German words you need to know: Die Herbstfärbung

Chalkboard depicting German word of the day
Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr
Next time you're lamenting Germany's cold, wet weather, why not head out for a walk and pay special attention to the fiery oranges, yellows and browns of the autumnal leaves around you? Unsurprisingly, German has a word to describe this beautiful part of the season: die Herbstfärbung.

When the nights start getting longer and the days shorter, it’s clear that summer is well and truly over, and autumn has arrived.

But though you may feel a little morose about the long winter ahead, autumn isn’t without its joys – most memorably the vibrant leaves of red, yellow and brown decorating the trees and lifting people’s moods at this time of year. In Germany, there is of course a compound noun to perfectly describe this colourful transition.

“Die Herbstfärbung”, meaning autumn colouring, or “die Herbstlaubfärbung”, literally translated to autumn foliage colouring, describes the changing colours of the leaves across Germany from September through to November. This process typically creates a picturesque landscape, whether in one of Germany’s countless forests or on the tree-lined streets in the middle of a city.

It’s no wonder that German’s often nickname the autumnal month of October as “Golden October” due to the “Herbstfärbung” – especially when the sun shines in a yellow-reddish hue onto the colourful leaves – and enjoy spending their time on walks and hikes amongst the trees and the autumn foliage.

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Of course, the land of poets and thinkers has plenty of poems describing the “Herbstfärbung” process – Rainer Maria Rilke’s Blätter, Ludwig Strunz’s Herbst, Anita Menger’s Wenn Blätter bunt sich färben and Theodor Fontane’s Herbst amongst many others.

Next time you’re on an autumn walk with some of your German friends, point out the “Herbstfärbung” to impress them with your knowledge of a classic German compound noun. And if you’re feeling crafty, why not gather up some of those colourful autumn leaves to create an autumn wreath, or “ein Herbstkranz”, and give your front door a seasonal touch of “Herbstfärbung”.


Die Herbstfärbung verleiht der Stadt ein wirklich herbstliches Gefühl.

The autumn colours are making the city feel really autumnal.

Ich freue mich schon auf die Herbstfärbung in Berlin.

I’m already looking forward to the autumn colours in Berlin.

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