er·​satz | \ ˈer-ˌsäts How to pronounce ersatz (audio) , -ˌzäts; er-ˈzäts, -ˈsäts; ˈər-ˌsats How to pronounce ersatz (audio) \

Definition of ersatz

: being a usually artificial and inferior substitute or imitation ersatz turf ersatz intellectuals

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Other Words from ersatz

ersatz noun

Did You Know?

Ersatz can be traced back in English to 1875, 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." (Malcolm Jones Jr., Newsweek, April 22, 1996)

Examples of ersatz in a Sentence

an apartment complex designed as an ersatz Mediterranean villa like everything else the restaurant served, the whipped cream on the dessert was ersatz
Recent Examples on the Web Walmart is not the only company turning its parking lots into ersatz cinemas. Sebastian Blanco, Car and Driver, "Drive-In Movies Coming to Walmart Later This Summer," 6 July 2020 With the agreement of the Icelandic government, U.S. authorities created fake classified documents for Sabu to feed Assange, including an ersatz map purporting to show the computer network topology of the government. Washington Post, "Justice Department broadens case against Julian Assange," 25 June 2020 Ten miles southwest of the Denver airport, Izidor is living in an ersatz Romanian cottage. Melissa Fay Greene, The Atlantic, "Can an Unloved Child Learn to Love?," 18 June 2020 On top of the millions of real-world miles logged by its cars, Waymo claims to have generated well over a billion miles-worth of data using ersatz driving in virtual environments. The Economist, "Automobiles Driverless cars show the limits of today’s AI," 13 June 2020 As a result, the consequences of America’s subsequent affinity for war, whether real or ersatz, take a backseat to gearing up for the next go-round. Andrew J. Bacevich, The New Republic, "Will 2020 Finally Kill America’s War Fetish?," 9 June 2020 The shoes remind me of how certain ersatz practices can seem perfectly normal until the march of history exposes them as absurd. New York Times, "A Bank President Bridges Cultures in Downtown Los Angeles," 9 Mar. 2018 Live webcams allow schoolchildren to take ersatz field trips to zoos and famous geographical sites. The Economist, "Life imitates art Creative self-isolators are recreating famous artworks at home," 14 May 2020 The hikers walked up and down a small set of stairs, over and over again, documenting the ersatz trek on Zoom. Melissa Locker, Time, "This Man Climbed the Equivalent of Mount Everest at Home During Social Isolation," 22 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ersatz.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ersatz

1871, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ersatz

German ersatz-, from Ersatz, noun, substitute

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Time Traveler for ersatz

Time Traveler

The first known use of ersatz was in 1871

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Last Updated

15 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ersatz.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for ersatz


How to pronounce ersatz (audio) How to pronounce ersatz (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ersatz

: copied from something else and usually not as good as the original

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More from Merriam-Webster on ersatz

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ersatz

Spanish Central: Translation of ersatz

Nglish: Translation of ersatz for Spanish Speakers

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