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.

  • Was für ein schönes Bild!! Hast du das gemalt?
  • What a beautiful picture/painting!!! Did you paint that?
  • “Sag mal… du hast auf fast jedem Bild ein Bier in der Hand.”
    “Naja… Urlaub halt.”
    “Aber beim Schlafen??!!”
  • “Hey uhm… you’ve got a beer in your hand on almost every photo/picture.”
    “Well… that’s just how it is on vacation.”
    “But while sleeping??!!”

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

  • Am Morgen nach der Party macht sich Maria ein Bild der Lage.
  • The morning after the party, Maria takes a look at the situation.
    (without sich, it would mean that Maria is actually taking a picture)


  • Ich hatte ein falsches Bild von der Stadt.
  • I had a wrong impression/imagination of the city.

And of course there are useful compounds with it.

  • Maria findet, dass Thomas manchmal ein komisches Frauenbild hat.
  • Maria thinks that Thomas sometimes has a weird image of women/perception of women.
  • Der Bildschirm von meinem Laptop flackert
  • The screen of my laptop is flickering.
  • Cinderella ist ein großes Vorbild für mich.
  • Cinderella is a big inspiration/role model for me.

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

  • Michelangelo war Maler, Bildhauer, und vieles mehr.
  • Michelangelo was a painter, a sculptor (lit.: image puncher) and much more.

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 :).

  • Wie bildet man die Vergangenheit in Deutsch?
  • How to form the past tense in German?
  • Seit mein Chef beim Team-Building-Seminar war, müssen wir vor jedem Meeting einen Kreis bilden.
  • Ever since my boss was at the team building workshop we have to form a circle.
  • Ich muss mir dazu erst eine Meinung bilden.
  • I have to form an opinion (for myself) about that first.

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.

  • Wenn man in der Küche nie lüftet, bildet sich Schimmel.
  • If you never air out the kitchen mold will evolve (lit.: forms itself)
  • Gegen Abend bilden sich Quellwolken.
  • In the evening cumulus clouds will form.

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

  • “Was ist das für ein Gebilde in der Küche?”
    “Das ist mein Strützenpritschlunkanchen.”
    “Oh, ach so. Cool.”
  • “What’s that strange formation in the kitchen?”
    “That’s my sandwhich.”
    “Oh, I see. Cool.”

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

  • Zucker beschleunigt die Bildung von Karies.
  • Sugar promotes the formation of caries.

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.

  • Bildung ist ein Schlüssel zum Erfolg.
  • Education is one key to success.
  • Thomas liest viel, um sich zu bilden.
  • Thomas reads a lot to educate himself.
  • Thomas trägt eine Brille, weil er denkt, er sieht damit gebildet aus.
  • Thomas is wearing glasses because he thinks he looks intellectual/educated with them.
    (it’s more than just having been to school)
  • Thomas hat eine gute Allgemeinbildung.
  • Thomas has a good general knowledge (knows a lot of stuff).
  • Maria macht eine Weiterbildung/Fortbildung zur Food-Yoga-Trainerin.
  • Maria does a vocational training as food yoga instructor.

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.

  • Marias Kumpel Janis macht eine Ausbildung als Tischler.
  • Maria’s buddy Janis has done an apprenticeship as a carpenter.
    (In German it’s the standard way of saying this, but I feel like it’s not idiomatic in English.. native speakers please help)
  • Wir bilden aus.
  • (companies who take apprentices have this on their website, to tell people that you can make an official apprenticeship there… is that even translatable?)
  • Viele gut ausgebildete Fachkräfte gehen ins Ausland.
  • Lots of well trained professionals go work abroad.
  • Als Auszubildender verdient man extrem wenig Geld.
  • As an apprentice you earn very little money.

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).

  • Der Dokumentarfilm bildet das harte Leben in den Favelas ab.
  • The documentary depicts /captures on screen the harsh life in the favelas.
  • Die folgende Abbildung (Abb.) zeigt den Anstieg der Mieten in den letzten drei Jahren.
  • The following figure shows the increase of the rents over the last three years.

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…

  • Thomas stellt sich vor, ein guter Liebhaber zu sein.
  • Thomas imagines how it would be to be a good lover.
  • Thomas bildet sich ein, ein guter Liebhaber zu sein.
  • Thomas thinks he’s a good lover (implied: “but he isn’t.”)
  • “Da war ein Geräusch in der Küche.”
    “Das bildest du dir ein.”
  • “There was a noise in the kitchen.”
    “You’re imagining things.”
  • Was bildet der sich ein?
  • Who does he think he is. (lit.: What is he imagining?”)

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.

  • Ich dachte kurz, da ist meine Ex-Freundin, aber das war nur Einbildung.
  • For a moment I thought there’s my ex girlfriend but it was just figment of the imagination.
  • “Mein neues Profilbild ist sooo gut… ich seh mal wieder super heiß aus.”
    “Naja, Einnbildung ist auch eine Bildung, wa.”
  • “My new profile pic is sooooo good… I’m super hot looking yet again.”
    “Well, big head and egg head sound similar after all, right?”
    Lit.: “Illusory imagination is a form of education, too

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

  • Der Kellner in dem Restaurant ist total 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.
  • “Wie fandst du Marias Schwester?”
    “Ganz nett, aber ein bisschen eingebildet.”
  • “How’d you like Maria’s sister?”
    “She’s nice, but a little stuck up.”

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.

** 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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5 months ago

In English you can say someone serves an apprenticeship

1 year ago

Hi Emanuel,

Quick question about the quiz and number 5. “Im Kühlschrank bildet sich Schimmel.”

I have two questions.
A) I was wondering why only one option was available as an answer. I was taught that German Präsens tense translates two main ways:

  1. Mould is forming in the fridge. (Present Continuous)
  2. Mould forms in the fridge. (Present Simple)

Aren’t both grammatically correct?

B) Wondering about the “Future meaning of verbs” in Präsens tense. Let’s say, your friend comes over and says something like:
Alter, putz heute deinen Kühlschrank. Es ist schmutzig und dann nächste Woche Schimmel bildet sich nicht.

This would be “will not/won’t build up” right?

If you covered this before, sorry to ask.

Danke :)

1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ganz klar! Vielen Dank.

2 years ago

Hi Emanuel, ein Rätzel der seit langen beschäftigt mich. „Nur bei grün den Kinder ein Vorbild“. Ich sehe dieses Schild überall and ja ist schon klar was sie meinen aber Grammatik weise macht kein Sinn. Es gibt kein Verb. Hast du vielleicht ein Einblick?

3 years ago

It is not true that a twin to “Bild” was never in the English stretch of the Germanish speeches. It was. It was in Old English, as “biliþe”. As well as that, it did not only show up out from nowhere one day. It is known where it came from – it came from the Germanish word “*biliþją”.

3 years ago

You would simply say: Janis “apprenticed“ as a Carpenter. The word Apprenticed conveys the idea that it was in the past. For something she/he is doing now, : “is apprenticing…“

4 years ago

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

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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 ;-)

4 years ago
Reply to  Expat

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?

3 months ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Here are just some examples of Ebenbild where it just means someone looking a lot like someone else (and is not related to the bible):

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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

4 years ago

Thank you so much for offering me a free membership.

4 years ago

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

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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?”]

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Did you mean, that “wa” is common in the whole North of Berlin or of Germany? If you meant the latter, sorry to disappoint you, but I think we “Northerners” consider that one existing only in Berlin :-P We would use “oder?”, “ne?” (for you German learners: this is a short “e”, not a long one. If you pronounce this like a long “ee” (=”nee”), that is a colloquial form of “nein”), or “nech?” which is already dialect I believe…

3 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Maybe this page brings some clarity into the regional usage of these words :-) https://www.atlas-alltagssprache.de/runde-2/f19a-b/

3 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

You’re welcome! :)

And haha, I didn’t know they use it in Saxony, only knew it from the South ;-)

3 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

(Testing the comment function)

3 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

…but then again: For you in Berlin Saxony is in the South too ;-)

Ben and Anna Graber
Ben and Anna Graber
4 years ago
Reply to  Expat

And in the South, you hear “ge?” instead of “ne?” – I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that.

Ben and Anna Graber
Ben and Anna Graber
4 years ago

I’ve definitely heard it there, but have also heard it from someone who originally came from somewhere near Freiburg, so I assumed it must be pretty widespread.

4 years ago

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…

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Wenn der Alkohol deine Leber nicht vergiftet, werden die Pillen! Ich werde 29 jedes Jahr.

4 years ago

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. :-)

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago

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.

4 years ago
Reply to  Amerikanerin

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.

4 years ago

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!

4 years ago
Reply to  Amerikanerin

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.

Evelyn Toseland
Evelyn Toseland
4 years ago

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?