Word of the Day – “gönnen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. Roughly 100 years ago, Wilhelm Busch (a hyper famous German poet) wrote this.

Wir mögen keinem gerne gönnen,
dass er was kann, was wir nicht können.

 

It’s a nice rhyme, but also a bit of truth about human nature.
Today we’ll find out why, because we’ll have a look at the meaning of

gönnen

 

And as similar as it looks and sounds to können – being able to gönnen can be REAL challenge because it means overcoming one of the strongest adversaries out there … and no nerds, I don’t mean Thanos.
I’m talking about our ego.

When you look up gönnen in a dictionary you get stuff like to grant or to not begrudge but they don’t really capture the core of it. Gönnen is essentially the super opposite to to envy. To “anti-envy”.
So it’s not  just saying  “I don’t mind that someone has this and that.”  
It’s more like ““It’s GOOD/FAIR that the person has that, even if I don’t.” 
Here’s an example

This sounds super genuine and giving, even if you didn’t get a raise. Like… you would have given him the raise, had it been up to you.
Maybe you can tell… I’m really struggling to capture gönnen in English but I hope you got an idea. And if not, maybe the negative helps.

As you can see, the negative doesn’t sound as strong as flat out saying “I’m envious”, just as the non negated version is not as strong as “I feel happy for”. But Germans are a bit more “neutral” about expressing their feelings anyway, so (nicht) gönnen is used a lot to express how you feel about someone else getting something. And sometimes actually also for actively giving … usually in contexts of permission. 

And this brings us to gönnen with a self reference. Because gönnen yourself  is always about giving yourself something. It works for any kind of treat, material and non-material and it is supper common… uh… I mean super common :).

Now some of you might be wondering where the word comes from and if there are any relative in the English language. Well,  it used to exist in old English but that has disappeared long ago. It does have a brother in Swedish (unna) but overall, not much is known about the origin of the word.
Either way, Germans always have been quite fond of it. In fact it has even made it’s way into slang and… and I know this will sound crazy…  a German meme.
But before we get to that, let’s look at the related words.
Now you’re like “Oh… prefix versions, here they come.”
But no, not this time.
The only prefix version gönnen has is vergönnen and we can’t talk about this unless we want to get fined by the who-cares-police.

The word that does matter is the noun die Gunst.  In practice, the most common translation is favor but the core idea is basically the feeling someone has who gönnen you something – some sort of goodwill or something.

Now, all these examples were more or less fixed phrasings and the noun Gunst itself isn’t all that common in daily life anymore.  Still, you’ll see it everyday dozens of times – as part of the very very common adjective günstig.
Yup, I was surprised, too, when I found out about this connection :)
If you’ve been to Germany or you’ve watched German ads, you most certainly know that günstig means cheap.
Now, that makes sense. Something that is günstig is that something “means us well”.  And günstig is not limited to money but can also express the idea of convenient or favorable.

There’s also a bunch of word that are based on günstig so let’s look at a few examples for those, too. They probably seem a bit all over the place, but I think with the idea of favorable, meaning well in mind they all make sense.

But I think I hear the sirens of the wo cares police in the distance again so let’s get to what you’re all waiting for… the slang :).
And that is simply the phrase

It’s obviously the sich gönnen that we learned earlier, only that the object is missing.  If I had to come up with a translation I’d say it’s “Indulge bro’/sis’, because YOLO.” … that’s kind of the vibe.
But I think examples will make it more clear :)

Okay, this last one, Gönn dir hart,  has a REALLY STRONG teenage-y ring to it and unless your under 20 you should stay away from it.
But compared to other slang tropes, Gönn dir is pretty big and broadly accepted at the moment. There are whole songs with that title and it’s mainstream enough for ad agencies to start using it. Media Markt, a big electronics retailer, has a “Gönn-dir-Dienstag” for their online store (click here to check that out) and the Sparkasse  posted the this  on their Facebook page a year ago

“Ein Leben lang Gönnung für jeden”
(here’s the direct link)

It means something along the lines of

  • “YOLO is easy – if you have a good bank, like pension/provision-wise”
  • “Life-long indulging/YOLO for everyone…”

And in case you’re wondering … “Gönnung” is not a word and “vong” CERTAINLY isn’t. They’re clearly trying hard here to get street cred. Ugh… when the cringe gets too strong :).
Anyway, so yeah… “Gönn dir” still is clearly identifiable as teenage slang, but it’s mainstream enough to use it with your buddies even if you’re past 25 (30 in Berlin ;).

And I think that’s it for today. This was our look at the German word gönnen.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment. Oh and if you want you can give it a shot and try to translate the poem from the beginning. Here it is again:

Wir mögen keinem gerne gönnen,
dass er was kann, was wir nicht können. 

And if you’re like Nah, I’ve done enough learning for the day.” … well, then just do what Leo says :)

(Click here for variations of the “Gönn dir”-meme on image search)

Perfect picture for the phrase.
(Click here for variations of the “Gönn dir”-meme on image search)
I hope you liked it and see you next week.

** vocab **

gönnen – to anti-envy, unemotional version of “being happy for someone”
die Gunst – the favor (in sense of a person or situation being well meaning toward you)
die Missgunst – the envy (synonym for der Neid)
günstig – cheap, favorable
ungünstig – inconvenient
die Vergünstigung – the discount
die Begünstigung – being favorable for someone/something

for members :)

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TimM
TimM

“We never want to be happy for those
Who can do things that we can’t”

Ist das eine richtige Übersetzung vom Gedicht?

Antonio
Antonio

Dank solch einer großartigen Lektion, bin ich mir sicher, die Bedeutung von “günstig” nicht mehr zu vergessen. Danke, Emanuel!

Ubungmachtdenmeister
Ubungmachtdenmeister

We gift none gladly, who can, what we can’t. That’s about as short as I could make it. Maybe not exact translation but I feel like I at least caught the vibe. The sentence confused me until I thought about the missing es, wir mögen es keinem gerne gönnen soll es sein glaube ich. Once that was there it made more sense, at least to me. Gönnen Is a word I don’t think I ever heard until today but I certainly heard of it’s bretheren. Been seeing quite a bit of german media recently and the adverts have all kinds of phrasing’s with günstig in them. Was looking through Bild newspaper (bought in Poland airport) and the ads made me laugh. Günstig, preiswert, Hammer-preis und Knaller-preis all were there. That’s some quality marketing. Totally different subject but does any of you regulars here, or indeed yourself emanuel watch knallerfrauen? I’m grateful to be at a level of german enough to appreciate it. If you haven’t yet seen it go check it out. Comedy gold imo. Ramble over.

Barratt

Das ist ja schwierig, direkt zu übersetzen! “It is difficult for us to confess that another is capable of that which we are not.”? (War das treffend oder nicht?)

Barratt

Here ”confess” could perhaps be better translated as ”concede, admit, accept, …”

kelvin
kelvin

Admit is the best word

barratt
barratt

Auch würde ich dir gerne “Happy Thanksgiving” wünschen! Das wär’s!

formaneka
formaneka

Ich gönne Deutsch das Wort gönnen. Nein… das stimmt nicht. Wirklich bin ich sehr eifersuchtig denn das sooo ein nutzliches Wort ist. Wah : (
Ich freue mich sehr dass du dieses Wort erklärt hat. Ich sehe es sehr oft and habe die Bedeutung nie genau verstanden. Danke!

Auch hier ist mein (eher freie) Übersetzung des Dichtes:
Whatever dude, you’re not so hot
just ’cause you can do what I cannot

aoind
aoind

“We do not like to give due credit to he that can (do) what we cannot” or, less literally, “We do not like to acknowledge those more talented than ourselves”. I think Übungmachtdenmeister above has captured the literal translation most accurately and succinctly already.

aoind
aoind

And rhyming:

Credit we don’t like to grant
To he that does things that we can’t

formaneka
formaneka

PS — did not know what YOLO was. had to look it up! but I’m over (way) 25 so…. yeah, not hep to the latest slang. Was also thinking American slang for gönn dir might be “go for it!”

Adam
Adam

Treat yo’self!

Shreyas
Shreyas

“We don’t like to treat,
Those whose skills we can’t meet.”

Hat es ein bisschen eingestellt, aber wirklich nutzlicher Begriff. Mein Lieblingsmeme davon ich gesehen habe ist ‘Mahatma Gönndir’

Wer denkt dies uberhaupt!?

person243
person243

Hi,

“Gunst”, that word reminded me of one song in “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” when Faramir attacks in a suicide mission Osgiliath while Denethor eats grapes or tomatoes, I don’t remember, in the safest place of Minas Tirith. Pippin sings it. I only watched the movie in German, so I don’t know the song in English. But every time Denethor crunches one of those fruits and sprays red juice around while doing so, Pippin sings in a very sad voice: “…Gunst.” (There is of course more text to it, but the last time I watched this is years ago, so cut me some slack.)
And that is the word the moment is about. The younger son Faramir is trying to get his father to accept him. In German, you would say: “Er buhlt um seine Gunst.” But Denethor is completely ignorant about it.
.:
By the way, “gönnen” can be really hard. But at other times, it is rather easy. For example, when you are up ahead. Like: your team is leading by a big margin and the other team is scoring a late consolation goal (I’m talking soccer of course.) It is not hard to say that they deserved that. But when saying that, you will sound “gönnerhaft” = “patronizing”.

“der Gönner” of somebody is somebody who has no obligation to but gives them money or supports them strongly in another way. Like a sugar daddy. Or a businessman who supports a young athlete.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Heey! Psst! I think I’ve found a safe place here, who-care cops will never find us. So, think you can tell us more about “vergönnen”?

Ahmad Mezher
Ahmad Mezher

Vielen dank for all donators I was registered for 1 year membership by the admin of the page. Honestly Im happy right now.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Hi, can I interpreted “Gönn dir” as “enjoy yourself”?
and, Are these two below express the same meaning (differnce between dürfen and gönnen)?

Der Athlet darf sich keine Traningspause.
Der Athlet gönnt sich keine Trainingspause.

skypod
skypod

The difficulty with gönnen for English speakers is the we express the same idea using the verb ‘to begrudge’ but exactly the other way round:
‘Ich gönne ihr den Erfolg’ ‘I don’t begrudge her the success’
whereas if we were envious we would say,
‘I begrudge her the success’ (‘Ich gönne ihr den Erfolg nicht’).

Alp
Alp

I really thank you donators who is helping me to learn german.I hope I get better ^^

berlingrabers
berlingrabers

An idiom I think gets close to the meaning of “jmdm. etwas gönnen” is “my hat’s off to _____”. It conveys respect and acknowledgement that somebody deserves the credit or praise they get for something.

Rob
Rob

Gibt es einen Untershied zwischen “günstig” und “billig”?

berlingrabers

Beides bedeutet “kostet nicht viel” aber “günstig” ist immer positiv gemeint, “billig” meistens negativ.

dors
dors

Hi!! I would have one question the following sentence: Ich gönne meinem Kollegen die Gehaltserhöhung.

I’m a little bit confused and don’t understand why you have used the form ‘meinem Kollegen’ instead of ‘meinen Kollegen’. I’m sure there must be some grammatical explanation which I’m not aware of.

Thank you in advance for your help :)