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According to Google Ngram Viewer the word "letztendlich" is a very new invention in German language. Meanwhile this word is very present in all kinds of communication, be it formal or informal.

Is there any meaning this word has that an older term could not express?

I am asking because I believe this is a filler word that you can use to sound important without saying anything. "Ich denk mal letztendlich kommt es doch darauf an, dass man irgendwie grad mal eben eher mehr so das nicht wirklich Falsche tun müsste, um wirklich total nachhaltig gehandelt zu haben". Blabla. Typische Zeitverschwendung für den Zuhörer und "letztendlich" kommt letztendlich fast immer bei solchen Gelegenheiten vor. Es gibt keine anderen (diese Frage ausgenommen). Oder? (Useless stutter, a typical waste of time for the listener, and "letztendlich" always is a key part of such occasions (with this question being an exception). Right?)

So the question is:

What meaning does the young term "letztendlich" contribute that any other more classic term cannot express?

P.S.: The same seems to be true for "schlussendlich". This term is less popular, but has risen even steeper in last decade´s usage than "letztendlich".

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Fragen Sie Dr. Bopp: canoo.net/blog/2007/01/20/letztendlich –  chirlu Jul 18 '13 at 3:25
2  
Ja nee letztendlich frag ich ja nicht ohne Grund hier :) aber: danke. –  TheBlastOne Jul 18 '13 at 4:32
2  
Did you switch between languages or is the whole German part considered as example? Please use ">" to designated text as example and translate those parts that are not examples to English (or everything else to German). –  Em1 Jul 18 '13 at 7:15
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@chirlu: we want people to find the answer on German Language & Usage when searching via Google (on position 5 here). A comment with an external link is not a vaild answer very much like a link-only answer will not be valid too. We would like to encourage people to not only make up a link collection here but also write good answers. These may also include excerpts quoted from an external source. –  Takkat Jul 18 '13 at 9:22
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@Takkat Was für SE gut ist, muss ja nicht für die Ratsucher gut sein, oder? Wenn Google eine SE-Frage, in der nur mit einem kurzem Zitat auf eine das Thema erschöpfend behandelnde .edu-artige Seite verwiesen wird, zuerst aufführen sollte, wäre das dann gut oder schlecht für die Ratsucher? Derzeit stehen die Chancen, dass GLU aus dem Beta-Stadium hinauswächst, bei weniger als 50/50. Soweit es überhaupt in meiner Macht steht, die Chancen von GLU auf Fortdauer zu erhöhen, tue ich das jedenfalls, indem ich informative Antworten und Kommentare schreibe, ohne auf Suchmaschinen-Optimierung zu achten. –  Eugene Seidel Jul 19 '13 at 13:04

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A language is always changing. New words come, old words go. So it is not a question of what a new word contributes … just like in fashion.

I modified your n-gram to include letzten Endes. The result is very interesting. You can see an even faster rise of letzten Endes followed by a steady decline. Letztendlich is just hip at the moment. Maybe because it is shorter. Maybe because it has no Genetive. Maybe because it spares people the second of doubt as to whether to write it with a capital or not. However, chances are that letztendlich will have its peak someday and then a new star will be born.

At first I though it could be letztlich … but no … Google n-gram shows that it has overstayed its welcome already. But effektiv is to be watched out for ;)

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Interesting. I'd like to know how you all judge this kind of hip word usage. –  TheBlastOne Jul 22 '13 at 7:00
    
And the winner is: schließlich –  user unknown Jul 24 '13 at 21:46
    
and "schlussendlich" I guess –  TheBlastOne Jul 25 '13 at 6:01
    
@TheBlastOne: schließlich ist ein Link. Folgt man ihm kann man leicht ein schlußendlich ergänzen und beobachten, dass dieses unter der Wahrnehmungsgrenze bleibt. –  user unknown Jul 26 '13 at 12:12
    
I don't like the idea of schlußendlich being an innovation in any sense. You are right, though, in that my question implies new words need additional meaning to become popular. Unfortunately, they don´t. –  TheBlastOne Jul 29 '13 at 13:09

You can say:

This book (that you need to read for the exam) has 500 pages, but of all those 500 pages, only this 1 is really relevant.

German translation would be

Dieses Buch hat 500 Seiten, aber letztendlich ist nur diese Seite wichtig.

So in this sense, it expresses that all the rest is negligible.

I suppose you could see it as some kind of operator-precedence.

For example you have a SQL-query:

SELECT * FROM WHATEVER_TABLE WHERE (1=1) 
AND CONDITION 1 
AND CONDITION 2
AND CONDITION 3
AND CONDITION 4
AND CONDITION 5
OR CONDITION 6

And because you forgot the bracket beween

AND 
(
    CONDITION 5
    OR 
    CONDITION 6
)

letztendlich, only condition 6 is relevant.

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1  
Disagree. Translation would be "Dieses Buch (das Du für Deine Prüfung lesen musst) hat 500 Seiten, aber von diesen 500 Seiten ist nur diese eine wirklich relevant." No need for "letztendlich". And your SQL assumption is also false: If any of those conditions has side-effects, the result might be different from computing only CONDITION 6 as opposed to computing them all. (SQL does not do short-circuit evaluation of Boolean terms.) –  TheBlastOne Jul 22 '13 at 6:58
    
Wenn Condition 1 bis 5 alle zum gleichen Wahrheitswert auflösen, der im Gegensatz zu Condition 6 steht, dann ist nicht nur Bedingung 6 relevant. Während das Beispiel in sich falsch ist ist es aber m.E. richtig gemeint. @TheBlastOne: Das nur ist die Verdopplung des letztendlich, die dieses überflüssig macht, ja. Ohne dieses hätte Quandary Recht. –  user unknown Jul 24 '13 at 21:43

"Letztendlich" of course can be used as a simple and meaningless filler. But it also can express the wish to bring an end to a long discussion as being "the final conclusion" and rendering everything said before less important.

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