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The Most Beautiful German Word Ever · 2004-10-24

A big headed jury has voted 'Habseligkeiten' the most beautiful German word, that is. What does it mean and why is it most beautiful? 'Habseligkeiten' is like many other German words a composition made from two words. There is 'Seligkeiten' which is the plural of 'blessedness', therefore refers not to the state of being blessed but to a blessed thing. Since we have a plural it would be 'blessed things'. As first word we have a shortened form of 'haben', which would mean 'to possess' or 'to own'. The derived noun form would be 'Habe', meaning 'belongings' or 'property'. Together 'Habseligkeiten' refers to 'property', but always 'little property'. Proper use: 'Der Obdachlose trug seine Habseligkeiten in einer Plastiktüte' (The homeless carried his property in a plastic bag). Wrong or ironic use: Der Millionär musste jemanden einstellen, um auf seine Habseligkeiten zu achten (The millionaire had to hire someone, to look after his property). What is so great about 'Habseligkeiten'? I think it is the use of the religious term 'blessedness' to make 'belongings' little. Thats subtle irony, isn't it?

I'm fine with the outcome of the voting, though I'd have voted for 'Knallcharge', for it's multicultural attitudes.


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