Word of the Week: Leiwand [ˈlaɪ̯vant]

Awesome, cool, excellent. Sometimes emphasized as urleiwand or voi leiwand (totally awesome).

Adjective. Awesome, cool, excellent. Sometimes emphasized as urleiwand or voi leiwand (totally awesome). Ubiquitous in Viennese slang, its most prominent use is in one of Austria’s unofficial national anthems, “Schifoan” (“Skiing”), in which singer Wolfgang Ambros exclaims “Skiing is des Leiwandste (the most awesome) thing imaginable.”

Stems from the similar sounding Leinwand (canvas, screen, linen), but aside from that, the origin is unclear. Various theories abound: One references the traditionally high price and implied luxury of linen garments; another claims it comes from Viennese criminal slang, where lookouts indicated the coast was clear by saying Ois Leiwand (everything’s canvas), indicating everything’s “picture perfect,” like an oil painting on canvas.

A slightly more elaborate explanation goes back to Vienna’s Bürgerspital (People’s Hospital), an early attempt at health care for the needy, which existed from 1257 to 1784: To help fund its charitable work, it received various privileges, including the right to engage in the profitable textile trade, and a monopoly on brewing and selling beer in Vienna from 1432.

Apparently, the suds served to thirsty merchants at the Bürgerspital’s linen halls were so good it became synonymous with all things amazing.

In its contemporary use, Leiwand is the archenemy of oasch (ass), which, aside from its literal meaning, is also a catchall adjective for all things sucky, lame or derisive. Some of the more waggish left wing political elements have popularized the idiom Für Leiwand, Gegen Oasch! (Pro Awesome, Anti Ass!) as a tongue-in-cheek battle cry.

The Word of the Week can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Spread the word!

Stories are what make a city great. METROPOLE tells Vienna’s in English. Whether it’s insights about personalities, businesses or ideas, METROPOLE curates them for an international public. Looking to enrich your experience here? METROPOLE recommends events and locations to help make your Vienna story worth the telling.

Help us help you

"Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us."

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included - advertising.

We need your support to keep it up - donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!

RECENT Articles


Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.