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Formally un- (un-) +‎ Tiefe (depth). The nautical sense “shallows” is chiefly from Middle Low German undēpe (compare Dutch ondiepte (shallows)). It is also attested in Old High German untiufī, but seemingly not in Middle High German. In the sense “abyss”, the prefix un- takes the meaning “inconceivable” as, for example, in Unding (absurdity, deformity). It is first attested in Middle High German intiefe (something inscrutable).



Untiefe f (genitive Untiefe, plural Untiefen)

  1. (nautical) shallows; shoal; shallow depth
    • 1907, Salzwasser-Verlag Gmbh, Segelhandbuch für den Persischen Golf, BoD – Books on Demand →ISBN, page 120
      Eine Untiefe mit 6 m Wasser soll rw. 121° (mw. SOzO1/4O) von der Insel liegen, doch ist ihre Entfernung von der Insel nicht bekannt.
      There is apparently a shallows with 6 m water TB 121° from the island, but its distance from the island is not known.
  2. (chiefly figuratively) abyss; precarious depth
    • 2013, Marco Sonnleitner, Blutzeugen: Bartholomäus Kammerlanders erster Fall, Gmeiner-Verlag →ISBN
      »Es ist wirklich immer wieder erstaunlich, was sich aus den Untiefen der menschlichen Seele ans Tageslicht holen lässt. Sie würden überrascht sein!«
      "It really is always astonishing what can be hauled from the abysses of the human soul into the daylight. You would be surprised!"

Usage notes[edit]

  • Untiefe is a contranym. Note, however, that the figurative use of 2 is actually not contradictory to sense 1, since both refer to a dangerous spot. Literal uses of sense 2 are rare in contemporary German.



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