German word of the day: Sau

German word of the day: Sau

2023-05-30 16:59:44


Though you might associate this word with a visit to the farmyard, this useful prefix is a great addition to your German vocab.

Published: 12 May 2021 17:01 CEST
Updated: 30 May 2023 16:59 CEST

Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you are wanting to sound like a local, adding Or to your dictionary is a great first step. This short word literally means Sow, or a female pig, and can be used as a slightly vulgar insult towards someone, so be careful when first trying it out.

When used as a prefix, however, or can strengthen a description in place of an adverb. For example, you could say something is sheep blood (really stupid) or come down (really cold). In these cases, sau adds emphasis and acts in the same way as very (very) or Real (really).

The prefix, despite its unpleasant literal use, doesn’t always denote something negative. You could also say a particularly hot day was my change (very warm) or, if you really want to fit in with the locals, you could describe something as awesome (really cool).

Pigs and pork feature a lot in German colloquialisms and the list of German idioms is full of sausages and pigs. It is not surprising, therefore, that the prefix or can be used so universally within the language.

It is thought that the or came into use because of pigs’ association with dirtiness and not caring about how muddy they become when enjoying the pleasure of bathing in a mud bath.

The use of the word dates back to the early nineteenth century; you can find countless recordings of the word sauwohlor ‘bloody good’, relating to the boundless pleasure a pig experiences when wallowing in the dirt.

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Although this is a very common word, be careful when using it in formal situations. It is the equivalent of the English ‘damn’ or ‘bloody’ so can sound slightly crass in the wrong circumstances.


I was extremely lucky in my job search.

I had amazing luck with my job search.

Don’t talk so silly!

Don’t be so silly!

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