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German word of the day: Spannung

Excited, tense, electrified? Then use this word.

German word of the day: Spannung

Why do I need to know this word?

Because it’s a versatile word used in a wide range of contexts from the scientific, to the physiological, political and social.

What does it mean?

Die Spannung has several meanings in German, all of which relate to the theme of tension.

In physics, the word Spannung means voltage – the pressure from an energy source in a circuit that pushes current through a conductive loop.

In everyday usage, however, Spannung is used mostly to mean “tension” or “excitement”.

Spannung comes from the verb spannen – meaning to keep something taught or tense. Historically, the verb spannen was mainly used to describe the tensing of a bowstring. But this sense of the word is still used today: tightly pulled ropes are gespannte ropes, strings on musical instruments are gespannt and, like overstretched bows, they too break when the Spannung (tension) is too great. 

Over time, the use of the verb spannen and also the noun Spannung became increasingly free, giving rise to a more figurative use of the word. Now, Spannung is frequently used to describe interpersonal tensions, or tense and exciting situations.

Spannung is also an important word in context of muscles. With the addition of a prefix, spannen can be used to describe a variety of muscular movements, such as anspannen (“to flex” or “to contract”), entspannen (“to relax”),  and verspannen (“to tense up”).

Use it like this:

Die Spannung während des Spiels war unglaublich

The tension during the game was unbelievable

Der Techniker maß die Spannung der Batterie

The technician measured the voltage in the battery

Meditation kann helfen, Spannung abzubauen

Meditiation can help to relieve stress

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For members


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.