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What does uber-word mean in the following context?

This question came up at Is "act like a mensch" too localized for ELU readers (U.S. and/or British English)?

Uber-word came up in this exchange:

English has always welcomed foreign jargon; it gives the locals something new to grumble at.

You mean there’s no angst that imports from foreign jargon become uber-words?

What I’ve tried so far: I looked up the definition of uber, and I asked my German spouse.

  • First and foremost note that this is a joke: uber is a loan word. Second: look up ubermensche, and what Nietszche's theories predicted they would do. – Dan Bron Sep 6 '15 at 18:06
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    Uber- is a new libfix in American English at any rate. It comes from German über, meaning 'over', which came into English as das Übermensch 'Superman' from Nietzsche's writings. English doesn't have the right vowels to say über, especially capitalized, but the recent advent of the ride-sharing Uber company has made it more popular with /u/ instead of /ü/. In this sense uber means 'popular, famous, stylish, important'. – John Lawler Sep 6 '15 at 18:07
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    @aparente001 The ubermensche (according to Nietzsche) were supposed to take over the world, overthrowing regular men. Thus (presumably) the implication is native speakers would fear uber-words from regular (English) words. It's a play on uber being a loanword, a pun playing on the fact the question was about mensche, and the concept of ubermensche. – Dan Bron Sep 6 '15 at 18:19
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    @aparente001 that's the problem, it's a prime example of being opinion based. – Helmar Nov 12 '16 at 17:46
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    @aparente001 the likely problem is that there is nothing indicating that everyone understood it the same way. Bad multilingual puns by internet commenters do not have to make sense or result in a commonly understood meaning. – Helmar Nov 12 '16 at 22:21
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+100

I don't think it is possible to know exactly what the commentator meant without asking him or her, but there are several possibilities. An uber-word could be:

  1. a superlative word (which was how I initially understood it)
  2. a trendy word (that pushes out the native one for a while)
  3. a "cuckoo" word that usurps all native words

It's this last one that I'm leaning towards at the moment, as this is how the taxi firm operates, and this is the most well known use of the word uber at the moment.

  • Thank you for clarifying. The part about being evil was deleted from JOSH's answer (by JOSH), so let's delete these three comments too. – aparente001 Nov 25 '16 at 17:27
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According to Wiktionary, it means "Super; high-level; high-ranking". I believe "uber" or "über" has become synonym of "super", as Wikipedia explains:

"One of the first popular modern uses of the word as a synonym in English for super was a Saturday Night Live TV sketch in 1979. The sketch, What if?, pondered the notion of what if the comic book hero Superman had landed in Nazi Germany when he first came from Krypton. Rather than being called Superman, he took the name of Übermann."

There are some interesting definitions and theories on the origin of "uber" in Urban Dictionary, but no authoritative sources to back them up. In any case, they also tend to support the idea that "uber" is used as a synonym of "super," even in the context you give.

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In a comment, John Lawler answered:

Uber- is a new libfix in American English at any rate. It comes from German über, meaning ‘over’, which came into English as das Übermensch ‘Superman’ from Nietzsche's writings.

English doesn't have the right vowels to say über, especially capitalized, but the recent advent of the ride-sharing Uber company has made it more popular [spelled with] with /u/ instead of /ü/.

In this sense uber means ‘popular, famous, stylish, important’.

  • Does it mean a new word, or a predator word? Is it an interloper, or a super-word? What is the speaker's attitude toward the term he's describing as an uber-word? – aparente001 Nov 12 '16 at 16:15
  • Furthermore the commenter himself says: "I made up the combination uber-word, but the etymological root is of course this" – Helmar Nov 12 '16 at 16:15
  • @aparente001 - I don't think it is possible to know exactly what the commentator meant without asking him or her, but there are several possibilities: uber-words are just super words (which was how I initially understood it), trendy words (that push out the native one for a while), or "cuckoo" words that usurp all native words. It's this last one that I'm leaning towards at the moment, as this is how the taxi firm operates, and this is now the most famous use of the word uber at the moment! – JonLarby Nov 18 '16 at 14:33
  • @JonLarby - This is helpful. Would you mind moving it to an Answer? – aparente001 Nov 18 '16 at 14:49
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The following extract from The Boston Globe traces the origin and explains the meaning and usage of "uber" in the English language and how it changed in recent decades. Its current usage is essentially as a synonym and an extension of "super."

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