Word of the Day – “der Wahnsinn”

wahnsinnHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. Because I’m here with Johnny the Unicorn today and together we’ll talk about the meaning of

der Wahnsinn


Are you ready, Johnny.
“Can’t fucking wait.”
Awesome. But hey, please, no swearing. Leave that for the magical forest.
“Haha, okay.”
Cool, then let’s jump right in….

So Johnny, do you know what Wahnsinn means?
“No, not really…. but I do recognize Sinn. That’s sense, right?”
Exactly. And Wahnsinn is the opposite.
Oh…uhm… no. Hold on, let’s try with the adjective wahnsinnig. That is the opposite of sensible, reasonable.
Well, stronger. Like… a unicorn eating a vegan diet.
“Ohhhh, you mean crazy!!!”
Exactly! Wahnsinnig is crazy, insane …
“And so der Wahnsinn is insanity?”

Exactly… or madness or lunacy.

  • Genie und Wahnsinn liegen sehr nah beieinander.
  • Genius and madness are close together.
  • Du willst in Unterhose zur mündlichen Prüfung? Bist du wahnsinnig?
  • You want to go to the oral exam with just trunks? Are you insane?
  • Maria fährt wie eine Wahnsinnige.
  • Maria is driving like a crazy person.
  • Dieser Plan ist der pure Wahnsinn.
  • This plan is pure madness.

“Okay… so Sinn is sense, but what is Wahn exactly?”
Well, that’s where the whole idea of crazy comes from. Der Wahn by itself can mean delusion or mania. It’s most common in compounds.

  • “Die Enten beobachten mich!!”
    “Du hast Verfolgungswahn.”
  • “The ducks are watching me!!”
    “You have persecution paranoia.
  • Prada schickt einen Strich auf den Laufsteg. Der Schlankheitswahn erreicht ein Extrem.
  • Prada sends a line onto the cat walk. The obsession with slenderness reaches a peak.
  • Das Einhorn hat Wahnvorstellungen von einem Pferd.
  • The unicorn has delusions about a horse.

“Hmmm, I’m not sure I understand the difference between Wahn and Wahnsinn?”
Well, Wahn is more seeing something that’s not there. Like… a strong version of that. The origin is actually pretty helpful, because guess which word Wahn is related to….
“Uh… I don’t know.”
To wish. Just like to win, it’s part of a big family of words that are about what you want. Wahn has shifted from wishing to actually thinking it’s there, even though it isn’t.
“Oh, that makes sense. And Wahnsinn is more the general state, right?”
Now, what makes these words really useful is how they’re used as a way to express “intensity”. Not sure how else to say it… like… in English when you say something like “Your hooves smell like crazy.”… they do, by the way.
“Yeah, unicorn hooves are like that. We can’t do anything about it. It’s hormones.”
Well, it’s awful.
Anyway, so yeah, Wahnsinn is used very often as an expression of astonishment and wahnsinnig is super super common alternative for very.

  • Das Konzert war der Wahnsinn.
  • That concert was crazy.
  • Das Wetter is echt der Wahnsinn.
  • The weather is freaking awesome.
  • “Ein Tropfen Einhornsschweiß kostet 100 Dollar.”
  • “One drop of unicorn sweat costs 100 dollars.”
    “Unbelievable/that’s crazy!”
  • Manchmal werde ich wahnsinnig neidisch auf Maria.
  • Sometimes, I get extremely envious of Maria.
  • Das tut mir wahnsinnig leid.
  • I am extremely sorry for that.

“Wait, so in this colloquial use, the noun Wahnsinn is basically the counterpart to the English adjective crazy while wahnsinnig is extremely.”
Exactly, and especially that second one is wahnsinnig common and you should definitely add it to your vocabulary.
Now, as far as related words go, there’s the verb wähnen. It’s about the idea of thinking that something is the case, when it really isn’t.

  • Der Hase wähnt sich in Sicherheit vor dem Einhorn.
  • The bunny thinks it’s safe from the unicorn.

“Hah… yeah, they always think that right before we put our teeth in their neck. Stupid bunnies.”
“Sorry, man, we gotta eat.”
I guess… anyway, I think wähnen shows quite nicely the connection to wishing. But in practice is pretty pretty rare… like… “forget about it”-rare. The only reason I wanted to explicitly mention it is because it quite looks like the verb erwähnen…. which means to mention.
“Yeah, I was gonna ask. I see that one a lot.”
Now, it might be really hard to see a connection to Wahnsinn and that is … because there is none. Erwähnen is actually related to the family of the word voice.
“Which is related to the epos and epic.”
Is it?
“Yes. And now I must go.”
…** pooooofffffff **….
Johnny? Johnny, where are you? Johnny, bro?
He just disappeared… hmmm. I guess, he had to go to work or something.
Anyway, here are some examples for erwähnen

  • Habe ich erwähnt, dass ich meinen Namen rülpsen kann?
  • Have I mentioned that I can burp my name?
  • Thomas hat mal erwähnt, dass er gerne im Wohnwagen leben würde.
  • Thomas mentioned once that he’d like to live in a van.
  • Die Architektur auf dem Markt ist besonders erwähnenswert.
  • The architecture on the market is especially noteworthy.
  • Marias sexy Frisur soll in diesem Artikel nicht unerwähnt bleiben.
  • Maria’s sexy hair should not go unmentioned in this article.

And that’s it for today :).
This was our quick, crazy look at the meaning of Wahnsinn.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope liked it and see you next time.

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2 years ago

„Das Wetter ist echt der Wahnsinn.“ Is this necessarily positive, or could it be “The weather is freaking crazy” which just means that it is strange, mostly meaning some extremes or extreme changes?

3 years ago

I’m new here! I recently stumbled upon this treasure of a website and was super happy. I’m even happier now to receive a scholarship. So just wanted to say thank you to all the wonderful people who pay to make this possible :DDDDDD I owe you guys a bunch <3 and naturally to Emanuel for all the hard work and generosity *^*

4 years ago

Thank you Sir, Subscription is working now. Your content is very useful.
Danke schön

4 years ago

Sorry, that was me above. I wanted to log in, but somehow in my mobile Chrome browser, the login via WordPress is always buffering endlessly but doesn’t actually log me in (the login popup pops up for a second, and then closes again without me being able to enter any credentials, so I now downloaded a different browser…), and I didn’t have the time but didn’t want to withhold this “important piece of culture” from y’all, either ;) Oh yeah, on that note: While the above is a pretty famous song, I’m not so sure about the “important piece of culture” part, but we know there’s no accounting for taste ;P I hope the lyrics are correct in the video, didn’t have time to check that either – next time, I’ll do better research, I promise :-]

Gorin Maxim
Gorin Maxim
4 years ago

Thanks to everyone who paid extra money. Because of your help I can read this article and learn German with you.

4 years ago

first of all i want to thank Emmanuel for his effort, what an outstanding learning tactic this is
and another big thank you to all the German is easy community for their generosity, you’re making a great impact

second, i’ve read in the comments that (haben Wahnvorstellungen von) means having illusions about the horse (as that the horse really exists, but he interprets it wrongly, as a monster maybe),
then if he’s having hallucinations that there’s a horse talking to him (as in false perception without a stimulus “no one is talking to him”) or having delusions that he is a horse or a bird (which are fixed false beliefs that cannot be corrected by logic and are not consistent with culture and education “pathological mostly” (medical definition *_*) like if i thought i am being watched by aliens for example), what would those be in German?
soooooorrrrry for the long comment and Begriffe :$, but actually there’s a big difference between them, and not very clear when i try to translate them in dictionaries :/

4 years ago

When I hear “Wahnsinn”, I always have to think of this very famous song that’s mostly played in après-ski party locations: https://youtu.be/4SCb802NL5o ;-)

4 years ago

The Play button under the below sentence is not working
Thomas hat mal erwähnt, dass er gerne im Wohnwagen leben würde.
Thomas mentioned once that he’d like to live in a van.

Ano Menschkind Königin
Ano Menschkind Königin
4 years ago

Emanuel, ich schicke dir etwas überhaupt wichtig durch meinen neuen Email & ich will dass du es liest. Es ist sehr wichtig & ich glaube, dass es dich überhaupt freuen wird auch :)

Warte geduldig (ok, eher voll energisch) an deine Antwort.

4 years ago

Hat jemand ERWÄHNT, dass dieser Blogbeitrag WAHNSINNIG gut war?

And how about some help with colloquial synonyms for “nett” and “gut”.

Bin es leid, alles gut, nett oder schön zu nennen. Ich bin mir nicht sicher, welche der Wörter im Wörterbuch umgangssprachlich sind. (Aber, ”welche von den Wörter im Wörterbuch umgangs…”)

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Danke sehr!

Angesichts meiner Geschichte von Vokabularverwechslungen (Scheidefotos statt Dia-Bilder), werde ich mich von ”geil” *WEIT fernhalten.

4 years ago

I remember being taught the word “Wahnsinn!” very early on in my German learning as part of a list of interjections to show someone you are interested in and/or impressed by what they are saying. “Echt?” was another one. Useful words.

By “delusions about a horse”, do you mean delusions of being a horse or deluded perceptions of the qualities of a certain, definite horse?

Tiny point but “persecution paranoia” would be tautologous. Either “paranoia” on it’s own or “persecution mania/complex”.

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Fretting about leaving the stove on they call OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), at least if it disrupts your life significantly. Jokingly people will still use the term even if they are not badly afflicted (sorry just got to pop back home quickly and check the stove. It’s my OCD kicking in!)

I’ve heard people misuse the word paranoia quite frequently but it doesn’t mean fretting about stuff generally, only that the one afflicted believes “they” are “out to get him”, or mistakenly believes people around him mean him harm. Could be a “her” too of course.

4 years ago

Why is the article used in some situations “Das Konzert war der Wahnsinn” (The concert was crazy) but not in others?

4 years ago

Toll! Es ist Wahnsinn das ich diene Geschichte 40 mal hören. :)

4 years ago

das ist sehr schön!!! gute Art um die bedeutung zu erzählen….. vielen Dank!! Das ist eine große Hilfe