German word of the day: Verzweiflung

If you're starting to lose all hope of mastering German, don't despair: we have just the word to describe your situation. And it may just help hone your language skills, too.

German word of the day: Verzweiflung

Why do I need to know Verzweiflung?

Because this powerful and versatile word can be used to describe a range of strong emotions – and it also tells you something about how the German language functions. If that’s not enough, it may also help you remember another useful German word that comes up on occasion. 

What does it mean? 

Die Verzweiflung (pronounced like this) means despair, desperation or exasperation. It can be used anytime you’re at the end of your tether: for example, if you’re in despair at the political situation in your country, or you’re faced with a seemingly unsolvable issue. On a slightly less extreme note, it’s occasionally used to describe a general feeling of frustration, but more often it denotes a strong emotion like distress or hopelessness.

As in English, you not only have (or feel) desperation, but can also do something out of desperation (aus Verzweiflung). If you really work at it, you may be able to invoke this emotion in someone else. If this happens, it’s described as bringing someone to desperation (zur Verzweiflung bringen), which basically means to exasperate someone. 

As you might imagine, the noun Verzweiflung can also be turned into an adjective to describe how you feel. If you’re verzweifelt, it means you’re desperate or in despair. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spannung

Where does it come from? 

If you look closely at the noun Verzweiflung or the adjective verzweifeln, you may be able to spot a familiar word in there. That’s right: verzweifeln is basically a combination of the “ver-” prefix and zweifeln, which means “to doubt”.

When you see “ver-” at the start of a German word, there are a few different ways it can impact its meaning. In some cases, it indicates a negation or giving something away, as in the verb verkaufen, which means to sell. In other cases, like verbessern (to improve), it indicates a change in state. In the worst-case scenario, it indicates something going wrong, like verlaufen, which changes laufen (to walk) to getting lost or losing your way.

Verzweiflung could be interpreted as an instance of the last meaning. Though doubts and uncertainty are perfectly normal, dealing with them the wrong way can drive you to despair. 

Use it like this: 

Mein Therapeut hat mir geholfen, meine Verzweiflung zu überwinden.

My therapist helped me overcome my despair.

Seine ständigen Fragen hat mich zur Verzweiflung getrieben.

His constant questions drove me to exasperation. 

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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.