The meaning of “der Ohrwurm”

Hello everyone,ein Ohrwurm

and welcome to our German Word of the Day:

der Ohrwurm

 

The first translation for Ohrwurm that came to my mind while writing this text was “Despacito”. Yes.
Despacito.
Or to be more precise “Deees  paaa cito nanananannanan ito…. ”
You know that song, I’m sure.
Other possible translations for Ohrwurm (at least to me) would be “Yellow Submarine”, “Barbie Girl”, “Like a virgin” and many many many many more and the music industry has a lot of smart people spending their days to churn out new ones.

So have you figured out the real English translation yet? No? Well no need to feel bad, because English does not have a word for this.  

The German Ohrwurm consists of 2 parts… das Ohr means the ear and der Wurm means the worm. Ohrwurm is the name of a little insect – in English it is called Earwig. This little fellow has a bad reputation. It crawls into peoples ears and once inside it is kind of hard to get it out again… and this is exactly what these songs do to you… you hear them three or four times on the radio or on your MP3-Player and then you hear them another 100.000 times in your head when you are trying to sleep. An Ohrwurm is a song that just won’t leave your mind. Some dictionaries give as a translation the term ‘catchy tune’. That is correct for positive uses of Ohrwurm. So in a meeting of Universal Music-officials someone might say:

  • Wow, die Single von Drake ist echt ein Ohrwurm. Lass uns 10 ähnliche Songs machen.
  • Wow, the new single of Drake is a hell of a catchy tune. Let’s do 10 similar songs.

But ‘catchy tune’ doesn’t really work for the negative. If you can’t fall asleep for hours because you have “ella” echoing inside your head, the second of the following phrases will express better how you feel.

  • Man, I have a hell of a catchy tune inside my head.
  • Man, I just can’t get that fu…ing song out of my head.

In these situations in German you say:

  • Mann, ich habe einen verdammten Ohrwurm.

An Ohrwurm is something you can get very quickly. So if someone is humming a tune that you just managed to forget you can say:

  • Toll, danke, jetzt hab ich einen Ohrwurm!

But Ohrwurm as for itself is not a negative word. Suppose you have heard something rare on the radio that you really liked and you keep thinking of it. But unfortunately you don’t know the name. So when you finally decide to swallow your pride and go to your local record dealer determined to make a a singing attempt in German you could say this:

  • Hallo, ich habe einen ganz großen Ohrwurm von einem Song aber ich weiß nicht wie er heißt.

So this is Ohrwurm. It is a really practical word and people do use it in everyday conversation whenever there is this certain melody that just won’t go away.

What? Oh … you want to do the grammar. Ok ok…

The plural of der Ohrwurm is die Ohrwürmer and does it get an n in case 3 plural… of course it does.

So this was our Word of the Day, I hope you enjoyed it and just in case you have forgotten by now… des-pa-cito :)

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NonaM
NonaM
1 year ago

I liked this lesson (i like the rest too don’t worry xd). It was more peculiar than usual and as well useful.

NonaM
NonaM
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Diversity sure is the key. Keep going as you like. But not too fast! I’m trying to catch up xd

Lito Villaflor
Lito Villaflor
2 years ago

Yes its better to Adapt “Ohrwurm” in english as a new word!

Rob
Rob
7 years ago

This is similar to the idea behind the title of the 1970’s and 1980’s UK TV programme “The Old Grey Whistle Test.” “Old greys” refers to doormen in grey suits. If these guys heard a tune a couple of times then couldn’t stop whistling it, it has passed the old grey whistle test.

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[…] ahnungslosigkeit and the phrase das ist mir wurst? But one of my all-time favourite German words is Ohrwurm; translation ear […]

jastonite
jastonite
7 years ago

I don’t hear it very often, but I have heard the term “earworm” on American radio by an NPR reporter. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used in conversation though.

heidimoe
heidimoe
8 years ago

Oh my, I have never ever heard the term earworm in English let alone heard it used and would probably be taken aback and spontaneously giggle thinking the person saying it had just made up a new word to be funny, or seriously, that they have something in their ear… (Speaking from an Australian English perspective so no idea if this is used in other English speaking countries)… Use with caution is my tip…

I’m used to saying/hearing I can’t get this song out of my head, or this song keeps popping into my head or something like what’s said in the comment above.

Earworm and Ohrwurm, hilarious :)

Kr4K3n
Kr4K3n
8 years ago

The most common way to express this in English is far more literal, one just says: “Great! Now I have that song stuck in my head!” And that can be used both negatively and positively.

Coraline
Coraline
9 years ago

From Dictionary.com:
ear·worm
2 [eer-wurm]
noun
1.
a tune or part of a song that repeats in one’s mind.
verb (used with object)
2.
to work (itself or its way) into a person’s mind: The Pepsi jingles have earwormed their way into my head.

From Webster:
ear·worm
noun ˈir-ˌwərm
Definition of EARWORM
1
: corn earworm
2
: a song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind

First Known Use of EARWORM
1802

belugabandit
belugabandit
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I have never heard the word earworm used in that context either haha

eftjem
eftjem
11 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

My family has used this word for decades in the same sense as Ohrwurm, so I knew exactly what you meant right away. I think it is pretty common because people always seem to know what it means right away.

Namitha
Namitha
9 years ago

Mann, du bist toll :) I hate learning a language through Grammar and Vocab lists and was looking for something just like your blog :) Gut gemacht :) Vielen dank.

Andy Wister
Andy Wister
10 years ago

Oh man what a title! “der Ohrwurm” is so good content I mean. It is useful to know. I read the caption and complete the story. Thanks and carry on…man.