er·​satz ˈer-ˌsäts How to pronounce ersatz (audio)
ˈər-ˌsats How to pronounce ersatz (audio)
: being a usually artificial and inferior substitute or imitation
ersatz turf
ersatz intellectuals
ersatz noun

Did you know?

Evidence of ersatz in English dates to the middle of the 19th century, but the word didn’t come into prominence until World War I. Borrowed from German, where Ersatz is a noun meaning "substitute," the word was frequently applied as an adjective to modify terms like coffee (made from acorns) and flour (made from potatoes)—ersatz products necessitated by the privations of war. By the time World War II came around, bringing with it a resurgence of ersatz products, ersatz was wholly entrenched in the language. Today, ersatz describes any substitute or imitation, especially when it’s inferior to the original.

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 The kludge is so technically difficult for digital technology to incorporate that other, ersatz methods of timekeeping — unofficial, but free of leap seconds and easier to implement — have begun to displace U.T.C., according to a recent article in the journal Metrologia. Alanna Mitchell, New York Times, 14 Nov. 2022 Both works are attuned to the allure of ersatz luxury in conditions of material deprivation, as well as the social and emotional effects of chronic lack. Jess Bergman, The New Yorker, 8 Nov. 2023 Throughout the film, the replicants — which are engineered to die after just four years to prevent their development — reflect on their ersatz humanity and the eternally looming specter of death. Tucker Harris, Washington Post, 29 Sep. 2023 Moore’s face was round, without high cheekbones—the perfect canvas for an ersatz wizening. Lexi Pandell, WIRED, 31 Aug. 2023 The team left Jones as the only QB on the initial 53-man roster, cutting his ersatz competition, second-year signal-caller Bailey Zappe. Globe Staff,, 30 Aug. 2023 Like Meta’s ersatz TikTok copycat, Reels, the platform could become a dupe for dorks, destined to fester in the shadow of its original. WIRED, 7 July 2023 His team and the Cambridge team stopped their experiments when the ersatz embryos were the equivalent of natural 14-day-old human embryos. Bymitch Leslie,, 17 June 2023 One way in which researchers have tried to delve into events after the blastocyst stage is by producing ersatz embryos from mouse stem cells. Bymitch Leslie,, 17 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ersatz.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


German ersatz-, from Ersatz, noun, substitute

First Known Use

1871, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ersatz was in 1871


Dictionary Entries Near ersatz

Cite this Entry

“Ersatz.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

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