Word of the Day – “der Wahnsinn”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: October 5, 2023

Hello 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.
“Nonsense?”
Oh…uhm… no. Hold on, let’s try with the adjective wahnsinnig. That is the opposite of sensible, reasonable.
“Unreasonable?!”
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.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Du willst in Unterhose zur mündlichen Prüfung? Bist du wahnsinnig?
  • You want to go to the oral exam with just trunks? Are you insane?
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Maria fährt wie eine Wahnsinnige.
  • Maria is driving like a crazy person.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Dieser Plan ist der pure Wahnsinn.
  • This plan is pure madness.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

“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.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • 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.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • 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?”
Exactly.
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.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Das Wetter is echt der Wahnsinn.
  • The weather is freaking awesome.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • “Ein Tropfen Einhornsschweiß kostet 100 Dollar.”
    “Wahnsinn!!”
  • “One drop of unicorn sweat costs 100 dollars.”
    “Unbelievable/that’s crazy!”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Manchmal werde ich wahnsinnig neidisch auf Maria.
  • Sometimes, I get extremely envious of Maria.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Das tut mir wahnsinnig leid.
  • I am extremely sorry for that.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

“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.
“Cool.”
Now, are you still up for some related words?
“Not really to be honest becau….”
Well, whatever, we’ll talk about them anyway, because there’s actually one really important one we need to know.

“wähnen” and “erwähnen”

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.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

“Hah… yeah, they always think that right before we put our teeth in their neck. Stupid bunnies.”
Ewww…
“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?
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Thomas hat mal erwähnt, dass er gerne im Wohnwagen leben würde.
  • Thomas mentioned once that he’d like to live in a van.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Die Architektur auf dem Markt ist besonders erwähnenswert.
  • The architecture on the market is especially noteworthy.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Marias sexy Frisur soll in diesem Artikel nicht unerwähnt bleiben.
  • Maria’s sexy hair should not go unmentioned in this article.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

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.

 

further reading:

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