Word of the Day – “Bescheid”

Hello everyone,

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

Bescheid

 
Now, I spelled that with a capital B which means that it’s a noun. And of course that raises the question whether it is der, die or das Bescheid.
Well, technically it’s der Bescheid. But in practice we won’t need the article, because Bescheid is super chill about these things.
Like… Germans were like “Hey, Bescheid, do you want us to use an article with you like with all the other nouns?” and Bescheid was just like “Nah bros, it’s cool. Who am I to make you guys use an article. I’m just a normal word.”
Super humble.
“Hey Emanuel, you asked us to tell you when your intro is starting to waste our time… well, it just started.”
Oh… okay, cool. Let’s jump right in, then. Thanks for the heads-up :)

Those of you who have been learning German for a while might have an inkling that the be- in Bescheid could be the infamous be-prefix that we know from verbs like bekommen or bestellen.
Well, you’re spot on.
Bescheid is actually a member of one of the craziest word-families ever: the scheid-family. I think I’ve mentioned this in another article already but I’m just gonna say it again, because it’s just so interesting.
The scheid– family is the family of some really famous words like unterscheiden (to distinguish), entscheiden (to decide) or der Abschied (the good bye). But what makes it crazy is that it’s also the family of Scheiße, shit and science. Oh and schizophrenia.
Yup, science is akin to shit and schizophrenia. Just say that next time one of those blue pillers is using “science” to tell you the earth is “a ball”. That’ll shake ’em up from their delusion.
Seriously though, the core idea of the scheid-family is pretty much captured by another member: to shed. It’s the idea of parting, separating and a core part of science is differentiating between instances. It’s a bit of mind yoga, no doubt, but it kind of makes sense to me.
Anyway, back to Bescheid. There’s this verb scheiden in German. Nowadays, scheiden is pretty much only used in the phrasing sich scheiden lassen, which means to get divorced. But back a few centuries scheiden had a very broad sense of parting, separating. The verb bescheiden was at first just a variation of that but there was one rather specific use from old bureaucratic German that is relevant today. Bescheiden was used in a sense of making a decision about someone’s claim. So basically analogous to entscheiden (to decide) only that it was a decision for someone else.
In law speech you can actually still find this bescheiden today

  • Der Antrag wurde positiv beschieden.
  • The application was “passed a positive ruling”.

And this leads us to the noun der Bescheid because a Bescheid is basically the written form of such a decision. Suppose you apply for unemployment benefits. If you’re actually entitled to it, you will get a letter with a Bewilligungsbescheid (notice of granting). Or if you did commit a petty offense, you might get a Bußgeldbescheid (penalty notice). Or if you’re German and you keep flashing your long compounds in people’s faces, you might get a Screwthatimgonnalearnspanishbescheid… you get the gist.
Now, whatever the reason may be, this noun Bescheid made its way into the mainstream as part of fixed phrasings that are super super common in today’s German. The first one is Bescheid sagen (and the variation Bescheid geben) and it is basically the German counterpart of let someone know. For mundane pieces of info.

  • Warum hast du mir nicht Bescheid gesagt?
  • Why didn’t you tell me, that you need help?
  • “Entschuldigung, bei der Damentoilette ist ein Delphin im Klobecken.”
    “Ah, ich kümmer mich gleich drum. Danke für’s Bescheidsagen.”
  • “Excuse me, in the ladies restroom there’s a dolphin in the toilet bowl.”
    “Oh, I’ll take care of it in a second. Thanks for telling/letting us know.”
  • Nächstes Mal sag mal bitte kurz Bescheid, bevor du vorbeikommst, damit ich aufräumen kann.
  • Next time, please give me a little heads-up that you drop by so I can clean.
  • “Wenn einer von euch noch ein Bier will, sagt Bescheid.”
    Bescheid!”
  • “If someone of you want another beer, lemmi know.”
    “You may know!”

Meh… I tried to use a witty reply in the last one, but it probably doesn’t work. The German version is pretty common though.
Anyway, I think due to its bureaucratic origins, Bescheid sagen does feel a tiny little bit more official. So it’s not the best choice when things get emotional.

  • Sag mir Bescheid, warum du traurig bist.
  • Sag mir, warum du traurig bist.
  • Tell me, why you’re sad.

The version with Bescheid sounds like all you want is a quick heads up, and it doesn’t sound empathetic at all.
Anyway, overall Bescheid sagen is SUPER common and you’ll definitely hear it in daily life a lot.
All right.
Now, the other common phrasing with Bescheid is Bescheid wissen. It’s not as a common as Bescheid sagen, but still good to know. The meaning is pretty self explanatory, I think. Bescheid wissen is about “being in the know” about something. Usually, it is used for single bits of info, like a date or something, but it can also be about a somewhat bigger story.

  • “Beim Meeting morgen bitte auf keinen Fall die kaputte Rolltreppe ansprechen. Das eskaliert nur.”
    “Okay, weiß ich Bescheid.”
  • “At the meeting tomorrow, please do NOT bring up the broken escalator. That’s just gonna escalate.”
    “Okay, saved/roger that/now I know.”
  • Alle auf der Party wussten über Thomas und Maria Bescheid.
  • Everyone at the party knew/were in the know about Thomas and Maria.
  • Nur damit du Bescheid weißt… wenn du noch einmal dein dreckiges Geschirr in der Spüle stehen lässt, packe ich es in dein Bett.
  • Just so you know… if you leave your dirty dishes in the sink one more time, I will put them into your bed.

Cool.
So these were the two really common uses of the noun Bescheid.
But that’s not all for today. We can’t talk about Bescheid without talking about bescheiden.

bescheiden

Now you might be like “Wait, you told us about bescheiden already, this old verb that has fallen out of use for the most part.”
And you’re right, we mentioned that already. But bescheiden is actually also the German word for humble, modest.

  • Ich bin richtig, richtig, richtig krass bescheiden. Ich bin bescheidener als du dir in deinen wildesten Träumen vorstellen kannst.
  • I’m really really really freaking humble. I’m more humble than you can even imagine in your wildest dreams.
  • Bescheidenheit ist eine Tugend.
  • Humbleness is a virtue.
  • In aller Bescheidenheit… meine Suppe ist die beste.
  • In all modesty .. my soup is the best.

Does that tie in with der Bescheid? Well, not directly. But it does tie in with what we’ve learned about the family as a whole. The core of the family was the idea of separation. And when bescheiden was used with a self reference, it would carry the idea of separating, restricting yourself from something. This use is NOT around any more, but the idea of restriction is the base of the adjective bescheiden. Acually, that’s sometimes still the focus.

  • Thomas ist in bescheidenen Verhältnissen aufgewachsen.
  • Thomas grew up in humble circumstances.

The idea here is not that his family were super humble or something. It simply means that they didn’t have much.

  • Der Service in dem Restaurant war mehr als bescheiden.

And this doesn’t mean that the service was super humble. It means that the service sucked. Because this notion of restriction, lack makes bescheiden a good family friendly stand-in for beschissen.
Which bring us full circle back to the beginning, the scheid-family and the connection between science and shit.

And that’s it for today. This was our look at Bescheid and bescheiden and in all modesty I gotta say, it was incredibly well constructed and well explained by me. Let me know in the comments if you agree. And should you really actually have a follow up question, which I don’t think anyone has, because it was so well explained, please leave me a comment as well.
If you want to check how much you remember, you can take the great great quiz I have prepared for you.
I hope you liked it and see you next time. Well, actually I know you liked it. It was really great.
The German word for to brag is angeben, by the way. If you want to find out more about that, you’ll find the link here:

Prefix Verbs Explained – “angeben”

 

4.9 8 votes
Article Rating

Liked the article?

Sign up to my epic newsletter and get notified whenever I post something new :)
(roughly once per week)

No Spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
62 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
mostafa kamal
mostafa kamal
11 months ago

you are great man , I like you , big respect

Aerin Manderschied
Aerin Manderschied
1 year ago

I married a Manderschied and this is true! Lol The family is shit!

thorrudbek
2 years ago

Wow… Maybe I’m too tired but I can’t wrap my head around the “mehr als bescheiden” explanation. I will just bundle all them together and create many flashcards in Anki to rote memorise it as a fixed expression without trying to understand the components. Kinda like ‘nach wie vor’ for example. Thanks for the tip. I would NEVER have guessed that ‘mehr als bescheiden’ had a negative meaning. I would have just stupidly assumed the opposite. Kinda like when someone says ‘Ich mache etwas ungern…’ and I just would assume the person would do it anyway but not really enjoying it, instead of the real meaning that ‘they would rather not’…

david_l
david_l
5 months ago
Reply to  thorrudbek

I don’t know where you’re from, but at least in American English humble in the sense of not having much or not being exceptional is pretty common. Terms like a humble upbringing or service/conditions being described as ‘more than humble’ are definitely used

Jam-Mann
Jam-Mann
3 years ago

For this example:
“Wenn einer von euch noch ein Bier will, sagt Bescheid.”
“Bescheid!”

You could translate it as:
“If you want another beer just say so”
“SO!”

Maybe not the best translation but it gets the feeling of the German sentence across. I’m getting some of that Sprachgefühl and this example stood out to me and made me say wow! I’m getting better at this German thing. Thanks for the articles!

Tony
Tony
2 years ago
Reply to  Jam-Mann

Yes, I agree: “say so…SO!” is a perfect translation. Also, in the next example, it should be “That’s just gonna escalate things [not sure why, but you have to include ‘things’ to make it sound natural].” Each of these examples are funny and help get the point across.

Honestly, this blog is brilliant in that regard, and if it wasn’t for your frequent descent into vulgarity, I’d say the quality you provide for language learning should be incorporated to any quality German course. Don’t get me wrong, even when it’s vulgar, I still laugh, because I can take it. But not everyone can and in that regard you’re limiting your reach so you could say, Sie scheißen sich wirklich in den Fuß!

yes, intended

Tony
Tony
2 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Your response is interesting since the whole point of your blog is language meaning. Vulgarity, of course, is part of language but there is an inherent tension between thoughtfulness and vulgarity — almost in inverse relationship. On the other hand, surprise is an important element both in humor and effective communication. My main point, however, is simply that the “academic quality” of what you provide deserves to be noticed.

By the way, I had a heck of a time finding this article again because the search feature on your website doesn’t find it even when the most sensible terms are used: bescheid, bescheid-sagen, vagina, etc…

(did it work?)

I suggest a simple index page containing all your words as one solution which might have the added advantage of improving search results.

paolob
paolob
3 years ago

nur damit man Bescheid weiß:

jdm (über etw [akk]/von etw [dat]) Bescheid geben/sagen
(von jdm) (über etw [akk]) Bescheid bekommen/erhalten

(über jdn/etw) Bescheid wissen
(in/mit etw [dat]) Bescheid wissen

ngen31
ngen31
3 years ago

Danke für den Artikel, ich hab’ echt Vieles gelernt. Aber ich denke, dass das Wort “Tugend” ein feminines Wort ist, wenn ich micht nicht irre.

Charlotte Alexander
Charlotte Alexander
3 years ago

This is great and funny! The noun for humble is humility I think?

NewbourneSprings
NewbourneSprings
3 years ago

Thinking about your sentence: ‘Next time, please give me a little heads-up that you drop by so I can clean.’ I think that a more colloquial sentence would be: ‘Next time, please give me a little warning that you are dropping by so that I can clean up’. But, for example ‘ Please just drop in’ means ‘ You are welcome at any time’. So I think even better ‘that you are dropping in’ because it is more casual and friendly.

‘to clean’ is the process/labour of removing mess whereas ‘to clean up’ in this context is more to make the place tidy and hence presentable and welcoming perhaps before the return of the parents after a teenage party.. But a scene of crime is ‘cleaned up’ after the forensic team have done their work. How does ‘aufräumen’ fit with these slight differences?

As well ‘To clean up’ can also mean, for example, to snaffle all the prizes in a raffle or all the money in a gambling game.

Pronomen sind ein echter Alptraum!

anerbenartzi
anerbenartzi
3 years ago

I’m missing two levels of connection: How is Scheid related to Scheiße? You made the claim that they’re related, but there was no follow-up. I’m not familiar with d->s or d->ß as a common phoneme morph. Second, there seems to be an implication that a plausible translation of “Scheiße” is “science”. I was not able to find that connection in any online source. Thanks in advance for any clarification.

Omega
Omega
3 years ago

Love your content and thank you for an opportunity of learning with your sponsorship :)
Danke sehr,

Mira
Mira
3 years ago

Super funny! Thank you VERY MUCH!

Bader
Bader
3 years ago

Thanks to Emanuel and the donators, I have this membership to keep learning German on this Blog. You guys are really nice; I really do appreciate it (:

Hayley
Hayley
3 years ago

I left an e-mail saying how I’ve recently decided to become fluent in German, and I pointed out my issue. Thanks to all those who gave a contribution I can now work towards my goal Thank you sooo much you have no idea how thankful I am.

mrumsky
mrumsky
3 years ago

I love it when you get into the etymology. I think “entsheiden” and its English translation “decide” (which I think comes to English via Latin, not via German) must have the same deep root. They’re both “from/away” (ent/de) + “separate/cut” (sheid/cide).

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

Danke schon!

Ibrahim
Ibrahim
3 years ago

this helped alot, thank you.

Sheryl
Sheryl
3 years ago

Emanuel! What is a “blue piller”??

GANESH NARAYANAN
GANESH NARAYANAN
3 years ago

Ist seher gut . Jeden tag , Ich beginne der tag mit Ihr video. viele danke

crittermonster
crittermonster
3 years ago

This really makes me think that my theory about English slang phrases has something to it. Specifically, I think that there are plenty of English phrases whose origins are lost in time… back to the days when it *was* German… or maybe just a wrongly-overheard bit of Grandma and Grandpa’s talk.

I really think that the phrase “to give a shit”. To English speakers today, if they even bother to think about it, it seems to mean “eh, I am interested in this, I will pay you a piece of excrement for it”. But who trades excrement for anything?! Unless it’s valuable bat guano, I suppose. No, I do feel as if there’s a connection here with “gib bescheid”. Anyone else think so?

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
3 years ago
Reply to  crittermonster

Yep, I see it, as well Crittermonster. Thought I was the only one that saw it – keep hearing the theme from “The Twilight Zone” in the background every time I see one of those connections. Now I know I’m not alone. When I start seeing ghosts or hearing voices, I’ll let you know.

Dunkedmonkey
Dunkedmonkey
3 years ago
Reply to  crittermonster

Normally one would say “I don’t give a shit,” (not “I give a shit”). It’s like saying “I couldn’t care less,” There are so many variations, “I don’t give a rat’s ass, a f*ck, a damn, a flying flip.” You can substitute anything you want to illustrate how worthless something is.

anerbenartzi
anerbenartzi
3 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy
Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
3 years ago
Reply to  Dunkedmonkey

I sometimes say, “Do I look like I give a shit?” or if I’m in a really ratty-ass mood, I serve this one, piping hot, “I believe you have mistaken me for someone that Gives A Shit.”
Needless to say, people don’t bother me anymore.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
3 years ago

Don’t they say/write “sag Bescheid” on informal invitations? Like to eine Einweihungsparty – “…sagt Bescheid, ob ihr kommt und was ihr mittbringt” z.B.