In German we have the word "Scheinsicherheit", meaning that you are applying some measures and feel protected against some threats. However if such a threat might occur in reality these safety measures might turn out to be useless.

E.g. installing some backup-software on your PC, without noticing that the data from the backup cannot be restored if needed due to programming errors.

How would you phrase that in English: e.g. pseudo-safety??

  • :) seems like an excellent word to purloin to describe the modern plethora of OTT "safety" rules, regulations and personnel. Best of all, since it's multisyllabular, those practicioners have insufficient attention span to pronounce it.
    – Magoo
    Dec 21, 2015 at 16:54
  • May not be exactly what you're looking for, but you might be interested to hear about placebo buttons: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo_button. So you could have an alarm, or some kind of emergency switch/button that doesn't actually do anything, except make people feel better
    – Au101
    Dec 21, 2015 at 18:44
  • I'm positvely suppriesed on how many ways my question is interpreted. Althrough i found an accepted the answer which sounds most suitable for me i also found this view on the topic intresting.
    – BerndGit
    Dec 21, 2015 at 22:37

4 Answers 4


I'd call it a "false sense of security". This phrase is fairly common, and in fact security is by far the most popular word appearing after "false sense of": See Ngrams.

  • Thank you for your fast response. This phase sounds good in my context.
    – BerndGit
    Dec 21, 2015 at 16:25
  • @BerndGit I'm not sure this is the best phrase, because it typically means that the measures taken aren't actually effective-- they are illusionary, like a magic rock that keeps tigers away. From what you describe, the German word seems to indicate that the security measure would actually work if not for certain unfortunate circumstances.
    – user1359
    Dec 21, 2015 at 19:44
  • 2
    @user1359 The same would go for the Scheinsicherheit. "Schein" means "only appear to be", so it would be understood in exacly the way you are describing.
    – AndreKR
    Dec 21, 2015 at 22:24
  • @user1359: intresting how you distinguish between these two scenarios. My actuall usecase is somehow inbetween (sorry for not finding an suitable example): Checking for threads from one direction and applying reasonoble countermeasures whilst some cirumstands are ignored. Anyhow the phrase given sounds suitable.
    – BerndGit
    Dec 21, 2015 at 22:32
  • 4
    @user1359 Hey! My anti-tiger rock has never failed me. Not once.
    – deadrat
    Dec 22, 2015 at 4:46

This doesn't fit precisely with your example, but there is also the concept of security theatre, which is where you set up safeguards meant to provide some measure of security, but the safeguards are arguably just for show.


  • Making passengers remove their shoes when boarding a plane, in case of a shoe bomb: it's theatre because the shoe-bomb is unlikely to be a workable threat, and there are other places one could hide a bomb of that size, but because someone once tried to detonate a shoe bomb, the airport security check all shoes now (while not applying any extra scrutiny to other things).

  • safety seals on food/drugs: Ostensibly these are meant to demonstrate that the product hasn't been tampered with. These were introduced after the big scare involving adulterated Tylenol drugs. It's security theatre because it's relatively easy to adulterate the drugs and replace the seals, given enough patience and time. You can't just do it in the store, but you can still do it.

Security theatre is meant to provide a sense of security but it doesn't actually achieve its stated goals of making you safer.

  • This is also a very interesting phrase. Thank you for that contribution. However in my technical context the answers form Mark and Peter do fit better.
    – BerndGit
    Dec 21, 2015 at 16:41
  • 3
    @BerndGit Yeah, I figured as much. However, it's worth noting that there is lots of security theatre in computing. E.g. complex password policies meant to prevent password-cracking, but that leads to people writing down passwords. Or installing anti-virus software, when the primary threat against the system is network worms or phishing. etc. Dec 21, 2015 at 16:43
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇: But "security theatre" is something that is intentionally done to pretend something is made secure. The complex password security is real securiy that doesn't work. It is meant to work but doesn't. That's bad security, but not security theatre.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 22, 2015 at 9:15
  • @gnasher729 Okay, if you don't know that it doesn't work, then it's arguably not theatre. But now that we know it doesn't work, continuing to do it is theatre. Dec 22, 2015 at 14:41

A common phrase used in that situation is "having a false sense of security," or "giving them a false sense of security." I don't know of a single word that describes it, but another reader here may know of one.

  • Thank you. This phrase is also ok (instead of single word.).
    – BerndGit
    Dec 21, 2015 at 16:26
  • So does posting the two first answers to the same question within a few minutes earn you that hat "flip-flop"? Dec 21, 2015 at 16:28
  • I have no idea, what these hats do mean. Since I didn't make any other SE activity it might be related to this posting. Maybe I have switched 1 or 2 times on which answer to accept (would be fitting to the name flip/flop)
    – BerndGit
    Dec 21, 2015 at 16:35
  • I don't know what the hats mean, either. But it looks like Mark, Bernd, and I all got a (secret criteria) flip-flop hat. Dec 21, 2015 at 16:48
  • The flip-flop hat is for posting or voting on 12/21.
    – Marthaª
    Dec 21, 2015 at 20:51

I would translate it as "an appearance of safety", of "a feeling of safety" Because it may well be safe, you just don't know.

  • This is indeed the literal translation!
    – Mattia
    Dec 22, 2015 at 13:57

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