I am following the book German for Reading: A Programmed Approach and on page 207 point 39 there is an example sentence:

... und mit Unbefangenheit die Zügel der Regierung in die Hand nahmen ...

which translates to

... and took the reins of the government into their hands with ease ...

and actually the author specifically says that Unbefangenheit = ease.

However, when looking upon a dictionary, I can only find meanings like impartiality, objectiveness, unbiased, etc. There are nothing relevent to ease. In fact, I even found a paper saying that

"Unbefangenheit" is the German translation of the Japanese term mushi ... (which) is an expression of "non-ego"... The German translation ... (means) "dissolution of bias/prejudice/interest", it indicates something like "free of ego", "impartiality" or "absence of subjectivity".

Thus my question is, how is "Unbefangenheit" related to "ease"? Is it some ancient deprecated usage?

  • 1
    I do not know Japanese, but I doubt that "Unbefangenheit" is the unique German translation of the Japanese "mushi". According to the linked paper "mushi" seems to a complex concept. But of course "Unbefangenheit" may be a facet of "mushi".
    – Paul Frost
    Nov 30, 2022 at 11:09

4 Answers 4


The underlying concept of Unbefangenheit, so to say, is something like "uninfluenced by prior experiences and judgements". This state can have two concrete, but different instantiations:

  • The one you looked up in a dictionary and can be translated as "impartial, objective, unbiased". In this usage, it is applied, for example, to judges.
  • A rarer usage you have found: "with a fresh mind; not sticking to tradition or old rules". A typical phrase would be unbefangen an eine Sache herangehen.

Now, the translation as "ease" is not really literal, but fitting in this context, as it well represents the intended "taking a fresh start at leading the government".

  • Thanks! Now I understand!
    – HanXu
    Dec 1, 2022 at 9:28

Nothing "ancient deprecated". I interpret this as side meaning from the context.

see https://www.dwds.de/wb/Unbefangenheit

So it stems from "fangen" aka trapped. Trapped in the context of a government can mean that I am carrying around all the entanglements of the past.
"Unbefangen", the opposite, I start fresh, new, don't have to pay attention to the past so much, and therefore be at ease.

  • Understood. Thank you!
    – HanXu
    Dec 1, 2022 at 9:28

Unbefangenheit just means, that one is not under influence of something, but this something is implicit and hidden in the context provided. If the context suggests something to mean anything, which is simply an extreme case, ease can be a viable translation, but in most cases a more restricted meaning applies.


The adjective befangen means biased and unbefangen is unbiased. So die Unbefangenheit is the state of not being biased.

In your example sentence however, it is meant as an euphemism. The relevant phrase everyone knows of is

mit der Unbefangenheit eines Kindes — „unbiased as a child“ — knowing nothing

And that's why the translator had chosen ease as in die Leichtigkeit, der Leichtsinn — improvidence, foolishness.

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