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German is famous for creating words for which there is no direct English translation (schadenfreude, weltanschauung, zeitgeist, etc.) It also creates fantastic compound words.

One of my friends asked if there was a German word that would express the dread some people have when everything's going really well, but they feel things may go completely off the rails at any moment.

I looked around and couldn't find anything that quite met the bill. So I made one up. I came up with "Die Gemütlichangst".

(A) Is there an actual German word that expresses this feeling? (B) Does my made-up word make any sense?

  • there was a question about compound words, your speficic one is not the topic: german.stackexchange.com/questions/50005/… – Shegit Brahm Jul 29 at 6:14
  • As is becoming clear in the answers, evaluating your success at creating a neologism, "Gemütlichangst", and looking for a word that reflects what you want to say are almost like two different questions for which different answers might end up being "best". – O. R. Mapper Jul 29 at 9:06
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[...] a German word that would express the dread some people have when everything's going really well but they feel things may go completely off the rails at any moment.

There are at least two words expressing this to some degree and also being well-understood:

1) Abstiegsangst

It has two meanings. One is more soccer related (Abstieg means relegation). The other one fits your description to a greater degree:
It describes the fear of social descent, e. g. of the middle class. When people have Abstiegsangst, things are still going well, but they fear that everything becomes worse in the future.

2) Zukunftsangst

This one also fits, but not as good. Its meaning is more of a general fear of the future. Depending on the context, e. g. when it's known that everything is fine now, it could be used, though. It might better capture the idea of a rapid or even sudden deterioration.


Regarding Gemütlichangst, I agree with this answer. It would rather be Gemütlichkeitsangst, else it sounded like the fear was in some way make you feel comfortable.

  • 1
    +1 for Abstiegsangst – jonathan.scholbach Jul 29 at 6:37
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    Compounds with -sorgen are also common: Abstiegssorgen, Zukunftssorgen – It rhymes! Er hatte keine Sorgen vor dem Morgen. – Janka Jul 29 at 8:52
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(A)

Verlustangst (credits to Philipp)

Verlustangst ("fear of losing") is a term which is used especially in relationships. This might not fit your description in all scenarios, because it is really strongly associated with interpersonal relationships, but in these cases it matches the fear to lose someone. It still lacks the idea that it occurs when it is particularly going well.

(B)

Syntax

You composed your noun of an adjective and a noun. The proper way of composition would be to use two nouns here. I cannot explain a rule, because sometimes there are also words composed of an adjective and a noun (such as Schnellzug, and Freibier for instance). I guess in these cases, the adjective has to characterise the noun, which is not the case in your example, because the fear is not comfortable, but it's about being comfortable. So the word would rather be Gemütlichkeitsangst.

Semantics

I think, the word Gemütlichkeitsangst would not be understood the way you want it, rather it would be taken as "the fear to feel too cozy", maybe somewhat similar to fear of missing out.

Other possibilities

Polykratesangst

What you describe is very much the fear to share the fate of Polycrates. So you could call your feeling Polykratesangst. On the one hand this does nail it, but on the other hand it would be understood by only few people, since Polycrates is not so well known nowadays among Germans, even if Friedrich Schiller wrote a nice poem on him: Der Ring des Polykrates

Verhängnisangst

The bad fate which would be feared by the fear you describe is called Verhängnis in German. The english words fate, doom, also kismet come close to its meaning, but German Verhängnis is always a bad fate, never a good one. So, you could use Verhängnisangst, which would be understood as "the fear to suffer from bad fate". It does not sound very "natural" to me, but this might be due to its nature of a neologism.

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This does not fit exactly, Sir, but a German, who cannot push down his fears to zero at any time, has a

Grundangst

which lacks a specific reason.

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    In this case: Grund as in basic, not as in reason, because this angst is quite unbegründet :) – Philipp Jul 29 at 7:22
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If I may expand on a point briefly mentioned by Jonathan: x-Angst (where x is a noun) means "fear of X". y-Angst (where y is an adjective) means "a fear which is y". These are two different types of compounds in German (and in English, and in Indo-European, for that matter). Your "Gemütlichangst" does not fit either of these possibilities.

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There exists no common compound word for that, but an idiom similar to the English „calm before the storm“. As an example, „Das ist schön, aber vielleicht nur die Ruhe vor dem Sturm“ expresses that you enjoy this moment, but are afraid that something bad happens soon.

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I would not use a single (compound) word, but I recommend to say

"Ich traue dem Frieden nicht."

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