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From Middle High German stegereif (stirrup), from Old High German stegareif (stirrup), from stegōn (“to ascend”, related with stīgan, whence modern steigen) + reif (“rope, ring”, whence modern Reif). Cognate with English stirrup.

The contemporary sense is from the idea of someone going to task “from the stirrup”, that is immediately after their arrival and without further arrangements. Speakers now often reanalyse the word as stehen (to stand) + greifen (to grab), that is “something nearby that one grabs wherever one is standing”. Hence the common pronunciation (see below) and the frequent misspelling Stehgreif.


  • IPA(key): /ˈʃteːkˌʁaɪ̯f/ (etymological; prescriptive standard)
  • IPA(key): /ˈʃteːˌɡʁaɪ̯f/ (more common in practice)
  • (file)


Stegreif m (genitive Stegreifs or Stegreifes, plural Stegreife)

  1. (often with aus dem) improvisation, impromptu
    Synonyms: Improvisation, Lamäng (colloquial, regional)
    Ich hatte meine Aufzeichnungen vergessen und musste mir aus dem Stegreif etwas überlegen.
    I'd forgotten to take my notes and had to make something up by improvisation.
    Das Gedicht ist eine Stegreif-Schöpfung.
    The poem is an impromptu composition.
  2. (obsolete) stirrup
    Synonym: Steigbügel


Further reading[edit]