-class pub until the word got a better reputation.

Nowadays, the Beisl are usually friendly and charming and give an insight into life in Austria. So perhaps ask your Austria friends for a tip on a cool Beisl to visit. Just don’t expect the staff to speak English at all – or take credit cards.

If you’re hungry, keep in mind that Beisl usually doesn’t serve food or at least no hot dishes.

How to use it:
Treffen wir uns am Freitag nach Feierabend im Beisl.
Let’s meet in the pub on Friday after work finishes.
Ich gehe mit den Jungs ins Beisl.
I’m going to the pub with the lads.