A Luftschloss (plural Luftschlösser) is a fantasy, an unrealistic dream. The compound noun literally translates as ‘air-castle’ as it is made up of the words Luft, meaning air, and Schloss, meaning castle.
Those who Schlösser in der Luft bauen (build castles castles in the air) have big imaginations and unrealistic dreams, as you can’t actually build anything in the air. The idea of the castle signifies something beautiful and dream-like, which can only occur in fairy tales.
An example of a Luftschloss might be someone who dreams of becoming a Hollywood star, or a rock star or something similar.
In English we might translate a Luftschloss as a ‘delusion of grandeur’ or a ‘pipe-dream’, but neither of these translations quite capture the meaning of the German word which seems to embrace the beauty of imagination.
Das sind doch alles nur Luftschlösser.
It’s all only a fantasy.
Diese Idee war zu dieser Zeit noch eher ein Luftschloss als ein konkreter Projektvorschlag.
At the time, the idea was still more of a fantasy than a concrete project proposal.
Do you have a favourite word you'd like to see us cover? If so, please email our editor Rachel Stern with your suggestion.
This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.