German word of the day: Verwickeln

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Ever get mixed up in something you’d much rather be out of? Then our German word of the day could come in useful.

Published: 19 August 2022 13:08 CEST

Photo: Photo: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

Why do I need to know verwickeln?

Because whether you’re sharing funny anecdotes or reporting back to your boss at work, it’s always good to be clear about who was involved in what.

Plus, you’re likely to read it in the German news whenever a scandal hits the front pages. 

What does it mean?

In case you hadn’t guessed it, the verb verwickeln means “to involve”. It can be used in a relatively neutral sense – like the English “involve” – but also has an array of more negative connotations, such as “to embroil”, “to entangle” or “to enmesh”.

Generally, if you’re using verwickeln, it can imply that somebody’s wrapped up in something they don’t necessary want to be involved in, like a scandal or some social drama. You can also use it reflexively with the preposition “in”, much like in English, to describe entangling yourself in something.

Where did it come from?

The main root of the word verwickeln – “wickel” – is a verb dating back to the 16th century that means to wind or wrap around something.

Together with the prefix “ver”, which often signifies something being done in error or causing damage of some kind, it’s not hard to see how wrapping could turn in to entangling.

Just like the English verb “entangle”, getting embroiled in a tricky situation is compared to quite literally being tied up in knots. 

Use it like this:

In diese Angelegenheit möchte ich ganz und gar nicht verwickelt werden.

I don’t want to get involved in this matter at all.

Er könnte irgendwie in den Skandal verwickelt sein.

He could be embroiled in the scandal somehow.