Ersatz means "substituting for, and typically inferior in quality to", e. It is a German word literally meaning substitute or replacement. Although it is used as an adjective in English, Ersatz can only function in German as a noun on its own, or as a part in compound nouns such as Ersatzteile or Ersatzspieler. While the term used in English often implies that the substitution is of unsatisfactory or inferior quality compared to the "real thing," it has both connotations in German, depending on the other noun; e. Another German word for "Ersatz-" is Surrogat. In English, "ersatz" arose as a pejorative during World War II because Ersatzbrot made of potato starch, frequently stretched with extenders such as sawdust, was often given to prisoners of war. This practice was prevalent on the Eastern front and at the many Nazi labour and death camps. In Britain, this was additionally popularised as an adjective, from the experiences of thousands of U. These Allied Kriegsgefangene were given Ersatzkaffee as a coffee substitute by their German captors. We're doing our best to make sure our content is useful, accurate and safe.
Did You Know?
Sign up, it's free!
Add ersatz to one of your lists below, or create a new one. Improve your vocabulary with English Vocabulary in Use from Cambridge. Learn the words you need to communicate with confidence. If you say that someone is grown up, you mean that they are an adult or that they behave in a responsible way.
Test your vocabulary with our fun image quizzes
To save this word, you'll need to log in. Ersatz can be traced back in English to , but it really came into prominence during World War I. Borrowed from German, where Ersatz is a noun meaning "substitute," the word was frequently applied as an adjective in English to items like coffee from acorns and flour from potatoes - ersatz products resulting from the privations of war. By the time World War II came around, bringing with it a resurgence of the word along with more substitute products, ersatz was wholly entrenched in the language. Today, ersatz can be applied to almost anything that seems like an artificial imitation: "Even when those marketplaces did succeed, the fun always felt a little ersatz. Send us feedback. Dictionary Entries near ersatz error of closure error of estimate Ersar ersatz ersatz reserve Erse Erskine. Accessed 15 Aug. Keep scrolling for more More Definitions for ersatz ersatz. Please tell us where you read or heard it including the quote, if possible.
Ersatz is a German word literally meaning substitute or replacement. In German orthography noun phrases formed are usually represented as a single word, forming compound nouns such as Ersatzteile "spare parts" or Ersatzspieler "substitute player". While the term used in English often implies that the substitution is of unsatisfactory or inferior quality compared with the "real thing", in German, similar connotations are not inherent and depend purely on the factual context; e. Ersatzteile "spare parts" is a technical expression without any implication about quality, whereas in other cases it may mean things of poorer quality, e. Kaffeeersatz a coffee substitute not made from coffee beans. In the opening months of World War I , replacement troops for battle-depleted German infantry units were drawn from lesser-trained Ersatz Corps , who were less effective than the troops they replaced. Another example of the word's usage in Germany exists in the German naval construction programs at the beginning of the 20th century. In this context, the phrasing "Ersatz shipname " indicates that a new, larger or more capable ship was a replacement for an ageing or lost vessel. Because German practice was not to reveal the name of a new ship until its launch, this meant that the ship was known by its "Ersatz shipname " throughout its construction. At the end of World War I, the last three ships of the planned Mackensen class of battlecruisers were redesigned and initially known simply as the Ersatz Yorck class , since the first ship was considered to be a replacement for the lost armored cruiser Yorck.