German Language Stack Exchange is a bilingual question and answer site for speakers of all levels who want to share and increase their knowledge of the German language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I stumbled upon the English term Truthiness

"truth" that a person claims to know intuitively "from the gut" in that it "feels right" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts

I like this word very much, especially in the context of conspiracy theories.

But it seems impossible to translate as a single German word, despite German having common diminutive suffixes like -chen.

What are general common rules and colloquial options to minimize (verniedlichen) German terms by using suffixes and/or phonetic tricks?

share|improve this question
I don't think the term is what you're searching for, but maybe it evolved in a similar way - I just stumbled upon it from the other side - what does "Wahrscheinlichkeit" mean? Something seems true - 'scheint wahr'. – user unknown Sep 12 '11 at 20:24
up vote 16 down vote accepted

Truthiness isn't a minimization of the word truth, though — what Colbert did when he invented that phrase was incorrectly turn the word truth into the adjective truthy by adding -y to it (correct adjective would be "true", of course), and then turn it back into a noun by adding -ness.

If you wanted to do a similar thing to the word Wahrheit, you'd end up with Wahrheitlichkeit or Wahrheitigkeit, or, if you want fewer syllables, you can start out with wahr and get Wahrlichkeit or Wahrigkeit.

Out of those options, I like "Wahrheitlichkeit" best, but none of them are quite as funny or pithy as "truthiness".

In general, you can minimize German terms by adding the suffixes -chen (Schirmchen, Kätzchen) or -lein (Häuslein, Tischlein). The vowel often becomes an umlaut when you do this.

German dialects also have minimizing suffixes of their own, e.g. -le in Swabian or -erl in Bavarian.

share|improve this answer
+1 for the etymological explanation. truthiness is just a example for possible Verniedlichung, the question is more how to build such verniedlichende Begriffe in general in German. Wahrheit isnt probably the best term to show this. – Hauser Sep 11 '11 at 11:09
I edited my answer to be a bit more general. Someone else should probably add some more detail on how to know whether it's "-chen" or "-lein", or when to use an umlaut, because I actually don't know what the rules are there. – Cass Sep 11 '11 at 15:57

It should be pointed out, that "truthiness" is a coined word (by Stephen Colbert in this case, with the intention to make a joke). So basically, you could equally make up a German word:



Wahrheitle (schwäbisch),

Wahrheiterl (bayrisch),


Wirklichkeitigkeit (intentionally violating usual rules of constructing a word),




None of these words exist in the dictionary (yet), and admittedly, none of them sound as good or as funny as Truthiness.

share|improve this answer
+1 imo Wahrheiterl is just perfect lol. If possible try to generalize this a bit more, truthiness was just a single motivating example. Probably the solution to this problem lies proper use of dialects, they seem to offer more phonetic options than high german, the high german options sound pretty artificial – Hauser Sep 11 '11 at 11:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.