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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1 year ago

Hi guys, I am Arpan and I would like to thank each one of you who donated extra so that someone who could not afford the course is able to. I am one them. Thank you very much to Emanuel for this platform and all of you. Cheers

2 years ago

1) Wir sind ja Spät, aber unsere Folge heute ist aber gut.

Hören sie das Folgendes 

Gespräch 1

E1 : Ich habe auf Peters Auge anstatt sein Nase verdrückt und er hat sich selbst zerstört. Die Explosion hat mich ein Loch runtergedrückt. Ich habe ihn nie gedrückt

E2 : Der Sturz hat aber dein Gehirn zerdrückt. 

E1 : Du veräppelt mich, dann ich erdrücke dich

E2 : HILFEEEE… tot

E1 : Gut. Ich soll verdrücken. Die Polizei sind auf dem weg. Sie zögern nicht abzudrücken

Gespräch 2

E1 : Er verdrückt den Ganzen Käse. Warum soll das mich beeindrücken?

E2 : Es gibt keinen Fur…..


E2 : JA


Gespräch 3

E1 : Diese Lexikon hat uns (Studenten) unterdrückt. Es hat alle diesen Informationen im Kopf reingedrückt 

E(alle) : Jaaaa

2) Question

I have a quick Question

can the combination 

sich einfallen lassen 

replace either sich ausdenken/überlegen. 

I did skim through your other article (Comment soon) but einfallen on it’s own doesn’t seem to fit. Vielen Dank.

3) Emfehlung 

gang ( umgang, zugang Abgang,….)

4) Beitrag


which seems to mean, you guessed. 
I think it’s used when you push your way against sth, used fig too 

2 years ago

I’m surprised no one is demanding the r-verb article!! Let me put in an urgent request for it!

2 years ago

In the last quiz, you matched erdrücken with crush. I thought it should be zerdrücken. Is it right?

2 years ago

Hallo Emanuel! Vielen Dank für deinen tollen Artikel! Ich finde ihm sehr lustig und nützlich, so wie immer! Ich bin sehr entspannt auf den nächsten, Tschüss!

2 years ago

Another good one is “bei etwas ein Auge zudrücken”, to turn a blind eye to something.

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Is this used more in a positive or negative way, or both? I saw one of the definitions is to turn a blind eye and the first thing that came to mind is a situation where you can and should help someone, but you ignore the problem instead. Then I saw an example where you’re sometimes late to work but your boss lets it go. So I guess a better question is, how serious is the thing that you’re closing an eye to? Is it different if you close both eyes?

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“Turn a blind eye” definitely tends to sound negative to me. I’d probably use “let it slide” as a dynamic equivalent for “bei etw. ein Auge zudrücken”.

Actually, there’s also “to wink at something,” which is probably the closest equivalent – although I think the (by now) normal use of “wink” makes it sound more approving than it is.

2 years ago

Toller Artikel! Aber jetzt hab ich so viel Lust, den Artikel über R-Version zu lesen. :) :) ;)

Mohd Shaeq
Mohd Shaeq
2 years ago

Ein ausgezeichneter Artikel über eines der schwierigsten Wörter, die mir während meines Studiums der deutschen Sprache begegnet sind. Herr Schuchart erklärt die Präfixverben von “drücken” in einer sehr logischen und einnehmenden Weise. Wie immer macht sein charakteristischer humorvoller Stil den Artikel zu einer Freude beim Lesen. Ich danke Ihnen sehr, Herr Schuchart, dass Sie mein richtungsweisendes Licht sind.

Mohd Shaeq
Mohd Shaeq
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ja, die Variationen von „drücken“ waren für mich manchmal schwer zu handhaben.

2 years ago

Very in detail article, Emanuel. I’d also like to express my gratitude and thanks for those who donated so that I can have a membership account here on this blog.
Thank you so much, donators and Emanuel for letting me have the chance to learn, read and hopefully master the German language.
Danke schön! Bis bald!

2 years ago

I learned another new one today, rausdrücken. You’re right, it was easy to tell the meaning from context (pressing/squeezing the water out of grated potatoes).

2 years ago

Ich mag die Einhörner und die Eichhörnchen!

Dennis Johnson
Dennis Johnson
2 years ago

Good article. In English we often say “to PRESS the trigger”. And this is more in line with the common meaning of drücken.

Lost in Desert
Lost in Desert
2 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Johnson

Agreed! Shooting accurately requires gradually increasing PRESSURE on the trigger until the shot goes OFF. While this trigger action may appear very quick, when done properly, it should be as Dennis describes (even if done in fraction of a second). Instructors drill it into you to not JERK the trigger (causing inaccuracy), and they will often avoid the word PULL to avoid the student conflating pulling and jerking the trigger. The German verb conveys this concept well! Plus 1 for German! It could also stem from the age of matchlock firearms when you would press a lever holding a burning wick onto a flash hole in order to fire the weapon.

2 years ago
Reply to  Lost in Desert

That’s interesting! For laymen, though, “pull the trigger” is definitely the idiomatic phrase.

2 years ago

Dear Emanuel, this article is just great, especially for those of us who are perpetually confused by (yet also attracted to) German prefixes. It is just dastardly how disparate the meanings of words with the same stem become with the addition of just a few letters at the front end. I know you have some individual articles about some of the prefixes, but is there somewhere where you give a description of all of them? Or, is there some collection of articles under one heading that is only about prefixes? There seem to be only a limited number of word stems in German, but when one adds in those multi-meaning prefixes, kaBLAM! Thanks!

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thank you Thank you! Wonderful. Much appreciated.

2 years ago

Benutzt man lieber „Lass dich mal drücken“ als „Lass mich dich mal umarmen“?

Wenn man idiomatisch schreibt, soll man einen Apostroph am Ende des Wortes geben, um den Platz für das „E“ zu füllen?

Z.B. Ich verdrück‘ mich.

Noch ein toller Artikel – dank‘ dir!

2 years ago

The examples today were extra full of useful phrases to add to my daily rotation and made me laugh to boot :)
A question about Ausdrücke when it’s used to mean swear words. Is this used in the plural, or does singular work too? I was just on dict.cc and got better results when I searched for Ausdrücke as opposed to Ausdruck. This doesn’t usually make a difference, but every so often it does.
I was listening to a podcast today and came across wegdrücken. Seine Hilferufe über die Sprechanlage wurden weggedrückt.

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Got it, thanks!

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

BTW it was nice to see you in the latest Easy German video! I was listening with my eyes closed and then went, wait, I know that voice :)

2 years ago

Typos first:
“If oyu want to talk to an operator” (If you…)
“these r-version almost always carry” (these r-versions almost always carry)
“and it’s various prefix versions,” (and its various prefix versions.)
“Ich verdrück mich” (Ich verdrücke mich) (or am I wrong and you’re using the colloquial version of German verbs in the 1st person singular?)
BTW, pushing someone’s buttons in English means to purposefully irritate or annoy someone, not much to do with pressure. Would that apply in German? Or does it only have the pressure-related meaning?
Is verdrücken in the sense of pressing the wrong button also reflexive?
Thanks for another great article and bis nächstes Mal!

2 years ago
Reply to  Elsa

Man verwählt sich auch, wenn man die falschen Telefonnummer angerufen hat. Aber ich empfinde, dass man sich verdrückt, wenn man z.B. eine Fahrkarte am Automat kauft, und an den falschen Knopf drückt, vielleicht für Hin- und Rückfahrt statt für nur Einfach.

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Aber muss man nicht einen Apostrophe dazugeben? Ich verdrück’ mich? Kinda like, “Ich hab’ etwas”?

2 years ago

Yeah, I think your answer for the last question is incorrect.
I like the Ausdruck “sich vor etwas drücken”, to duck/weasel out of something. Vielleicht so: Der Wichser hat sich gedrückt und ich musste ganz allein nach der Party aufräumen.

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Verstehe. Es war eine megagroße Party und seine Ausrede war ganz dünn. ;-)

2 years ago

Ihre Antwort für Frage Nr, 8 stimmt nicht?

2 years ago
Reply to  Richard

Ups, ja, ich habe vergessen, die richtige zu markieren. Jetzt ist es ok. Danke :)

NN __
NN __
2 years ago

Diesen Artikel ist super Toll!

Wenn ich Kindern Russisch erkläre, finde ich auch viele lustige Inkonsistenzen.

Ich denke, das meiste ist historisch und wir können nur annehmen, warum es so ist.


2 years ago

Gut gemacht wie immer! Vielen Dank Emmanuel