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German word of the day: Himmelszelt

Literally meaning ‘heaven’s tent’, this is one of the most beautiful German words you will come across.

German word of the day: Himmelszelt
Archive photo shows a man on the 2,500 metre high viewing platform of the Alpspitze, below a vivid 'Himmelszelt'. Photo:picture alliance / dpa | Peter Kneffel

This poetic term is unlikely to become part of your everyday vocabulary, but it holds a particular religious and literary significance.

Though das Himmelszelt can mean the sky itself, it usually refers to a view of the vast arch of sky stretching out above you, often at night. It was particularly common in early references to cosmology and described the portion of sky that could be seen by an individual when looking upwards towards the heavens. 

The word is closely associated with Christian beliefs and the firmament is mentioned in the Bible as a divine creation. Early interpretations of the text suggested the Himmelszelt was a solid dome created by God above the earth. 

The description of the firmament as a ‘heavenly tent’ gives the sense that the sky and the heavens beyond are finite and able to safely contain the sun, moon and stars. 

Though the literal interpretation of Himmelszelt began to waver as a better understanding of cosmology developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the literary use of the word persevered. 

READ ALSO: Six ways to fall in love with learning German again

As there was such mystery and spirituality associated with the Himmelszelt, the celestial term was a favourite of German-speaking poets, writers and playwrights. Goethe used this idea in his infamous Faust.

In his exploration of the story of Isis in Faust, Part Two you will find the appeal:

Höchste Herrscherin der Welt!

Lasse mich, im blauen,

Ausgespannten Himmelszelt

Dein Geheimniß schauen

Mightiest empress of the world,

Let me, in the blue

Pavilion of the sky unfurl’d,

Thy mystery view!

Use it like this:

Er lag unter dem sternenübersäten Himmelszelt.

He lay under the starry canopy of the sky. 

Die klare Nächte hier sind wunderbar. Ein Himmelszelt voller heller weißer, gelber und bläulicher Sterne.

Clear nights are wonderful here, the heavens full of white, yellow and blue stars. 

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German word of the day: Rücksicht

Here's how to take this thoughtful word into consideration.

German word of the day: Rücksicht

Why do I need to know Rücksicht?

Because it’s a commonly used word and knowing what it means – and practising it – will make you a better person.

What does Rücksicht mean?

Rücksicht is a feminine noun which means “consideration” or “regard”. It’s made up of the shortened form of the word zurück meaning “back” and Sicht – which means view. So literally, it means, back view, or looking back.

This literal meaning tells you something about how the word is used in German – if you look back to see what’s happened to your friend, you are taking them into consideration.

How to use Rücksicht

When using Rücksicht, bear in mind that it is usually paired with specific verbs and prepositions.

The most commonly used set phrase is Rücksicht auf etwas/jemand nehmen, which is used to mean “to be considerate of” or “to take care of” someone or something. For example:

Radfahrer müssen auf Fußgänger Rücksicht nehmen.

Cyclists must be considerate of pedestrians.

Er nimmt Rücksicht auf die Bedürfnisse seiner schwangeren Frau.

He takes care of his pregnant wife’s needs.

Rücksicht is usually followed by the preposition auf, but it can be preceded by a number of prepositions to compose different phrases. 

Mit Rücksicht auf for example, means “in view of” and ohne Rücksicht auf means “without consideration for”, while aus Rücksicht auf means “out of consideration for.” 

Here are some examples:

Führungen dürfen aus Rücksicht auf die Teilnehmer nicht aufgenommen werden.
Out of consideration of the participants, tours may not be recorded.
Er will tun, was er möchte, ohne Rücksicht auf die Anderen.
He wants to do what he wants, without considering other people.