Word of the Week: Litfaßsäule

© picture alliance / Johann Pesl

If you’ve been to Germany, you’ve probably seen many Litfaßsäulen – especially in the cities.

Litfaßsäule is a tall cyclindrival advertising column usually placed on sidewalks (in English, you would call this a Morris column). Although several European cities use this type of structure for advertising, they were actually invented in Germany. Thus, the word Litfaßsäule is also uniquely German.

The term comes from the words Litfaß and Säule. The word Säule means “column” or “pillar”.

But don’t worry if you don’t know what Litfaß means. It’s not actually a German word. Instead, Litfaß is the surname of the man who invented this type of column.

The Litfaßsäule was invented by German printer Ernst Litfaß in 1854. In the following year, Litfaß installed 100 of these advertising columns all throughout Berlin. Today, these columns are used in other cities – including Paris. Litfaßsäulen most often display posters advertising entertainment such as theater productions, movies, nightclubs and concerts.

While New York is famous for its giant billboards, Berlin is famous for its ever-present Litfaßsäulen that bring color to city sidewalks!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

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