'sogenannt' – a tricky German word

The German term sogenannt has a neutral connotation. In contrast to the English 'so-called', which is almost always used ironically or with some suggestion that what is being referred to is inappropriately named, German speakers mostly use sogenannt literally. That said, they do occasionally use the term ironically, as in deine sogenannte Freunde or der sogenannte Sommer.

Translation pitfalls

The use of 'so-called' as a translation for sogenannt is misleading in most cases. German speakers frequently use sogenannt to introduce English terms in German sentences, such as in Damit wird ein sogenanntes Ranking erstellt. In such cases, there is no need to include a translation of the term.

Sample sentences

Here are some German sentence examples:

  1. Das sogenannte Europaviertel in Frankfurt am Main.
  2. Zu diesem Zweck werden sogenannte Roundtables einberufen.
  3. Das sogenannte Presidential Center ist Bill Clinton gewidmet.
  4. Was ist das sogenannte Horn von Afrika?
  5. Die Felsentaube ist ein sogenannter Standvogel.
  6. Damit entsteht das sogenannte Drei-Kreis-Modell.

Sample translations

The following are some possible translations of the above examples:

  1. The Europaviertel (European quarter) in Frankfurt.
  2. Roundtable meetings are convened for this purpose.
  3. The Presidential Center is dedicated to Bill Clinton.
  4. What is actually meant by the Horn of Africa?
  5. The rock pigeon is a 'sedentary' bird.
  6. This results in what is known as the Three-Circle Model.

Translation strategies