The meaning of “Liebling”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: July 23, 2023

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Week.
And today, we’ll learn how to say favorite in German, because today we’ll take a look at the meaning of

(der) Liebling

 

And I’m sure pretty much all of you immediately realized which family Liebling belongs to.
It’s the family of lieben and lieb.
Lieben is the German word for to love, and lieb is a bit broader and can mean dear, nice and even well-behaved.

  • Liebe Maria, heute bin ich in Berlin angekommen…
  • Dear Maria, today I arrived in Berlin…
  • Keine Angst, keine Angst! Der tut nichts… der ist ganz lieb.
  • Don’t worry, don’t worry! He’s not gonna do anything… he’s a good dog.

 

We should note though that lieb works best for living beings and how they “act”.
Like… if you were to say that a room looks lieb because you mean “nice”, you’d actually be saying that the room looks like it has a mild temper and is really friendly and welcoming… like it’s a person.
So it’s better to use lieb only for living things for now.

But let’s get to our actual topic: Liebling.
Taken literally it’d be “loveling” and the two best translations in my opinion are darling and sweetheart. You can use it for your dog but of course is also used by lovers of all ages.
Now, there are many words lovers call one another. The animal kingdom provides dozens of possibilities like

Hase (bunny),
Maus (mouse) ,
Schnecke (snail.. only for women) or
Bär (bear)

Bär is probably only suitable for men though, unless the woman is really huge and furry. I mean… why not. To each their own.
Anyway, the most common one, at least according to the German Wikipedia, is Schatz.

Schatz literally means treasure so the meaning is definitely on point. But the pronunciation… I don’t know… it sounds kind of harsh. Like shots or shuts.
I mean, Imagine yourself on a couch in a candle-lit room, sipping red wine with your sweetheart and you want to say something nice – do you really want to break the silence with:

“SHOTS! What a beautiful evening.”

A soft “Liebling“, possibly with a sexy tongue flap for the ‘l’-sounds, is just fitting the vibe better, in my opinion.

Still, for some reason Liebling has barely made it onto Wikipedia’s list of terms of endearment.

The real reason why we’re learning it today and why you ABSOLUTELY need to include it in your active vocabulary is the fact that it’s the key to saying favorite in German.

How to say favorite in German

And I’m saying “key” because Liebling alone doesn’t do it. The way to say that something is your favorite movie or color or animal or whatever is to slap Lieblings- in front of it.

  • Was ist dein Lieblingsfilm?
  • What’s your favorite movie?
  • Was ist dein Lieblingslied?
  • What’s your favorite song?
  • Was ist dein Lieblingsessen?
  • What’s your favorite food?
  • Was ist deine Lieblingsfarbe?
  • What’s your favorite color?
  • 2020 war mein Lieblingsjahr… NICHT!
  • 2020 was my favorite year… NOT!

Pretty simple and most learners get used to it quickly.

What’s a bit more tricky is to get used saying favorite by itself in German.

  •  “Oh my god, they have Tastybeer ™ here??? That is my favorite!!!”

Many learners would say something like

  • … Das ist mein Liebling(s)!!

But that does NOT work!! It would be understood, but it sounds really really clumsy.
You absolutely HAVE TO say beer again.

  • Oh Gott, die haben Tastybier™ hier??? Das ist mein LieblingsBIER!

Let’s do another example.

  • “Do you like Sushi?”
    “It’s not my favorite, but it’s okay.”

Again, just saying Liebling alone would NOT WORK. And here, the extra challenge is that we don’t even really have a “thing” specified. In this case, Germans would just pick the category that Sushi belongs to, which in this case would be food.

  • “Magst du Sushi?”
    “Es ist nicht mein Lieblingsessen, aber es ist okay.”

Or you could use the word der Favorit.

  • Es ist nicht mein Favorit, aber es ist okay.

But that still sounds a bit odd, and generally der Favorit has a bit of a notion of sports and competition.

  • Welches Team ist dein Favorit?

This is NOT asking about your favorite team, this is asking about what team you think is the most likely to win.

So yeah… definitely try to get used to these Lieblings-comounds like Lieblingslied, Lieblingssprache or Lieblings-Netflix-Serie.
And don’t use Liebling(s) by itself in the sense of favorite.

And that’s it for today. This was our look at the meaning of Liebling and how to properly say favorite in German.
If you want to test yourself and see how much you remember you can take the little quiz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or if you want to try out the word and tell me what your favorite something is, just leave me a comment.
Hope you enjoyed it and see you next time on your Lieblingsblog.
Which is this one here… I… I hope.

Oh…  in case you ended up here doing a Google search for “Leibling”  let me assure you that it is NOT a German word. If you have seen it somewhere it must be a typo.

 

** vocab **

mein Liebling – my darling
Lieblingslied – favorite song
Lieblingsessen – favorite meal
Lieblingsblog – favorite blog
die Schnecke – the snail
der Hase – the rabbit
der Bär – the bear
lieb – nice, dear, well-behaved
lieben – to love
liebenswert – lovely (rare)
der Schatz – the treasure, also used as “darling”

 

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