“Wellenbrecher” is the “Word of the Year” for 2021

Status: December 3rd, 2021 2:19 p.m.

The corona pandemic has again determined the vote for “Word of the Year”. With “Wellenbrecher” the German Language Society decided on a term that should also stand for a positive outlook.

By Joscha Bartlitz, HR

Which word do you think it is this time? The “Word of the Year” 2021 was a well-kept secret of the Society for the German Language (GfdS) in Wiesbaden until the very end. In the morning, its chairman Peter Schlobinski announced a result, which, however, was hardly surprising: This year – as expected – it has to do with Corona. The “word of the year” is “breakwater”.

“The word stands for all measures that have been and will be taken to break the fourth wave of corona,” said linguist Schlobinski, explaining the choice of the jury, consisting of the GfdS board and academic staff.

Known from coastal protection and shipbuilding

The word “breakwater”, known from coastal protection and shipbuilding, has assumed a number of new meanings due to the topic that will also dominate in 2021 – the corona pandemic. “Among other things, it stood for measures against Covid-19, for the period in which such measures should apply, and also for a person who follows them,” explained Schlobinski.

It is the second year in a row that no other topic has dominated public debates as strongly as Corona. Even the “Word of the Year” 2020 seemed unsurprising: “Corona pandemic”. In 2019 a term that had nothing to do with Corona was declared the winner for the last time: “Respectives”.

“Word of the year”

2021: breakwater
2020: Corona-Pandemic
2019: Respect rates
2018: hot time
2017: Jamaica-Aus
2016: Post factual
2015: refugees
2014: Light Limits
2013: GroKo
2012: rescue routine
2011: stress test
2010: Angry Citizen
2009: scrapping bonus
2008: financial crisis
2007: climate catastrophe
2006: Fan Mile
2005: Federal Chancellor
2004: Hartz IV
2003: Old Europe
2002: Teuro
2001: September 11th

The Society for German Language has regularly chosen the “Word of the Year” since 1977. This year, the jury chose from around 2250 words, collected from various media and numerous submissions from outsiders. More than 700 of these suggestions had to do with Corona this year, Schlobinski said.

“SolidAHRität” and “Pflexit” “in second and third place

However, the frequency of the winning word is not the only decisive criterion. Rather, it is also about to map certain thematic areas that were particularly important this year, “said Schlobinski. This also included politics and the climate last year.

In the top ten list of the most formative words of the year almost ended, “SolidAHRität” is in second place – a special spelling of the word “Solidarity” with reference to the flood that hit the “AHR” region in particular in the middle of the year reflects the great willingness of many people to help.

In third place was the word “Pflexit”, formed from the combination of “Pflege” and “Exit”, which stands for the social problem of the growing care shortage in Germany, as Peter Schlobinski explained.

“Breakwater” – a word as “little encouragement”

By the way, this time there was “a heated discussion in the jury” about the winner, “Wellenbrecher”, added Schlobinski. In the end, the word also prevailed against the competitors “Vaccination Light” and “Booster”, who landed in fourth and seventh place. One reason for this, according to Schlobinski: “I believe that it also played a role that the word ‘breakwater’ is associated with a positive future perspective.” The word also represents “a small encouragement that we can succeed in this wave and to break waves in the future, if possible, or to prevent them from occurring in the first place through certain measures. “


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