A masculine noun coined by students in the 19th century from the word air (“Luft”) and by adding the Latin ending -kus. Originally used to describe an airhead, i.e., a carefree man with his head in the clouds. In English one might equate it with someone who is featherbrained or a dreamer. Don’t you know someone who doesn’t quite seem to live in reality or just isn’t very grounded?
Today the meaning has shifted to describe somebody who is reckless, unreliable and superficial. It certainly seems to have a negative connotation to it. Phrases such as “she realized quickly what a Luftikus he was” are very common in today’s conversations among German speakers.
On the other hand, it can also be used to describe an eccentric person, an oddball or crack pot. A happy-go-lucky character who just wants to have fun.
Do you have a face pop up in your head right about now?
By Regine Poirier, German Embassy