I would like to understand the meaning of the word Autoritätsdusel in the quote

Autoritätsdusel ist der größte Feind der Wahrheit

from Albert Einstein from 1901. I have already looked for translations:

  1. Authority gone to one's head is the greatest enemy of truth (Collected Papers, Volume 1, 1987)
  2. Blind obedience to authority is the greatest enemy of truth (Highfield and Carter, 1993).
  3. The stupor of authority is the greatest enemy of truth (Sommer, 2001).
  4. Authority fluff is the greatest enemy of truth (Google Translate, 2023-01-09).
  5. Authority bias is the greatest enemy of truth (ChatGPT, 2023-01-09).

But translations always have to cut some of the semantics, especially when they words and phrases are affected which are semantically rich, subjective, vague or have multiple ways of being interpreted.

Which of the above translations is best, and are there aspects of the interpretation which just got lost in translation? (Does someone here have a better translation?)

See also this 2008 WordReference discussion.


1 Answer 1


The question is kind of opinion-based ("Which translation is the best?") and requires expertise in English, I'm not sure if it's a good fit for this site. What I can do though is try to explain the German word.

"Dusel" means "Rausch", i.e. the effect of all kinds of drugs, with a translation somewhere between frenzy, buzz and inebriety, with allusions to drowsiness (compare "dösen" - to drowse). To me, it sounds like it's more on the lighter side, but I'm not sure how it sounded to Einstein.

"Autoritätsdusel" is a colorful compound word that I hadn't ever heard before, but, as David Vogt pointed out in the comments, was already used in the 19th century. It seems like it was a rare word though, so I'm not sure how clear and well-established its meaning was when Einstein used it.

To me (and I'm not a native speaker of English), "authority gone to one's head" looks like a good translation, "the stupor of authority" is fine. Stupor seems a bit harsher than Dusel, but I can't exclude that it was what Einstein meant. "Blind obedience to authority" seems oversimplified. "Authority bias" seems less opinionated and colorful than the German word.

  • 2
    Einstein didn't make up the word (although it is quite rare): google.com/…
    – David Vogt
    Jan 11, 2023 at 19:39
  • 1
    @DavidVogt thanks a lot, that's quite important regarding its interpretation of course. I read through the citations, but still couldn't get a good idea of how harsh it was meant. I rewrote some of the answer though.
    – HalvarF
    Jan 11, 2023 at 21:37

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