Wiktionary:About German

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link={{{imglink}}} This is a Wiktionary policy, guideline or common practices page. This is a draft proposal. It is unofficial, and it is unknown whether it is widely accepted by Wiktionary editors.

This page explains considerations (beyond those covered by general policies) which apply to German entries and German translations of English entries.

Wiktionary:Entry layout explained is the principal policy on formatting entries. This document supplements that policy.


German entries begin with a “==German==” header, which is inserted into the article after any “==Translingual==” or “==English==” section, but otherwise in alphabetical order with other level 2 headers.

If an entry for another language (or “==Translingual==”) appears on the same page as the German entry, the entries are separated with four dashes (“----”) in an otherwise empty line.

Following is a simplified entry for the German word Wörterbuch (dictionary). It shows the fundamental elements of a German entry:


* {{IPA|/ˈvœʁtɐˌbuːx/|lang=de}}


# [[dictionary]]


The headers allowed below the 'German' header are the same as those used in English entries, except for the “Translations” section, which is only allowed in English entries. The headers also have the same order and levels as in English entries, and the format of their content is generally identical, though certain differences between the two languages have to be taken into account.


For an overview of the symbols used to transcribe German pronunciation, see Appendix:German pronunciation.


Most German nouns have a gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter, or, rarely, more than one of these) and are declined (at least) for four cases (nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative) and two numbers (singular and plural). The nominative singular (for pluralia tantum the nominative plural) of a noun is its "basic" (lemma) form, on whose page we include the definitions and all further linguistic information.

A full German noun entry includes a complete declension table in a separate “Declension” section, but all German noun entries should include the nominative singular, genitive singular, and nominative plural forms in the headword line. The template {{de-noun}} can be used to format the headword line and to place the entry in Category:German nouns.


German verb conjugation is more complex than English verb conjugation. As with English verbs, the infinitive is considered the "basic" (lemma) form on whose page the definitions and all further information can be found.

German verb entries should note the verb's infinitive form, third-person singular present indicative form (e.g. läuft, nieselt), first- and third-person singular past indicative form (lief, nieselte), and past participle (gelaufen, genieselt). Entries should also note which of the auxiliary verbs haben and sein is used for forming the composite tenses (perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect). Note that some verbs (e.g. passieren) can form composite tenses using either haben or sein, depending on the particular sense of the verb and whether that sense is transitive or not.

The templates {{de-verb-strong}} and {{de-verb-weak}} can be used to format the headword line and to place the entry in the appropriate category within Category:German verbs. If the verb begins with a prefix, indicate whether it is separable or inseparable. For example, umstoßen is separable (one says ich stoße dich um), whereas umgehen (to bypass) is inseparable (one says er umging das Problem).

For regular German verbs (including most strong verbs, whose stem changes can be determined by the simple past form on the headword line), a “Conjugation” section is optional. For truly irregular verbs, a “Conjugation” section should appear, including the infinitive, second-person and third-person present indicative, first-person imperfect indicative, first-person imperfect subjunctive, imperative singular and plural, and past participle. (Some verbs, such as nieseln, conjugate only in the third person, and have no attested first- or second-person forms.)


German prefixes should generally start with a lowercase first letter. When prefixes are applied to nouns, they are capitalized, but this is because all nouns are capitalized, not because the prefix has any inherent capitalization. For example, Autofokus uses {{prefix|auto|Fokus|lang=de}}, which links to auto- (valid) not to Auto- (invalid).[1]


Like English spelling, German spelling was quite variable until a few centuries ago. Since then, several orthographic conferences and reforms have established a standard orthography. Wiktionary includes all attested spellings, but ones which are no longer used or standard can use {{de-superseded spelling of}} or other templates to point to the current standard spellings (this template replaces {{U:de:deprecated spelling}}). A number of words spelled with ss (such as Esstisch) were deprecated in favour of ß spellings in 1902, but then made standard again (and the ß spellings deprecated) in 1996; for these the template {{U:de:1902-1996 spelling}} exists. (Compare dass, where the usage notes are more specific and detailed.)

Obsolete spellings[edit]

Spellings which were deprecated by or before the Second Orthographic Conference of 1901, or which fell out of use before then, and which have not been reintroduced by a more recent reform, are to be labelled obsolete rather than merely superseded ({{de-superseded spelling of}} handles this distinction).

Rechtschreibreform of 1996[edit]

The Rechtschreibreform of 1996, and several subsequent reforms of that reform, deprecated several old spellings and introduced several new spellings. The reform is not very popular in opinion polls, but it has been adopted by all major dictionaries and the majority of publishing houses, and spellings which it deprecated are no longer taught or considered correct in schools. See Category:German words affected by 1996 spelling reform.


Dative singular -e in noun declension[edit]

Dative singular -e used on the Berlin Reichstag: “Dem deutschen Volke

Many strong masculine and neuter nouns have two dative singular forms: one is identical to the nominative (das Buch, dem Buch; der Tod, dem Tod), the other adds an -e (dem Buche, dem Tode). In writing, the form with -e was very common, though far from universal, until the mid-20th century.

Forms with -e are still used in contemporary German, but they are widely restricted to a large but limited number of more or less fixed expressions (zum Tode verurteilt, in diesem Sinne, zu Hause, and many more). Outside of such idioms the e-form is now very rare and likely to sound odd in many cases. Note, however, that some regiolects (chiefly in eastern central Germany) have retained the dative -e and may still use it freely.

Declension of language names[edit]

Many names of languages are nominalizations of adjectives. These language names have two sets of singular forms. “Deutsch”, for example, has the nominative singular forms “Deutsch” and “Deutsche”:

  • The nominative form “Deutsche” is used only when the definite article is used: “das Deutsche”:
    • 1922, Eduard Engel, Deutsche Stilkunst, page 65:
      Das Deutsche ist formenreicher als das Englische, []
  • When the definite article is used directly in front of the language name, the genitive is often “des Deutschen”:
    • 2007, Ulrich Ammon, Klaus J. Mattheier, Sprachliche Folgen der EU-Erweiterung, page 135:
      Statt der institutionellen Stärkung des Deutschen ist eher die umgekehrte Wirkung festzustellen, nämlich dass die fortdauernde institutionelle Schwäche des Deutschen seinen Wert in den Augen der Ostmitteleuropäer mindert []
  • The nominative form “Deutsch” is used when no definite article is used, typically referring to the language as a whole. It is sometimes also used even when the definite article is used, in which case it typically signifies a particular variety or idiolect of German, rather than the language as a whole:
    • 1965, Edith Hallwass, Wer ist im Deutschen sattelfest?: Sprachlehre in Frage und Antwort, page 13:
      Das Deutsch ist immer nur ein Teil des Deutschen: gutes oder schlechtes, falsches oder richtiges Deutsch, das Deutsch unserer Klassiker und das Deutsch, das wir heute sprechen, das Deutsch, das man lernt, schreibt, versteht []
    • 2004, İnci Dirim, ‎Peter Auer, Türkisch sprechen nicht nur die Türken, page 204:
      In diesem Kapitel wollen wir abschließend einen Blick auf das Deutsch unserer Informanten und Informantinnen mit nicht-türkischem Familienhintergrund werfen.
  • The genitive forms “Deutsch” and “Deutschs” are the genitive forms of “Deutsch” (never of “das Deutsche”):
    • 1969, Fritz Tschirch, 1200 Jahre deutsche Sprache in synoptischen Bibeltexten, 2nd edition, Walter de Gruyter, page XV:
      Schließlich mußte versucht werden, Übersetzungen zu finden, die, zeitlich ungefähr in der Mitte zwischen Luther und Menge stehend, den charakteristischen Sprachstand der für die Gestalt des Deutschs der letzten 200 Jahre so entscheidend gewordenen Aufklärung spiegeln.
    • 1974, Walter Rost, Deutsche Stilschule: Ein praktisches Lehrbuch des guten Stils, 5th edition, page 148:
      Wer sich in diesem Punkte nichts durchgehen läßt, wer konsequent jeden Scheinattributsatz vermeidet, wird in der Beherrschung des Deutschs rasch große Fortschritte machen.
    • 2002, Neue deutsche Sprachgeschichte: mentalitäts-, kultur- und sozialgeschichtliche Zusammenhänge (Dieter Cherubim, Karlheinz Jakob, Angelika Linke), page 396:
      Die Besonderheiten sind auf die Zeit, den Raum und den gesprochenen Charakter seines Deutschs zurückzuführen.
    • 2003, Erich Donnert, Die Freimaurerei in Russland: von den Anfängen bis zum Verbot von 1822, page 156:
      [Er] verfasste in der Folge seine literarischen Werke nur noch in Russisch, bemühte sich jedoch weiterhin um Verbesserung seines Deutsch, und zwar nicht ohne Erfolg, []
    • 2007, Bernt Ahrenholz, Verweise mit Demonstrativa im gesprochenen Deutsch (Linguistik - Impulse & Tendenzen vol. 17), Walter de Gruyter, page 7:
      Günthner (2000, 2002) plädiert in Zusammenhang mit ihren Untersuchungen [] für eine stärkere Berücksichtigung von Strukturen des gesprochenen Deutsch.

Declension of adjectives[edit]

Until the 1800s, adjectives were sometimes left uninflected in the mixed and weak declension masculine, neuter and sometimes feminine nominative and accusative positions, as in unser täglich Brot, das neu Testament, kaum hat der Herr ein neu Testament eingesetzt, ein gut Mann, der gut Mann, ein gut Mensch, der gut Mensch, etc. (For more, see Karl Rühl, Unflektierte (nominale) und starke Form im Singular des attributiven Adjektivs in den hochdeutschen Mundarten, 1909, Giessen/Darmstadt.) These obsolete forms are not given in the adjective declension tables. Vestiges of this usage in fixed expressions may have individual entries, see e.g. fließend Wasser, trocken Brot.

Translations in English entries[edit]

German translations in English entries belong in a “* German: {{t|de|...}}” line under a sense-specific table header (usually as {{trans-top|[sense of the English headword]}}) within a level 4 or level 5 “====Translations====” section of the “==English==” entry. Only supply the “basic” (lemma) form of the German translation, e.g. the nominative singular for a noun, the masculine nominative singular for an adjective, and the infinitive for a verb. For nouns, also supply the gender of the German translation. Further details for the translation should not appear in the English entry, but in the corresponding German entry instead.



See also[edit]