What does is it mean?
In German slang, “Klasse” simply means “awesome” if used in the right context. "Du hast die Beförderung bekommen? Klasse!" (meaning “You got the promotion? Awesome!”)
The direct translation of "class" is also sometimes used in this exact same way, but usually only by people from Ireland: “You got the job? Class!”
Klasse translates into class in English, and in German it also means a set or category of things which have common attributes. Essentially it also means a classification for something, a meaning which is transferred to any Kompositum it is a part of. For example, eine Schiffsklasse means “a classification for ships."
Like the English equivalent of the word, it used in various subjects of academia. In the mathematical topic Mengenlehre (set theory) it describes die Zusammenfassung von Objekten (the summary of objects).
Students at a math 'Klasse' in Hanover. In this context the word is exactly like its English equivelant. Photo: DPA
It also describes the structure and behaviour of real objects in Softwaredesign (meaning - suprise suprise - software design), as well as a term used to classify organisms in Biologie (biology). But enough of the sciency-stuff for the moment.
What are its origins?
Like most German words, it traces back to one of the mothers of modern European languages, Latin. It is based on the word classis which, believe it or not, means class, but also a fleet or ships and the beckoning of someone.
Its use as a positive exclamation is said to have originated during the second half of the 20th century.
How is it used?
Apart from its use in some academic fields, it is part of many Komposita, such as Schulklasse (school class) and Klassenraum (class room).
As mentioned earlier, it is used as a positive exclamation in German slang, but also acts as a part of other colloquial words, such as Klassefrau (meaning a very attractive woman) and Klassemann (meaning a good guy).
Strangely enough the last two don’t have all-too-similar meanings. It is frequently used as an adjective to say that something is good or awesome.
Uses of Klasse:
Sie ist ja eine klasse Tänzerin.
She’s a great dancer.
Und sie hat ja gesagt? Klasse!
And she said yes? Awesome!
Der neue Tarantino Film wird bestimmt klasse sein.
The new Tarantino Film is sure to be great.