Word of the Day – “das Bild”

Hello everyone

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll take a look at the meaning of

das Bild


And Bild is really cool because not only does it say more than a thousand words, it is also part of more than a thousand words. Much more.
The online dictionary dict.cc  has 2.400 entries with bild in them. That is a LOT of words. So clearly, there must be more to a Bild than … ahem… meets the eye.
Anyway, let’s jump right in :)

I think most of you have guessed it… a Bild is a picture.

But not only that. It’s also the word for the more abstract sense of “mental image”.

And of course there are useful compounds with it.

Those were just a few examples, there are boatloads more.
And yet, it’s just the tip of the icebild, I mean iceberg. For the full potential, we need to look at the verb bilden.


The meaning of  bilden is … to form. 
And that’s actual closer to the noun than you might think. Because Bild actually used to be a somewhat broad concept. Like… it is not limited to the 2D picture. In fact, for Bild was used for any kind of “appearance”, anything that “you see”. The perfect example is the word der Bildhauer

The sculptor quite literally “forms an appearance”. That was the original sense of bilden and slowly, it shifted away the focus from the whole notion (copied) appearance notion and moved toward create, evolve.
By the way, you might be wondering if there are any English relatives. At first, I was like “This is probably related to to build“, because of the sound and the whole forming aspect, but nope. Bild was never part of the English strand of the Germanic languages and it’s also unknown where it actually came from. It was just kind of there one day.
Anyway, so bilden means to form, (in the sense of forming something new.)
Let’s bilden some Beispiele :).

In these examples, the bilden was done by someone. But stuff can also form by itself. And while English leaves it up to context, German will pretend like it doesn’t understand if you don’t put its beloved self reference into the sentence. German is OCD like that.

Now, as far as nouns go there is das Gebilde which means something like “strange formation” in a physical sense

But by far the more important noun is die Bildung.  It can mean formation in the sense of the process of forming.

But that’s not the main meaning of Bildung.
That meaning is…

“Sexy Pulled Pork Sandwich”

Yeah, nope :).
I got some milk, if anyone wants to skim something ;).
The most common meaning of Bildung is education. And the verb sich bilden can also mean to educate (oneself).
And that makes a lot of  sense actually. I mean, educating yourself is pretty much a way of “forming” your mind. And if that’s not convincing enough … just think of the word to information. It’s not the same, but just like Bildung it comes from form and is about knowledge.
Now, the verb is not all that common actually and only works for somewhat broad contexts. The noun however is incredibly common and there are many many compounds with it.

Also about the idea of education, though somewhat more narrow is the prefix version ausbilden, which means something like to train in the context of a profession. So… you can ausbilden someone to be a fireman for instance.  But you can’t ausbilden for a marathon. That would be tranieren. The noun die Ausbildung makes it more clear, I think, because that is the German word for apprentice ship.
The words are pretty common in Germany, much more than apprentice is in English, no idea why.

The word Auszubildender is actually kind of a nightmare to pronounce. That why people in more colloquial contexts say Azubi. That’s Japanese and stands for  “the flower that blossoms under an old tree.”
Okay, it’s of course not Japanese. But it was a nice image.
Anyway, of course there are what realists would call “more prefix versions”.
Nachbilden  and umbilden, for example, which are both based on the forming-bilden. The former is about the idea of copying the latter about reshaping, but they’re both super niche-y and only work in a few contexts.
Then, there’s  abbilden,  which is actually based on the Bild-idea and means something like “capture in pictures” (and also to transform in a mathematical sense).

This one is more common than the first two, and if you have to write academical papers in German, you will need the noun a LOT.
But the most useful prefix version is sich einbilden.

I’m really good in bed

And what’s really cool about sich einbilden is that it kind of merges all three ideas – the image, the forming and the knowledge.
Because sich einbilden is about forming an image of reality (knowledge) in your mind… you “form, depict something to yourself”.
A bit like to imagine, but not quite the same. The crucial thing about sich einbilden is that you take whatever you’re imagining as reality when it actually isn’t. Kind of like to hallucinate, just more subtle and not as crazy sounding. We could call it  self deceiving imagining. The word for this hypothetical imagining is sich vorstellen.
Let’s look at a few examples…

Oh, in case you’re wondering why it was dir and not dich in the example with the noise….  you’re imagining the thing TO yourself, you’re “receiving”. So we need Dative. An accusative would mean that you are the thing being imagined.
Anyway, the noun for einbilden is die Einbildung.

The last one is actually a quite common idiom and it’s a great transition to the last word for today… eingebildet.

Technically, eingebildet is the ge-form of einbilden, so the sentence above could mean that the waiter is totally imaginary. But based on this whole notion of having a wrong self image, eingebildet has become THE German word for conceited, stuck up.

  • The waiter at the restaurant is super stuck up/conceited.

And that’s it for today :).
This was our look at das Bild and bilden. It was quite a range of stuff actually… pictures, education, forming, hallucinations… but I hope you could see how they all share the core idea of image and form.
As always, if you have questions or suggestions or if you want to try out some examples just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next week.


Test yourself on Bild!

1 / 7

Which of these are called "Bild" in German? (multiple answers)

2 / 7

What is the word for inspiration/role model?

3 / 7

Which of the following statements about the verb “bilden” is FALSE?

4 / 7

Which of the following is the most common translation for "education"?

5 / 7

What does the following sentence mean:
“Im Kühlschrank bildet sich Schimmel.”

6 / 7

What does the following sentence mean:

“Maria bildet sich ein, eine gute Tänzerin zu sein.”

7 / 7

What does this sentence mean:

“Meine Nachbarin ist total eingebildet.”

Your score is


** vocab **

das Bild – picture, image, impression
bildlich – figuratively, visually
das Vorbild – the role model
der Bildschirm – the screen
das Blutbild – the blood count (medical)

das Bühnenbild – the scenery (theater)
bebildern – add pictures to some text

bilden – to form, make (create)
sich bilden – to form, educate oneself (general) 
die Bildung – the formation, the education
die Allgemeinbildung – general education/knowledge
die Weiterbildung – advanced training, further erducation (super common in job contexts)

abbilden – depict (capture in pics, sounds somewhat formal)
die Abbildung – the graphic (pictures and so on in books)

ausbilden – educate , train (on the job) , formation
der Azubi (Auszubildender) – the apprentice
die Ausbildung – apprenticeship 

sich einbilden – imagine (negative tone)
die Einbildung – the imagination
eingebildet – imagined (but not real), conceited, stuck up


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Hi Emanuel. Eine Kleinigkeit mit diesem Satz: “you’re having a beer in your hand”. “To have” ist, in Bezug auf dynamisches und Zustandsverb wechselsetig. Wenn das Bier in der Hand ist, ist das “stative”. z.B. “you have a beer in your hand” oder “no thanks I have one already”. Wenn das Bier runter die Kehle eingeworfen wird, oder in allgemein getrunken wird, ist das “dynamic”. z.B. “you’re having a beer” oder “hi honey I’m in the pub having a quick beer”.

Und “Janis has done an apprenticeship as a carpenter” ist doch völlig idiomitisch. “Wir bilden aus” könnte sich mit “Apprenticeships available/offered” übersetzen lassen.


Anm. Vielmehr als “you have” sagt man am meistens “you’ve got”.


Hey, that solves a mystery for me.
At its core “bilden” means to form. Hence it makes sense that “bildende Künste” do not mean paintings or arts with educational value (although that might be both also true) but mean “plastic arts”, arts which form an actual object like a sculpture, a painting or, I guess, furniture. So simply no writing, singing, dancing, acting, which would be “Literatur”, “Musik” and “darstellende Künste” respectively.
And two other “Bildungen” that are rather contemporary here in Germany:
We just had an end to 169 days of “Regierungsbildung” = “forming a government”. Which is especially long considering that we only get a continuation of the same coalition out of it.
And as Eastern nears, the good old Goethe comes to mind with his “Osterspaziergang” (part of Faust 1) where one can read:
“Doch die Sonne duldet kein Weißes, überall regt sich Bildung und Streben, alles will sie mit Farbe beleben; doch an Blumen fehlt’s im Revier, sie nimmt geputzte Menschen dafür.”
Edgar Alfred Bowring translated that to:
“Ah! but the Sun will suffer no white, growth and formation stir everywhere, ‘twould fain with colours make all things bright, though in the landscape are no blossoms fair. Instead it takes gay-decked humanity.”
He switched the words around but translated “Bildung” with formation and “Streben” with growth (I think “striving” would be closer but doesn’t fit the rhyme).
Here I am getting into spring mood already. Sorry for all who are still snowed in.


– Thomas bildet sich ein, ein guter Liebhaber zu sein.
– Thomas thinks he’s a good lover (implied: “but he isn’t.”)

A good alternative: “Thomas fancies himself a good lover.” But that doesn’t really work for the other related uses. “Full of him-/herself” strikes me as a good equivalent to “eingebildet” in the “conceited” sense.

Following on aoind’s correction:

– Thomas trägt eine Brille, weil er denkt, er sieht damit gebildet aus.
– Thomas is wearing glasses because he thinks he’s looking intellectual/educated with them.

This would really need to be “he looks.” To “be looking” a particular way only works, to my ear, if it’s describing a temporary condition (“You’re looking well/not looking too good”), especially if you’re talking about someone starting to look that way or if it’s just becoming noticeable (“He’s looking nervous”). Being intellectual or educated just doesn’t fit with that.

Lost in Desert
Lost in Desert

Props on the translation!
“Well, big head and egg head sound similar after all, right?”


What is a carie?
Maria’s mate did an apprenticeship in carpentry.

Evelyn Toseland
Evelyn Toseland

Very good! I enjoyed this one. About apprenticeships – Companies OFFER apprenticeships on their web pages, for instance. A young person SERVES an apprenticeship. Mathematicians and scientists BUILD MODELS of what is happening with an experiment. (Mathematical or computer models). And the person with a beer would most likely say “I’ve GOT a beer in my hand”, or “a beer here”. I wonder if you could use bilden to translate world-building in the game-building or writing sense? Weltbildung?


Apprenticeship correct. Although companies TAKE apprentices and you DO your apprenticeship.
Or, You apprenticed with a carpenter, shoemaker, usw. You can have done your apprenticeship with a whomever, as well.

Thomas puts on glasses because “he thinks it makes him look “intellectual.

The thing is, I learn HEAPS from reading some of your translations because it tells me how Germans “think” when they use words. I’m really loath to correct you because I appreciate your German accent (if you will) in the translations – they are just as helpful as the German instruction. Learning to speak German involves trying to “think” like a German when forming a sentence. Especially considering the progressive tense doesn’t exist in German, constant reminders in the form of German’s way to translate German into English are sehr helpful.

Heute Morgen schicke ich meinen Antrag für Deutsch an die Uni in Lund! Juhu! Keep ihre fingers crossed! Neuanfanger Deutsch, uni-level. Can’t believe I’m gonna be a college student again! Whoohoo!


I do agree, and I probably correct more than I should, given that. I *try* to limit corrections to situations where the meaning might be confusing. Simple vs. progressive is one of those borderline areas where it’s rarely out-and-out incomprehensible if you get it wrong, but you can communicate a false impression of what you mean, or it might just sound a little too weird for comfort.


OK, Evelyn is correct in “serving” an apprenticeship – just saw that NACH my comment, but I think “doing” my apprenticeship is more widely used, like more lax. “Serving” one’s apprenticeship is correct but sounds kinda old-worldly. Not as “new” as “I don’t DO bridges” (meaning I’m scared as hell of heights and I freak out like a rabid dog when driving over a bridge), but still, more widely used. Perhaps because apprenticeships are rarely done now – mostly you just start out as a poorly paid newbie.


Yeah, that last comment is what I was going to say (from an American perspective). It’s not something commonly talked about, and so I think you’d default to “do” – especially since, analogously, you “do” an internship.


Eine Frage bezüglich “ausbildung”: does “ausbildung” only mean “apprenticeship” or can it also mean, “training, schooling, instruction (in a certain area/topic)”? Before I start looking it all up in various dictionaries, I want to see how much of a Gefühl I’m getting.

Have heard the terms “Gesell” and “Lehrling” and feel them to be “apprentice”. Perhaps wires are crossed in mein Kopf because “Gesellbrev” in Swedish is the certificate that you’ve mastered your apprenticeship AFTER your formal craftsmen’s education. Sorta like your craftsman’s license = Gesellbrev. So, I’m wondering if an “ausbildung” could be any instruction I get in a more, craftsmen’s field, or like a crash-course in something. Like, less academic, more hands-on kinda thingy. sorta… That’s the thing with “Gefühl”, it’s less scientific and more touchy-feely.


Hi everybody!! I bounced into this website some days ago and it was absolutely great to find finally such a fantastic collection of articles! I thank everybody who generously donated more than requested, because you allowed me to be a member, otherwise I could not have been able to afford it.
Good luck to anybody who is struggling like me in learning this amazing language. :-)


Roger that! Vielen Dank! Ich glaube die Schumacher und die Schneider benutzen auch “Geselle”. Weiß nicht ob “auch” vor oder nach dem Verb stehen sollte.

2 Paracetamol, 1 Ipren, 1 Samarin, viel Wasser und einen Spaziergang vor einem nachmittags Nickerchen. You’ll be ready to rock again tonight. Unless you are over 40, then you are in bigass trouble – you won’t be functional again until Monday. Trust me on this one…


Strützenpritschlunkanchen? That has to mean more than just “sandwich”!

Also, I’ve never seen the word “wa?” at the end of a sentence. Is that equivalent to “oder”? [right? (as in “correct?”]


Thank you so much for adding me as a member! This is a great help for me as a beginner starting out..I haven’t come across any other websites who extended their resources to people who can’t afford to pay. It’s a really great thing you’ve going on here.


Thanks a lot .I am really grateful ,and will always be.great thing that u ppl r doing


Thank you so much for offering me a free membership.


I am a subscriber Thank you for a very interesting post.

I would be grateful is you could discuss ansetzen, which I find confusing.

Concerning einbilden/Einbildung.

There are 7 senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch etc

To hallucinate is to have a false sensory perception. Schizophrenics hear voices (have auditory hallucinations), people on certain drugs like LSD have visual hallucinations, people who have had a limb amputated falsely have the impression the limb is still present (phantom limb).
To hallucinate you must have a false image (perception) and it has to concern a sensory input.

To imagine as in sich vorstellen, Vorstellung, Vorstellungskraft you explain very well.

I think that einbilden / Einbildung as closer to the meaning of to be delusional / a delusion.
Imagination and delusion both concern forming an image of reality, but there is a major difference, and that difference is the degree of certainty which you could also call degree of belief.
For example, if I form the image in my mind of Emanuel dictating his posts, surrounded by a hoard of beautiful Azubienen feeding him grapes, I have a lot of imagination (Vorstellung/Vorstellungskraft), but if I believe with 100% certainty that this mental representation is true, then it becomes a delusion (Einbildung). For example, people with paranoia are delusional: not only do they form false images in reality in their mind, more importantly, they are 100% certain that these false images of reality are true.

Keep up the good work ! Kind regards


Thanks to everyone on here who helped pay for my membership!

I have an amusing anecdote about the word “Bildung”. When I was staying in Vienna in Spring 2003, there was a house a few blocks away from my hotel with a big, hand-lettered sign hanging on the front yard fence that said “Bieldunk stirb langsam”. I asked the hotel desk clerk in passing if she knew what the word “Bieldunk” meant, and she was initially puzzled by this, but then quickly explained how it was an ironic, jokey spelling of “Bildung” – I suppose it was some kind of social critical commentary about how “education is slowly dying”! Needless to say I’ll never forget that word now.


Great post as usual :-) I’m not actively looking for them — I promise — but I noticed a typo in a German word: it should be “trainieren” not “tranieren” in German – yes, we love our anglicisms :-P And the English translation of the sentence with the manager and his team building workshop is missing the part “before every meeting”. Fancy old word that came to my mind was “Ebenbild” – basically a synonym of “Abbild”, but only when talking about people/animals as far as I know. You would find it in fictional literature or fairytales ;-)


I did wonder about “Ebenbild” – I only know it from German Bible translations, where it’s the preferred rendering in Luther ’84 for the Greek εἰκών eikōn (where we get “icon”), and in Hebrews 1:3 also for χαρακτήρ charaktēr, which means something like “imprint.” Where might it show up in fiction or fairy tales?


Just a couple of minor things: In English, you would never say,” I had a wrong imagination of the city”. It would be “impressions” as you said, or “idea” as in,”I had the wrong idea of the city.”
Also, it’s not ” It was just figment of my imagination” , but “it was just a figment of my imagination.” As I said, just minor details. I’m being a nitpicker, or I’m nitpicking when I draw attention to very minor things. Comes from how monkeys pick the nits from one another at the zoo! Going through finding tiny little things of little importance.


Can the term “Weiterbildung” be used if I want to say that I did a Master Programm??