The meaning of “aufraffen”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: July 25, 2023

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day, this time with a look at the meaning of



A nice colloquial gem.
And aufraffen  is totally one of those “below the radar” words. So if you’ve spent time in Germany, chances are that you have heard or seen it multiple times, but chances are also that you never really noticed it.
But you will after reading this article, because it’s actually quite a nice word to have, because…  it helps us get off of the couch and do these things that we always wanted to.
Like going for a run.
Or taking a shower.
Or at least get a coffee. Baby steps.

Anyway, aufraffen is of course a prefix version of raffen, so let’s start with the look at that.

“Raffen” and its relatives

The origin of raffen is an old Germanic root *hreps- and we can capture the essence of this with one mental image:

a person raking together leaves

I mean, it’s well known just how meticulous the Germanic tribes were about this. The Teutoburger Wald wasn’t always a mountain range, you know. It’s dry leaves, piled up over centuries.

Seriously though… of course raking together leaves is not exactly the original meaning. It was a more general sense of scraping something together, and it’s the origin of the English verb to rasp, which has focused more on the scraping. And also to raffle. Which probably got its current meaning from the idea of sort “raking in” the jackpot after winning in a game of cards or dice. Like, when just think of a movie where someone shoves all the casino chips toward themselves with their arms.

And this brings us right over to the German raffen. Or better the related words like raffgierig (the greedy for possession), der Raffzahn (the money-grubber) or die Raffsucht (the pathological greed) and the regional Berlin term der Raffke (greedy capitalist).

  • Der neue Barbesitzer ist ein echter Raffzahn/Raffke. 2 Euro für ein Schälchen Salzstangen.
  • The new bar owner is a real greedhead. 2 Euros for a small bowl of salty sticks.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Now, none of these are really all that common. But you might see them in newspapers or books, so it’s good to have them in your passive vocabulary.

And what about raffen itself?
Well, that has kind of fallen out of use by itself EXCEPT as a very colloquial verb for… understanding. In the sense of understanding something logically.

  • Ich raff’s einfach nicht – warum ist eine 10 kg Hantel teurer als eine Jeans.
  • I just don’t get it – why is a 20 pound dumbbell more expensive than a pair of jeans.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Thomas ist so ein Idiot. Er rafft einfach nicht, was mich stört.
  • Thomas is such an idiot. He simply doesn’t understand what bothers me.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

This is VERY colloquial though, almost a bit slangy, so please please don’t overuse it, and not with strangers. It sounds best if you’re legit agitated by something you don’t understand.


So, that’s raffen and its core theme of scraping something together and maybe you’re already able to guess the meaning of aufraffen.
Actually, let’s do a little poll real quick. And maybe try to think back to what I said in the very beginning what aufraffen is useful for :)

What do you think is the meaning of "aufraffen"

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And now, let’s see what it really means.

The meaning of “aufraffen”

And I think if I tell you that “aufraffen” is actually used reflexively, you’ll know what it really is. Sich aufraffen means

to pull oneself together, to kick oneself in the butt

And it’s used exactly for these contexts where you know you should do something but you kind of procrastinate it. Just think of yourself all spread out across the couch, and then you literally “scrape yourself together” to do your taxes.

  • Ich weiß, ich muss das Bad putzen, aber ich kann mich nicht aufraffen.
  • I know I have to clean the bathroom but I can’t get myself to doing it.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • “Yoga? Mehh… kein Bock.”
    “Komm, raff dich auf. Du kannst nicht das ganze Wochenende auf der Couch liegen.”
    “Doch. Ich kann das extrem gut.”
  • “Yoga? Mehhh… don’t feel like.”
    “Come one, give yourself a kick in the butt. You can’t lie on the couch the entire weekend.”
    “Oh, on the contrary. I can do that extremely well.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Ich hab mich gestern endlich aufgerafft und meine Steuererklärung angefangen.
  • Yesterday, I finally pulled myself together and started doing my taxes.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

As you can see, the reflexive pronoun is in Accusative, so it’s the direct object.
Oh and if you want to connect the action you want to get yourself to do, the preposition you’d use is zu.

  • Bei diesem Wetter kann ich mich zu nichts aufraffen.
  • With this weather, I can’t motivate myself for anything.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Du musst dich dazu aufraffen, mehr Sport zu machen.
  • You have to get yourself to do more sports.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

So there you have it. That’s aufraffen and if you haven’t heard that ever before, I’m kind of sure you’ll start hearing it from now on. It’s really quite common in daily life and a nice addition to your active vocabulary.

Oh and I almost forgot… there’s also verraffen. This ties in with the raffen we had in the colloquial sense of understanding and it’s basically a slangy word for forgetting in the context of forgetting some obligation.

  • “Warum warst du heute nicht beim Meeting?”
    “Oh Gott… das war heute?!?!?!”
    “Ja, heute ist Montag.”
    “Uff, ich hab’s total verrafft, ey. Ich dachte das ist Dienstag.”
    “Naja… es heißt nicht aus Versehen Monday-Kick-Off-Meeting.”
  • “Why weren’t you at the meeting today?”
    “Oh God… that was today?!?!”
    “Yeah, today is Monday.”
    “Uff, I completely forgot/mixed it up. I thought that’s on Tuesday.”
    “Well… it’s called Monday-Kick-Off-Meeting for a reason.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

This verraffen is nowhere near as common as aufraffen is, but if you can actually drop that in conversation in the right spot, people will be REALLY impressed by just how authentic you sound :).

Now, there are some other verbs out there like dahinraffen (to kill) or zusammenraffen (to scrape together), but they’re not that common and with the core theme of raking dry leaves you should have no issue making a mental image.
The only one that’s a bit hard to grasp is Giraffen, which is about the idea of stretching very far up to “rake in” some leaves.
I’m kidding of course. Giraffe has nothing to do with this.
Or has it… dun dunnn dunnnn.
We can all find our own truth there :).

Anyway, this was our quick look at aufraffen and its family and I’m actually curious… how many of you knew this one before and also, how many are noticing now, after reading the article.

As usual, if you want to check if you know the key takeaways of this article, you can take the little quiz I have prepared. And of course, if you have any questions and suggestions, just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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