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German words of the day: Der Ehrenmann, Die Ehrenfrau

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Katie Wilson - [email protected]
German words of the day: Der Ehrenmann, Die Ehrenfrau
Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

The historical term Ehrenmann is experiencing a revival thanks to the Deutschrap scene, so much so it was named German Youth Word of the Year in 2018, alongside its feminine equivalent Ehrenfrau. It's use has also migrated over the border into Austria.

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What does it mean?

Ehrenmann and Ehrenfrau can literally be translated as “gentle(wo)man” or “(wo)man of honour”. 

Ehrenmann and Ehrenfrau could equally describe a person who is trustworthy, stands up for themselves and takes responsibility for their actions. 

It could also be someone who does something special for you. 

What are its origins?

Ehrenmann has already been a word for a long time in German; however Ehrenfrau only recently became part of the language. 

Ehrenmann and Ehrenfrau were introduced back into common usage thanks to Deutschrap. Ehrenmann appeared in Bushido’s popular 2013 track Leben und Tod des Kenneth Glöckler with the lyrics "Ihr Vater war ein Ehrenmann (Her father was a man of honour)."

Though it is less common, Ehrenfrau is also used in Deutschrap by rappers such as Kollegah in his tracks Bossmove: "Denn sie war ’ne Ehrenfrau (Because she was a woman of honour" and Wasserleichen (water corpses).

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How is it used?

According to Youtuber Fabian Grischkat, the terms Ehrenmann and Ehrenfrau should be used to describe anyone who does a good deed, which is particularly important as it sends a positive message in times of hatred.

Oliver Bach, an academic at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität notes that the word is no longer limited in its usage to describing men of higher social status.

Uses of Ehrenfrau/Ehrenmann: 

"Vielen Dank, du bist ein echter Ehrenmann!“

Thanks very much, you’re a real gentleman!

"Eine Ehrenfrau weiß, was sie will."

 An honourable woman knows what she wants. 

"Ich interessiere mich nur für Ehrenmänner.“

I am only interested in gentlemen. 

"Eine Ehrenfrau muss keine Nonne sein.“

An honourable woman isn’t necessarily a nun. 



 

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