Word of the Day – “der Schwarm”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time, we’ll have a look at the meaning of

der Schwarm

 

Because a Schwarm is quite common in spring, and it’s one of the best things about it.
Now you might be like “Oh, you mean like  swarm of blood sucking mosquitoes. Yeah, that’s really great… on opposite day.”
But I’m actually not being sarcastic.
Yes, a Schwarm of mosquitoes at a lake in the evening sun can suck.
But that other Schwarm, your Schwarm, at a lake in the evening… that’s amazing. And it might also suck .. later…. anyways, let’s jump right in and find out…

So yeah, der Schwarm is the German word for swarm.

  • Die Partygäste sind wie ein Heuschreckenschwarm über das Buffet hergefallen.
  • The party guests went for/attacked/came over the buffet like a locust swarm.
  • Maria macht den Fisch warm, Thomas sieht den Fischschwarm.
  • Maria heats up the fish, Thomas sees the school of fish.

Wow, that’s probably one of the dumbest examples ever :).
Anyway, the origin of swarm and Schwarm is most likely just an imitation of the sound swarms make when they swarm around our heads. Which brings us right to the verb schwärmen, the German version of to swarm.
One of its meaning is of course the literal action of swarming.

  • Die Motten schwärmen um die Lampe.
  • The moths are swarm around the lamp.
  • Die Einhörner vom Spezial-Einsatz-Kommando schwärmen über die Lichtung aus.
  • The unicorns of the SWAT commando fan out/swarm out across the clearing.

But Germans kind of liked the verb. Like…
“Oh, schwärmen is such a nice verb.”
“Yeah, such a pointless umlaut, so awesome. Really a pity that its meaning is so narrow.”
“Yeah, why don’t we find some crazy figurative use for the terrific verb.”
And so they did… behold…

  • Maria schwärmt von dem Zeltplatz am Meer.
  • Maria is raving about the camping ground at the sea.
  • Ist das das Bier, von dem Thomas so geschwärmt hat?
  • Is that the beer that Thomas kept raving/rhapsodizing about.

Yup, schwärmen means to rave.
Now you might be like “Hmmm… that makes sense. A swarm does look kind of wild.”
But this notion of wild is actually NOT the core idea of schwärmen. Schwärmen is to rave in the sense that you’re really infatuated with something and you share that with the world. And that kinds of makes sense, too. Take the second example… Thomas is definitely excited by the beer, that’s kind of the general unrest of a swarm. And it he keeps circling around the topic, just like a swarm of mosquitoes is circling around our heads. And his mind is … well… not completely focused and clear, just like a swarm doesn’t always have a clear direction.
“Excuse me, Emanuel, but I have a PhD in Swarmetics and Swarmology, and swarms can actually be very fast and efficient problem solvers, so what you said wasn’t accur…. “
Okay, okay… sorry that I’m trying to make a connection.
Ugh, science. Such a buzzkill.
Get it, get it… my swarm noise reference? Hold on, give me a second, I have to do something…
…*pats himself on the shoulder…
Okay… so yeah… this schwärmen von in the sense of being infatuated, raving  is super  common and there are also a few related words with it.

  • Thomas hat mir so viel von dem Restaurant vorgeschwärmt, dass meine Erwartungen extrem hoch sind.
  • Thomas was raving soooo much about the restaurant (to me) that now my expectations are extremely high.
  • Wenn ich an Portugal denke, komme ich ins Schwärmen.
  • I start raving, enthusiastically dreaming/romanticizing when I think of Portugal.
    (common phrasing)
  • Seit Thomas seinen Hipsterbart hat, wird er von den Frauen umschwärmt.
  • Since Thomas has his hipster beard, he‘s swarmed by women/women are all over him.
  • Thomas guckt der Kellnerin mit schwärmerischem Blick hinterher.
  • Thomas is looking after the waitress with an infatuated gaze.
  • Marias Schwärmerei für Chris Hemsworth nimmt obsessive Züge an.
  • Maria’s infatuation for Christ Hemsworth is taking on obsessive traits.
    (is there an alternative to infatuation?)

     

Yeah, that was a little insight into how I struggle with the English language sometimes… so maybe you don’t feel so bad about your German pronunciation :).
Anyway, the last few examples actually lead us right up to where we started… the mysterious other meaning of Schwarm.
Do you have an idea :)?
Der Schwarm is a common Germar for the person you have a crush on…  or in short… your crush.
It’s kind of funny when you think about it… a crush really is a bit like a swarm in your head, flying everywhere, making you nervous and excited.

  • Oh nein, da vorne ist mein Schwarm und meine Haare sind eine Katastrophe.
  • Oh no, over there is my crush and my hair is a disaster.
  • “War der Typ auf dem Pferd Marias Freund?”
    “Nee, nur ein Schwarm.”
  • “Was the guy on the horse Maria’s boyfriend?”
    “No, just a crush.

I guess we should note that Schwarm really ONLY refers to the person,  NOT the feeling. If you want to say that you have a crush on someone, then sich vergucken is the best choice.

  • Ich habe mich ein bisschen in Thomas verguckt.
  • I have a slight crush on Thomas.

And that’s it for today :). This was our look at the meaning of der Schwarm.
And now we can all forget about German and go out to the park and meet one. I mean… a good Schwarm, not a blood sucking mosquito one.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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Tracy
Tracy
4 years ago

Your articles are so thorough and entertaining! Thanks for all your hard work. And yes, I do feel better about having a difficult time pronouncing German words after hearing you struggle with Chris Hemsworth! :)

I can’t wait to be able to have a conversation with someone in German one day! Right now it’s all just repeating what I hear on your site and singing along to German songs in my car.

Any suggestions for good German music to listen to??

David S.
David S.
4 years ago

“Maria macht den Fisch warm, Thomas sieht den Fischschwarm.” Utterly punderful….I am in love.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago

That’s just great. Not only different words for different groups of animals (like in English) but auf Deutsch different words depending on the SIZE of the group. Like, why am I not surprised? Stick forks in my eyes.

Ruth
Ruth
4 years ago

Yes, locusts are the voracious eaters. Cicadas do the vast majority (if not all) of their eating sucking sap for years under ground as “nymphs.” They emerge eventually for just a few weeks of frantically calling for mates and getting another generation started. The noise seems to be what they’re most associated with, so if the party guests were really raucous they could perhaps be compared with cicadas.

What a lovely word Heuschreck[e] is. But tricky, too, as dict.cc gives die Heuschrecke without qualification, and der Heuschreck as south German and Austrian. I suppose the Schreck is fear of, or horror at, what they do to crops rather than the shock of encountering them unexpectedly., but perhaps there’s a completely different explanation.

Thanks for another entertaining and instructive post.

Edvilla
Edvilla
4 years ago

Nice article, to be honest I didnt know the meaning of rave, now I learned 2 words! . By the way, I want to thank all of you who contribute for the scholarships, I am one of the lucky guys who got one. Thank you all!

ted
ted
4 years ago

we pat someone (or ourselves) on the back. (not pad).
you have a true gift for teaching German. Thank you very much

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago

In colloquial AE, one would say, ”like a swarm of locusts” – Locusts are the bad guys (one of the biblical plagues), cicadas are the good guys (giving Southern nights a ”sound”).

Schwärmerei = Raving about, gushing about or if it’s in a negative sense, ”going on about”.

One would ”swoon” over someone – you know, show romantic interest. Not puppy-love, but a more childish way for an adult to feel romantic interest. ”Wooing” would be the actual showing of the above-mentioned interest to the object of interest.

Infatuation (Maria’s infatuation for…) is sorta borderline obsessed. I’d say, ”keeness on”, ”hots for”, ”attraction to”, ”captivation by/with”.

With an infatuated gaze sounds odd. I’d say, ”with a moonstruck, enamored, enchanted, lovesick, smitten, bewitched, devoted, besotted, gaze.”

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I don’t think “having the hots for someone” is as sexual as it sounds. Ok, “being hot” means, well, we all know what, but “having the hots for someone” isn’t really as sexual as it sounds, more just having a serious crush on someone. “the hots” more describing the passion perhaps, than referring to the “hot state” in “being hot”. Sorta.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago
Reply to  Amerikanerin

I’d probably agree with that. Although that may be owing to “having the hots for someone” sounding a little outdated, at least to me. (Thinking of Marty McFly in Back to the Future: “You mean my mom… has got the hots for… me?”)

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Thanks for the backing on that BG – I was starting to think I was a, unbeknown to myself, sex-crazed person who saw having “the hots for” as something mild. You’re right – Marty DID use that phrase – honestly, how “sexual” can it be if it was used in the 50’s? – that wasn’t long after they were still covering piano legs so no one would make “unholy” associations…

Although, I DID get kicked out of one boarding school for going as a pregnant nun for Halloween – perhaps I really don’t have all my tasse im schrank.

Tim
Tim
4 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Just providing back up here. The last time the phrase ‘to have the hots for …’ was used here in NZ would.have been circa 1997, and at that stage it wasn’t overtly sexual at all. Just a synonym for ‘to have a crush on’.

I am being slightly facetious. I’m sure it’s still used occasionally, bit for me it has a definite early years of high school vibe (which for me was the 90s).

parisbongi
parisbongi
4 years ago
Reply to  Amerikanerin

I heard a great one recently from a Brit – “I think he has designs on her”, meaning he has the “hots” for her.

Is Schwarm a generic term for a group of fish, birds, bees, dogs, etc? I suppose German also has schools, flocks, gaggles and such. Maybe a future post on that subject?

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago
Reply to  parisbongi

Tim: High School is never over! (Prudy screams this to her husband in, “The Jane Austen Book Club”). Haha! “Having the hots” for someone does sound outdated, but even bell-bottomed jeans show up every now and then.

Parisbongi – yep, heard “having designs on someone” – sounds more modern than “hots”.

Am so happy that all groups of animals are “Schwarm” – can’t remember the names of all the different ones in my own language (AE) – glad to not have to learn them auf Deutsch. Emanual, please tell us that all groups of animals are “Schwarm”.

Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck
4 years ago

Without this website my german would be aufull.

Sena
Sena
4 years ago

I really enjoy while reading your articles. It is way easier to remember with your explanations. You have such an admiring work here. Thanks for making German easier !

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago

Ich schwärme, du schwärmst, wir alle schwärmen von Schawarma… (There’s an old song that goes, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.)

A good alternative to “rave” for “schwärmen” (at least in AE) is “to gush about something.” There’s also “go on about something” (meaning to be unable to shut up about it), which could fit the Thomas beer example.

Regarding “Heuschreckenschwarm”: I thought it was kind of funny that you came up with “cicadas.” As far as I know, “Heuschrecken” are locusts, the grasshopper-like critters that can wipe out all the vegetation in an area when they swarm. Now, “locust” is actually a colloquial name for cicadas (at least in the US), but cicadas are a different insect. They are also really numerous when it’s the season for them, but people crowding a buffet would definitely be compared to locusts. (It’s not uncommon to refer to a “plague of locusts,” a reference to the biblical story of the Exodus and a few other places.)

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Naja, ich habe das selber ausgedacht aber die Idee von “I Scream, You Scream (We All Scream for Ice Cream)” gestohlen. Letzteres ist tatsächlich ein Jazz-Song aus den 20er oder 30er Jahren. Aber “wir alle schwärmen von Schawarma” passt wohl besser zur Punk-Szene…

Gibt es viele Zikaden in Deutschland? Die Arten, die in Nordamerika zu finden sind, sehen wirklich anders aus. Fast wie riesige Fruchtfliegen, ohne die langen Hinterbeine wie Grashüpfer. Ja, Grillen sind “crickets”, die sich immer dann hören lassen, wenn jemand einen besonders schlechten Witz macht und keine Reaktion bekommt. :)

Pedroquin
Pedroquin
4 years ago

Hey! great to be here… thanks to everyone (the other members) whom made this possible..

Sid
Sid
4 years ago

Puppy love really only applies to, well, puppies – early teen girls. Like a first crush. But not nearly the same connotation as infatuation, in my opinion. Infatuation carries more of a negative potential meaning, like bordering on obsession. Puppy love is considered harmless, innocent.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I’m not sure “infatuation” is all that negative – I think it fits pretty well in the context, especially since you’re talking about it starting to seem obsessive. (By the way, the preferred preposition is “with” – “Maria’s infatuation with Chris Hemsworth.”) But I agree with Sid about “puppy love” not fitting.

lost in desert - still
lost in desert - still
4 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

i agree with BG that infatuation is more neutral/slightly positive while obsession has a negative connotation to it (at least in N.A.) Teenage girls have infatuations with pops stars – usually annoying but harmless. Obsession indicates that the behavior is becoming stronger and possibly self-destructive (psychological stress, stalking, obviating other life duties etc.). When Maria’s infatuation becomes an obsession, she is annoying everyone around her.

I saw the word enthusiasm in the dictionary also, but I doubt i would apply that to romantic feelings about a person (BG, what do you think?). If I am enthusiastic about someone, that implies I want to hire them to do a fantastic job at my company, or they are the best person to accomplish a mission or task. Romantically, were I on a date and told a woman that I am “enthusiastic about her”, I think she might just up and leave –it sounds cold and detached. Were I to confess an obsession with her, she might get way creeped out. But if I said, “I have been infatuated with you since we bumped into each other at the party,” well, that might do well because infatuation has some youthful indiscretion, affection, or innocence about it.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago

“Enthusiasm” is one of those terms that’s lost intensity of meaning over time. In older usage, it often meant something like “fanaticism” – taking things to extremes. In Reformation history, it was common to refer to Radical Reformation movements and figures like Thomas Müntzer and the Zwickauer Propheten as “Schwärmer,” which used to be rendered “enthusiasts” in English (but I think nowadays would be more likely to be translated “fanatics”). “Enthusiasm” in contemporary English is probably more like “Begeisterung.”

But in modern English, you’re right – it could work for “Schwärmerei” about something less personal, but “enthusiasm” doesn’t sound romantic at all.