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Über or ueber (About this sound German pronunciation ) comes from the German language. It is a cognate of both Latin super and Greek ὑπέρ (hyper), as well as English over and above. It is also sometimes used as a hyphenated prefix in informal English, usually for emphasis.


The term in German

In German, über is used as a prefix as well as a word in its own right. Both uses indicate a state or action involving increased elevation or quantity in the physical sense, or superiority or excess in the abstract.

elevation: "überdacht" - roof-covered, roofed, [also: reconsidered, thought over]
quantity: "über 100 Meter" - more than 100 meter, "Überschall" - supersonic
superiority: "überlegen" - (adj) superior, elite, predominant. (verb) to consider
excess: "übertreiben" - to exaggerate, "überfüllt" - overcrowded

Über may be a preposition or an adverb depending on context. Eg. über etwas sprechen - to speak about something, über die Brücke - across the bridge.

Über also translates to over, above, meta and super, but mainly in compound words. The actual translation depends on context. One example would be Nietzsche's term Übermensch, discussed below; another example is the Deutschlandlied, which begins with the well-known words "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" meaning "Germany, Germany above everything" (though this strophe is not sung anymore).

The German word unter, meaning beneath or under, is antonymous to über. Unter can be found in words such as Untermensch, U-Bahn (Untergrundbahn = subway), U-Boot (Unterseeboot = submarine), as well as toponyms, such as Unter den Linden.

The term in English


The crossover of the term "über" from German into English goes back to the work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In 1883, Nietzsche coined the term "übermensch" to describe the higher state to which he felt men might aspire. The term was brought into English by George Bernard Shaw in the title to his 1903 play Man and Superman. During his rise to power, Adolf Hitler bastardized Nietzsche's term, using it in his descriptions of an Aryan master race. It was in this context that American Jewish comic book creator Jerry Siegel encountered the term and conceived the 1933 story "The Reign of Superman," in which "Superman" is "an evil mastermind with advanced mental powers"[1]. Throughout the following decade, Seigel, and Joseph Shuster, recast Superman into the iconic American hero he subsequently became. It is through this association with Superman the hero that the term "über" carries much of its English sense implying irresistibility or invincibility.

Current popular culture


One of the first popular modern uses of the word as a synonym in English for super was a Saturday Night Live TV sketch in 1979. The sketch, What if?, pondered the notion of what if the comic book hero Superman had landed in Nazi Germany when he first came from Krypton. Rather than being called Superman, he took the name of Überman.[2] Another more current usage of the word is by Fox News Glenn Beck who uses of the word "Überleft" to describe the far left wing of the Democratic Party in the United States.

Video games

During the 2000s, über also became known as a synonym for super due to gamers excessively using the word incorrectly; for example, in the game Team Fortress 2, the medigun's über-charge literally means "super-charge" and in the game SSX Tricky, a tricky move is also known as an über-trick.

In the video game Halo Wars, the flying unit vulture and the ground unit scarab are known as uber units; also, in the Real-Time strategy(RTS)game Supreme Commander, Experimental units are also known as "Uber units."

In the Pokemon series, the highest tier in the Smogon hierarchy is called the Uber Tier, and contains most legendaries and a few other 'unbalanced' pokemon.

In Diablo II, a hidden sidequest contains the three devil-like bosses, Diablo, Mephisto and Baal in a special, stronger version, which are often referred to by the diablo-community as "Uber-Diablo", "Uber-Mephisto" and "Uber-Baal".

In the game Spore you may purchase an Uber Turret to defend your planets.

In the game Burnout Paradise, one of the final vehicles you receive in the game is called the Krieger Überschall 8. A note to add is after performing a burnout in the vehicle, a sonicboom can be heard. This makes good sense seeing how überschall literally means "sonicboom" in German.

Differences from the German


The normal transliteration of the "ü" ('u' as an Umlaut) when used in writing systems without diacritics (such as airport arrival boards, older computer systems, etc.) is "ue", not just "u"; however, it could be argued that the English language use of the word, uber is a new word distinct from ueber. This is because English is defined by common use of words, which dictionaries and academia record, not the reverse. The use of 'ü', 'u', and 'ue' in the word is an emerging trend in common usage in English with no clear consensus.


An English expression like "über-cool" sounds rather awkward to the ears of a German, although it is commonly used in Switzerland. The Germans would rather use "obercool", where "ober" means "upper", "higher" or "superior". For example the German word for "first lieutenant" is "Oberleutnant" (as opposed to just "Leutnant" for "second lieutenant").

See also


  1. ^ Jewish Virtual Library
  2. ^ What If?, Saturday Night Live Transcripts, Retrieved 2007-11-16
  • Hock, Hans Heinrich, and Brian D. Joseph. "Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship: An Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1996.
  • Burridge, Kate. Weeds in the Garden of Words: Further Observations on the Tangled History of the English Language. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 2005.
  • Burridge, Kate. Blooming English: Observations on the Roots, Cultivation and Hybrids in the English Language. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Clausing, Stephen. English Influence of American German and American Icelandic. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1986.
  • Savan, Leslie. Slam dunks and No-Brainers: Language in your Life, Media, Business,Politics, and, like, Whatever. New York: Knopf, 2005.
  • Stanforth, Anthony W. Deutsche Einflüsse auf den englischen Wortschatz in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1996.

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