- Mägdchen (obsolete)
From Magd + -chen, originally a diminutive, from Magd (“female servant, originally girl”) and its variant Maid (“girl”, now poetic), with expected umlaut caused by -chen and simplification of the consonant cluster. It originated as a calque of Middle Low German mēgedeken, mechdeken (15th, early 16th centuries) and spread to dialects of Central German, thence beginning to replace older terms like Dirne (now “whore”, except dialectally). Similar formations are Upper German Mädel, Dutch meisje, meisken, and English maiden.
- IPA(key): /ˈmɛːtçən/ (prescriptive standard; used naturally in western Germany and Switzerland)
- IPA(key): /ˈmeːtçən/ (overall more common; particularly northern and eastern regions)
- Rhymes: -ɛːtçən
- Since Mädchen is a grammatically neuter noun, all preceding articles, determiners, and adjectives take neuter forms: ein kleines Mädchen (“a little girl”). This rule is followed throughout all registers of German.
- There is more variation concerning pronouns referring back to Mädchen. These are usually neuter within the same sentence: Das Mädchen, das eben hier war, hat seine Tasche vergessen. – “The girl who was just here, forgot her purse.” (But feminine ihre would be acceptable in colloquial usage.) It is quite common, however, to use feminine pronouns in following sentences: Siehst du das Mädchen, das da steht? Kennst du die? – “Do you see the girl who [neuter] is standing there? Do you know her [feminine]?” (But neuter es would be acceptable in literary usage.)
- Mädchen is typically used to refer to young women up to the age of 20 (or 25 at most). Past this age it is uncommon (unlike English girl).