IATE Term of the week: Iron curtain


Berlin wallOur term of this week looks back in time for the 27th anniversary of the Berlin Wall fall. People from all around the world celebrated the anniversary of the Berlin Wall demolition last Wednesday. The event that signified the end of the Cold War 27 years ago. But what was the significance of the wall being torn down for the Iron Curtain?

“In November 1989 the Berlin Wall came down. The disappearance of the most visible symbol of the Cold War was a turning point in post-war history and marked the beginning of a new era in Europe. Countries separated for decades by the Iron Curtain began to prepare for the transition to democracy and accession to the European Union”, as we can read in the European Parliament´s Historical Archives.

While the Iron Curtain was not a physical barrier like the wall it was a metaphor of the separation between communist and capitalist countries. However, it also referred to the physical border defences between the European countries in the middle of the continent. The most notable one was marked by the Berlin Wall which served as a symbol of the Curtain as a whole.

Do you know where this term came from?

Iron curtainIron Curtain was the term coined by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to describe the division between Western powers and the area controlled by the Soviet Union as a result of the Second World War. It was seen not only as physical but also as ideological, political and military barrier.

It was during one of the most famous speeches at Fulton, Missouri, U.S.A, on March 5, 1946, when Winston Churchill condemned the policies of the USSR: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

Historians consider Churchill’s speech as a fundamental moment in time that marked the beginning of the Cold War and the term “iron curtain” was immediately adopted as part of the official vocabulary during the conflict.
The definition according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Iron Curtain

•  1: an impenetrable barrier <the iron curtain between the ego and the unconscious — C. J. Rolo>
•  2: a political, military, and ideological barrier that cuts off and isolates an area; specifically often capitalized :  one formerly isolating an area under Soviet control.

Would you like to help us to update the EU´s multilingual term base?

[su_note note_color=”#dcea0f”][su_button url=”https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1XY3lEZLUez9l6jqDq29esPFOR8DBrlGbvuv2d5l_NI8/edit#” style=”flat”]Contribute to IATE![/su_button] Update this term in your language. A terminologist for the respective language will revise your answer and decide whether to validate them. Given the implications of the process, a delay is to be expected.


Iron curtain

Written by Ana Baudot – Journalist and social media manager.
Communication Trainee, DG TRAD – Terminology Coordination Unit