- Mägdchen (obsolete)
Diminutive of a word for “girl” at hand in modern Magd (“female servant”) and its variant Maid (now poetic “girl”). The form is thus analyzable as Magd + -chen with simplification of the consonant cluster. It spread from Middle Low German mēgedeken, mechdeken (15th, early 16th centuries) 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, and English maiden.
- IPA(key): /ˈmɛːtçən/ ( used naturally in western Germany and Switzerland)
- IPA(key): /ˈmeːtçən/ (overall more common; particularly northern and eastern regions)
Mädchen n (genitive Mädchens, plural Mädchen)
- 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 has just been 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). But in recent years, adult women refer to their clique of friends as Mädels more often, even where Mädchen is the native term for girl and thus Mädel is not otherwise used.
- Mädchen in Duden online