Tocqueville’s, Madison’s or J.S. Mill’s criticism of democracy as a ‘tyranny of the majority’ is therefore well founded. This has led to corrective institutions, such as rule of law, basic rights for individuals, federalism or particular autonomy rights for regions and for minority groups. A further corrective element is political power-sharing. Lijphart, already in the first versions of his theory, proposed that consensus democracy is better suited than majoritarian institutions for multiculturally segmented societies. The theoretical reason is obvious: consensus democracy gives societal minorities a chance to participate in political power and have a voice in the policies of the government which cannot be overheard.

-Swiss Democracy by Wolf Linder

What does overheard mean in this context?

According to Cambridge Dictionary overhear means:

  • to hear what other people are saying without intending to and without their knowledge.
  • 4
    I think it's an error. The intended meaning seems to be "ignored" or "overlooked" but "overheard" does not mean these things. I see other subtle signs of translation from German (such as "already in the first versions...") which support this idea.
    – TypeIA
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 13:54
  • Thank you. Can we suppose that this text is translated from German by automatic translation? The reasion I'm asking is, there are a lot of errors in this "oficial release" book.
    – 1amroff
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 14:04
  • @AbbasMübariz I've added an answer, I'm not sure it has been the result of an automatic translation.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


It's definitely a mistake. "Overheard", as you have found, means that something has been heard, either surreptitiously or unintentionally. It seems like they mean overlooked, which means ignored, either intentionally or unintentionally.

It has been suggested in comments that this may be due to a mistranslation from German - I'm not sure about that, as the German word 'Überhört' (literally 'over-hear') actually means to mishear - to not hear something properly - so it seems unlikely this word has been misused in your text due to an overly-literal or computer-generated translation. It is probably just an error, possibly based on the misconception that the word 'overlook' doesn't apply to things heard.

  • So, do I have to see the word as "mishear"? That is, one can not interpret the voice of minority incorrectly.
    – 1amroff
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 14:37
  • @AbbasMübariz No! I think it should be "overlooked". Based on the fact that, their not being overlooked is in contrast to minorities being ignored.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 15:25
  • Mishear is actually sich verhören (or falsch hören) in German. My other comment was actually referring to the phrase "already in the first versions" which is awkward in English but a very typical construction in German, and using this construction in English is a common mistake German-speaking people make (I live in Germany so I see a lot of this).
    – TypeIA
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 16:06
  • @TypeIA Right, "uberhört" is more like failed to hear something properly than hear something incorrectly. I've corrected that. Likewise, 'ubersehen' means to fail to see something.
    – Astralbee
    Commented Feb 23, 2021 at 16:27

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