Word of the Day – “drücken”

Hello everyone,

and welcome our German Word of the Day. And this time, we’ll take a thorough look at the meaning of



Actually, this is kind of the second part of our look at “der Druck“.
In the first part, we talked about the core idea of the family and then focused on the verb drucken and its prefix versions.
If you haven’t read it, you can find it here:

Word of the Day – der Druck

Today, we’ll go over the prefix versions of drücken, because there are quite a few that are absolute must haves. I mean… no pressure. But you really NEED those.
So are you ready to jump in?

As we’ve learned in part one, drücken is about the idea of applying pressure.

  • Maria drückt gerne Thomas’ Knöpfe.
  • Maria likes pushing Thomas’ buttons.
  • “Wenn Sie mit einem Bearbeiter sprechen wollen, drücken sie die 11.”
    “Moment mal… wie drücke ich verdammt noch mal die elf?!?!”
  • “If you want to talk to an operator, please press 11.”
    “Wait … how do I freaking press 11?!?!”
  • Meine Schuhe drücken ein bisschen.
  • My shoes are a little tight.
  • Ich drücke dir die Daumen. (common idiom)
  • I cross my fingers for you.
    lit.: “squeeze thumbs”
  • Lass dich mal drücken.
  • Let me give you hug.
  • Fühl dich gedrückt.
  • Feel hugged.

As you can see, the translations vary depending on context, but the notion of pressure is always visible.
That is not really the case for the various prefix versions. But if you’re silently sighing and preparing for some intense mind bending, then I have good news for you. Because the  drücken-prefix-squat has a direct counterpart in English (and other languages for that matter) making it a nice example for how other languages have prefix verb families without it being such a big deal.
And this counterpart is … drumroll… the verb to press.
Let’s take a look.


Going by the two ideas of aus, ausdrücken should mean something like pushing something off or out. And you can find it in that factual sense, occasionally.

  • Maria will den Pickel auf Thomas’ Nase ausdrücken.
  • Maria wants to pop the pimple on Thomas’ nose.
  • Das Einhorn drückt seine Zigarette auf der Hand des Wanderers aus.
  • The unicorn stubs out its cigarette on the hiker’s hand.

But the real idea ausdrücken is getting your ideas and personality into the world. Or in one word:  to express.  Which is actually the literal translation of ausdrücken, just with a Latin twist.

  • In seiner Musik drückt der Künstler aus, was er nicht sagen kann.
  • In his music, the artist expresses what he can’t say with words.
  • Vielleicht habe ich mich nicht gut ausgedrückt.
  • Maybe I didn’t express myself well.

This sense is also the core of adjectives like ausdrucksvoll or ausdrucksstark, which both expressive, and ausdrücklich which means explicitely. And of course there’s noun der Ausdruck, which means expression, and which is also the German word for a curse word.

  • Mein Rülpsen ist Ausdruck meiner Wertschätzung für das Essen.
  • My burping is an expression of my appreciation for the food.
  • Maria macht einen komischen Gesichtsausdruck.
  • Maria makes a strange face.
  • “Klimawandel ist Scheiße!”
    “Keine Ausdrücke beim Essen bitte, Greta.”
  • “Climate change is shit.”
    “Please no swearing (cuss words) at the table, Greta.”

And now, after seeing the parallel of ausdrücken and express, can you guess the meaning of unterdrücken?


Literally, unterdrücken is “to press under”. If we Latinize that, we get to suppress.  And that’s EXACTLY the meaning of  unterdrücken. Well, and oppress, but that’s the same core idea.

  • Der König unterdrückt das Volk.
  • The king oppresses the people.
  • “Ich hab meinen Job verloren.”
    “Oh, was ist passiert?”
    “Beim Meeting ist meine ganze unterdrückte Wut rausgekommen.”
  • “I lost my job.”
    “Oh, what happened?”
    “All my supressed/repressed anger came out at the meeting.”
  • Die Elfen haben genug von der Unterdrückung durch die Einhörner.
  • The Elves have enough of the oppression by the unicorns.

Just in case you missed it, let’s mention explicitly that  unterdrücken is NOT a separable verb, so unter always sticks to drücken, no matter what.

  • Die Einhörner haben uns lange genug unterdrückt.
  • The unicorns have oppressed us long enough.

And I guess we could also mention the r-version of unterdrücken. If you don’t know what an r-version is, then let me ask you back why you haven’t read my article on it. Seriously, why not?! It’s such an important concept!
“Well, Emanuel, you actually don’t have an article about that.”
Oh… haha… right. How embarassing. My apologies then.
So yeah, the r-version is a term that I came up with. Many prefix verbs have a version with an “r” in front of them. A lot of teachers and books will go on auto-pilot and say that these are just shortened versions of “her”, but that’s ignoring the reality of German today. I don’t want to go into that discussion now, though. If you’re interested, you can just check out my article on the r-versi…
Gee, okay okay, I forgot for a second, I’m sorry.
So yeah, these r-versions almost always carry the most literal meaning you can construct from prefix and verb. And that’s the same here because runterdrücken literally means to press, push down.

  • “Life Hack: wenn du die Türklinke runterdrückst, geht die Tür auf.”
    “Danke, deine Life Hacks sind die besten.”
  • “Life Hack: if you push down the door handle, the door opens.”
    “Thanks, your life hacks are the best.”
  • Gravitation ist wechselseitig. Wir drücken beim Liegestütz also eigentlich die Erde ein bisschen runter.
  • Gravity is reciprocal. So we’re actually pushing down the earth a little bit during a push up.

Hell yeah, I’ll visualize that from now on! *muscle-growth-intensifies.
Or was it *nonsense-intensifies?
That’s for a physicist to answer.
Meanwhile, let’s move on to the next prefix … ein.


Based on what we’ve seen so far, eindrücken should mean to impress. But nope. Instead of being consistent and straight forward, German here went with the be-version a long time ago and the translation to impress is beeindrucken. German, any specific reason for that choice?
“Of course. My goal was to subvert the learner’s expectations and thus creating a momentary void in whi… .”
Oh, okay whatever. Never mind. At least the noun is kind of consistent because impression is der Eindruck.

  • Der erste Eindruck ist sehr wichtig.
  • The first impression is really important.
  • Die Show war echt beeindruckend.
  • The show was really impressive.
  • Maria ist nicht leicht zu beeindrucken.
  • Maria is not easy to impress.
  • Ich habe einen guten Eindruck von ihr.
  • I have a good impression of her.

And eindrücken? Does that have a meaning? Well, yes, it can be used in a physical sense of indent. That’s pretty rare though. More common is the r-version reindrücken which expresses the idea of literally pushing something in somewhere.

  • “Wie hast du den Wein aufgekriegt?”
    “Ich habe den Korken reingedrückt.
  • “How did you open the wine?”
    “I pushed in the cork.

So these three, ausdrücken, unterdrücken and beeindrucken were the most useful prefix versions and they’re all must haves.
But they’re not the only ones, so let’s go over the others real quick.

Some other versions

First up, we have bedrücken, which carries the same idea as to depress. Someone gets pushed down mentally. Bedrücken is not very common, though and for these everyday uses of depress traurig (sad) or something with deprimieren are more idiomatic.

  • That’s depressing.
  • That ist traurig/deprimierend.
  • I was a bit depressed after the movie.
  • Ich war nach dem Film ein bisschen deprimiert.

Bedrücken is something you’ll find in books, but I wanted to mention it, because we have the whole press-thing again.
Anyway, next up, we have erdrücken and this is a classic case for er- carrying the idea of “to death”. Because erdrücken means to squeeze to death.

  • “Lass dich mal drücken!”
    “Nich so fest, du erdrückst mich.”
  • “Let me give you a hug.”
    “No so hard, you’re crushing me/squeezing me to death.

And very similar to that, we have zerdrücken, which is to crush, but not with a focus on death but on the idea of into pieces.

  • Das Einhorn zerdrückt die Wespe mit seiner Zunge.
  • The unicorn crushes the wasp with its tongue.

Then, we have abdrücken and this one is actually a bit weird because it translates to to pull. Most of you are now probably like “Wait, I thought pull is ziehen.”. And you’re absolutely right about that. Abdrücken is only to pull in the context of firearms because it actually means to pull the trigger.I mean, sure, why not. The finger does “push” onto the trigger. But what’s really weird is that the trigger itself is called der Abzug. Which comes from the verb abziehen. Any specific reason for that, German?
“Of course. I’m using this dialectical approach as a metaphor for the larger, overarching que…”
Okay, whatever, no one actually cares. Here’s an example…

  • Das Eichhörnchen zielt und drückt ab.
  • The squirrel aims and pulls the trigger.

And last but not least, we have verdrücken, which can be used to express the very important idea of accidentally pressing a wrong button…

  • “Sie haben die 1 gedrückt.”
    “NEIN… ich habe mich verdrückt.
  • “You pressed one.”
    “NO… I mispressed.”

… but which is also a colloquial term for eating and a colloquial term for leaving; both based on the notion of “pushing away”.
Not super common, but you might hear them, so now you’re in the know.

  • Ich habe zwei ganze Pizzen verdrückt.
  • I ate two entire pizzas.
    “lit.: to squeeze away”)
  • Ich verdrück’ mich.
  • I’ll leave.

And I think that’s it for today. This was our look at the meaning of drücken and its various prefix versions, Yup, it was kind of a run through toward the end and there are a few more prefix versions out there, but I think you can guess them from context. In fact, you get to see two of them in the little quiz I have prepared.
But yeah, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.
And oh… I forgot to include it in the article on der Druck so I’m gonna add it here – one of my favorite proverbs in German and very useful if you have a paper to finish or a deadline to keep.

Nur unter Druck wird aus Kohle Diamant.

Schöne Woche und bis zum nächsten Mal.

** vocab **

drücken = to press, squeeze, push (general sense of “applying pressure”); to hug (“jemanden+Acc drücken”)
die Daumen drücken = cross one’s fingers
ausdrücken = to pop (pimple); to express (also reflexively: “sich ausdrücken”); to squeeze out (cigarette)
der Druck = the pressure

der Ausdruck = the swear word; the expression (not always a translation)
der Gesichtsausdruck = the facial expression
ausdrücklich = explicitly

unterdrücken = to suppress
die Unterdrückung = the suppression
unterdrückt = suppressed/oppressed
runterdrücken = push down

beeindrucken = to impress
beeindruckend = impressive
beeindruckt = impressed
der Eindruck = the impression
reindrücken = press in

abdrücken = to pull the trigger; to pay money (colloquial)
wegdrücken = to deny an incoming call (literally: “press away”)
bedrückt = depressed, sad (temporary, not the medical condition)
erdrücken = squeeze to death
erdrückend = crushing
zerdrücken = crush into parts
verdrücken = to eat (colloquial); to leave (“sich verdrücken”, regional, colloquial)

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