Look-ups for gesellschaft spiked dramatically on the evening of May 26th, following the appearance of the the word in the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The competition ended this year in a tie, as it has in the two previous years; the winning words spelled by each contestant were gesellschaft and Feldenkrais. The words were spelled by Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar, respectively.
Gesellschaft was borrowed directly from the German, in which it means “companionship” or “society." It refers to a type of social relationship that is rationally developed and characterized by impersonally contracted associations, such as the relationship among people who work for the same business.
The word is often contrasted with gemeinschaft, another word of German origin, which is defined as “a spontaneously arising organic social relationship characterized by strong reciprocal bonds of sentiment and kinship within a common tradition.”
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