Help support Wordnik by adopting your favorite word!

Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Being an imitation or a substitute, usually an inferior one; artificial: ersatz coffee made mostly of chicory. See Synonyms at artificial.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Made in imitation; artificial, especially of an inferior quality.
  • n. : Something made in imitation; an effigy or substitute.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. artificial and inferior
  • n. an artificial or inferior substitute or imitation

Etymologies

German, replacement, from ersetzen, to replace, from Old High German irsezzan : ir-, out; see ud- in Indo-European roots + sezzan, to set; see sed- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the German Ersatz ("a replacement"); and from the German verb ersetzen ("to replace"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I went back to the saucer and got one of the picnic blankets we'd taken from the spome, came back to the little pool and sat again, all wrapped up, looking out over ersatz cityscape, remembering that where my dad had taken German in college, Murray's dad had taken French, so Murray would say _faux, _ where I said _ersatz_.

    Asimov's Science Fiction

  • MANKOFF: One of the things about humor is I think, it is what I call ersatz humor, not your stuff of course, but the politicians 'stuff, where it sort of -- it is actually not meant to be very funny, you see it in advertising, I mean that is the whole point.

    CNN Transcript - Special Event: Millennium 2000: Humor Roundtable - January 1, 2000

  • The_Hat fought like a dream, and together we wallowed in ersatz murderous play for what felt like hours, but was mere minutes.

    Kurtzhau! (Fighting within the system)

  • First of all let me congratulate you on the basis that any time you can work the word ersatz into a discussion, its a good one.

    Baseball Analysts

  • The button got quite the workout during this exercise in ersatz ‘60s hipness, with Ann-Margret as a decent Midwestern girl pretending to be a hellion so she can be published in a smut rag.

    VinceKeenan.com

  • Dubbed "ersatz capitalism" in the 1980s by economist Kunio Yoshihara, this is why it's rare for entrepreneurs to make the list of the region's richest men as happens regularly in Europe and North America.

    Asia's Export Day of Reckoning

  • February 21st, 2009 at 1: 38 pm it would be interesting to try to learn more about that and see how much they acted as a kind of ersatz prison system.

    Matthew Yglesias » Out of the Insane Asylum, and Into the Prison

  • What is it with my fellow academics who think that we can turn a public hearing – particularly in an age of mass media – into some kind of ersatz classroom seminar (even one geared to freshmen)?

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Kagan Confirmation Hearings as a “Teaching Moment”

  • Perseus: What is it with my fellow academics who think that we can turn a public hearing – particularly in an age of mass media – into some kind of ersatz classroom seminar (even one geared to freshmen)?

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Kagan Confirmation Hearings as a “Teaching Moment”

  • The "ersatz" did not stimulate my appetite, when I was dreaming of chocolate and oranges!

    Luc Montagnier - Autobiography

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • False, fake and faux do not mean uncouth.
    Why many good words to signal untruth?
    Perhaps in our hearts
    We love what's ersatz.
    We cherish the phony and sham, forsooth.

    This is a reposting to remedy an inadvertent deletion. (Damned touchy, those iPad screens.) Ersatz was the Word of the Day on April 26, 2014, when this limerick was originally posted.)

    August 16, 2014

  • Gorn, empink yersel'.

    April 28, 2014

  • I am pleased that someone read one of my limericks but I do not know what color to adopt. Should I be empinked with pride or empurpled with rage? Is Dylan’s reputation as a rhymer one of precision or wild abandon? I am afraid I share the opinion of the estimable Katherine Powers that Dylan is a tiresome mountebank. However, my confidence in Bilby’s benevolence persuades me that praise was intended.

    April 28, 2014

  • If hearts/ersatz is any guide, qms is rapidly becoming the limerick Bob Dylan of fanciful definitions.

    April 27, 2014

  • Faux sure.

    December 7, 2008

  • Although the rains dissolve a bloody dye:
    The ersatz petals drip, and they drip red

    from "Electra on Azalea Path," by Sylvia Plath

    April 8, 2008

  • "He went back into the bathroom and used the mouthwash to rinse away the last of the toothpaste. It was a non-alcoholic mouthwash. Like the cough medicine. And the ersatz vanilla in the cupboard. He had not taken a drink since completing the last Stark novel."
    - 'The Dark Half', Stephen King.

    December 31, 2007