Word of the Day

the Berlin Wall

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the wall that divided the German city of Berlin from 1961 until 1989

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

Berlin Wall is a translation of the German ‘Berliner Mauer’. It is so well-known that it is sometimes referred to simply as ‘the wall’, as in ‘The day the wall came down’.


Saturday was the 30th anniversary of the day when the checkpoints in the concrete barrier that divided the city of Berlin in two were opened on the East German side, allowing more or less free passage from one side to the other. The term ‘wall’ is perhaps misleading here: it was more of a rampart, puntuated by towers and with a wide area in front of it containing trenches and other defences. The demolition of the wall started immediately as people chipped off pieces to take away as souvenirs; the wall was demolished the following year, the year of German reunification, having stood for almost 30 years. The Berlin Wall formed part of the Iron Curtain, the physical borders that divided Eastern and Western Europe during the Cold War, the period of tension and hostility between the Soviet Union and the Western nations between 1945 and the end of the 1980s.


Walls in people’s heads are sometimes more durable than walls made of concrete blocks.”
(Willy Brandt)

Related words

checkpoint, cold war, the Bay of Pigs, the Iron Curtain

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter


  • Thank you for your comment; I was wondering if someone would make that point. I think the category ‘Word of the Day’ can perfectly well accommodate multiword items. ‘The Berlin Wall’ is a unit of language that behaves like a noun (though Macmillan Dictionary doesn’t actually label it as such) as distinct from things we label as phrases, like ‘go to the wall’ or ‘hit the wall’. So I think it’s perfectly legitimate to have it as a Word of the Day.

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