German word of the day: Die Affenhitze
As Switzerland continues to swelter under a heatwave, give today’s word of the day a go if you decide to step outside and brave the heat.
After a week or so of soaring temperatures, do you find yourself running out of ways to talk about the weather with your friends and neighbours? If so, then the word “Affenhitze” may come in handy.
This noun, which translates directly as “monkey heat”, may seem a little strange to English speakers at first.
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But the word is a German staple for small talk in the summer, often used to refer to sweltering heat and excessively high temperatures.
In English, you’d probably use terms such as ‘boiling’ or ‘scorcher’ rather than simply ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ when the mercury really starts to soar.
Affenhitze, as this tweet implies, is known to be so strong that it discourages going outside.
Similarly, the word “Affenhitze” in German marks a step up from the noun “Hitze” (heat), and is usually reserved for when the heat becomes particularly unbearable.
But what do monkeys have to do with heat waves?
Well, it is thought that the term originated in Berlin at the end of the 19th century. Back then, the Berlin Zoological Garden was home to a monkey house (Affenhaus) known for its blisteringly hot temperatures.
During hot weather people then began to speak of a “Hitze wie im Affenstall” (heat like in the monkey house) and the phrase was eventually shortened to “Affenhitze”, a term now used across German-speaking countries today.
Was für eine Affenhitze!
What a scorcher! / It’s absolutely boiling!
Morgen herrscht wieder eine Affenhitze.
We’re in for another scorcher tomorrow.
This story first appeared on our sister site, The Local Germany on a particularly hot day in August 2020.