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German word of the day: Der Krawall

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German word of the day: Der Krawall
A man spray paints 'Krawall' in Berlin during Labour Day riots on May 1st. Photo: DPA
12:45 CEST+02:00
Today’s word of the day is in a rebellious mood.

When there are riots anywhere and German newspapers report on it, they will likely use the word Krawall. That is because it literally means riot, but also because it has a ring to it. Krawall in German sounds harsh and consists of two short vowels, hence it can be said according to its context. Another word for riot is der Aufstand, but that just doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it.

Where exactly the word Krawall has its origins is not very well known. The fact is, however, that it has been around for a while – since the 16th century. It is suspected that people then started using the word crawallen in the vernacular. Crawallen, in turn, goes back to the Mid Latin word chravallium, which describes cacophonies, street noises and squabbling.

Hence, Krawall describes something loud, noisy, all over the place – it’s basically a perfect translation for the word riot.

It doesn’t always have to be associated with riots, though. When you are in the mood for a fight and just clash with everyone, you are auf Krawall gebürstet. Literally translated, that means “to be brushed for riot." A better translation however is “to be dressed up for panic and strife.” Where that notion comes from, is even less known than the original Krawall’s origin, though.

So whenever you have a day that just goes on your nerves, I suggest chanting “Krawall, Krawall,” once you’re back at home. It really helps.

Examples:

Bist du auf Krawall gebürstet oder was?

Are you up for a fight or what?

Ich bin heute Nacht aufgewacht, weil zwei Katzen draußen einen Mordskrawall gemacht haben.

I woke up tonight because two cats were fighting really loudly outside.

Mach mal nicht so einen Krawall hier.

Don’t make such a fuss here.

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