Word of the Day – “dicht”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German word of the day.
And this time, we’ll take a look at the meaning of


Some of you immediately thought of Goethe and Shakespeare and poetry, because poets are called Dichter in German.
But dicht itself is actually about being dense.
So the big question is:
are German poets dense?
This and much more
is what we’ll explore,
so let’s commence ;)

Like many German adjectives, dicht has an English relative. Some of you probably now think of “thick” because it sounds similar. But the German brother of thick is dick which means thick as well as fat, in the sense of body weight.

  • “Wir bei McDonalds sind nicht einfach ein Team, wir sind eine Familie. Wir gehen zusammen durch dick und dünn…. ”
    “Sollte das nicht dick und fett sein?”
    “Das ist der leise Teil, Herr Wojak. Den sagen wir nicht. “
  • “We at McDonalds are not simply a team, we’re a family. Together, we go through thick and thin…
    “Shouldn’t that be thick and fat?”
    “That’s the quiet part, Mr Wojak. We don’t say that.”
  • “Maria, sag mal, findest du mich dick?”
    “Nein, ich finde dich ZU dick.”
  • “Maria, hey, do you think I’m fat?”
    “No, I think you’re TOO fat.

And while it totally looks like dick and dicht should be related, they’re probably not.
The real brother of dicht in English is … drumroll… tight. Doesn’t sound as similar, but actually if you switch out the g for a c they’re already almost the same.
They both come from a fascinatingly uninteresting (and ancient) Indo-European root  that was about coming, moving close together, but they each developed a different focus over time. The English tight focuses more on the force and the resulting “fixation”. Think of tight pants for instance.
This is NOT a case for dicht, but instead the German word for that is eng, which captures this notion of squeezing, that tight can have. Just think of angst, if you need a mental bridge.

  • Meine Hose ist mir zu eng.
  • My pants are too tight.

And for tight in the sense of holding, fixating the word of choice in German is fest.

  • Halt mich fest.
  • Hold me tight.

So what about dicht? Well, dicht focused in the mere notion of closeness that comes from … well… getting close together. And that’s why it is the German word for dense and also for (physically) really close.

  • Das Gebiet ist dicht besiedelt.
  • The are is densely populated.
  • Thomas Brusthaare sind wie ein dichter Wald.
  • Thomas’ chest hair are like a dense forest.
  • Du musst ein bisschen dichter ans Mikrophon.
  • You have to go a little closer to the mic.
  • Steht man zu dicht vor einem Bild, sieht man es nicht.
  • If you stand too close to a painting, you won’t see it.
    (“nah” is also possible in this case)

And if we spin this idea a little further and get really really really really close, at some point things are so close together that nothing can pass through anymore. So it makes a lot of sense that dicht also means impermeable or leakproof.

  • Der Waschmaschinenschlauch ist undicht.
  • The washing machine hose is leaking. (is not “tight”)

Geez, Waschmaschinenschlauch… I was alittle undicht too, when I said this.
Anyway, so as you can see the translation of dicht depends on context, and dict.cc actually lists like 25 different options. But the core theme is this notion of “being (packed) close together“.
And with that in mind you should be able to make sense of most instances of dicht you’ll see in daily life, like fixed phrasings…

  • Bist du noch ganz dicht, du Idiot?! Pass doch mal auf, wo du hinfährst.
  • What is wrong with you, you idiot? Pay attention to where you’re driving.
    (Lit.: “Are you still fully sealed, you idiot?!”)
  • Das Gesundheitsamt hat das Restaurant dicht gemacht.
  • The local health authority shut down/closed the restaurant.

or prefix verbs…

  • Wenn man Luft verdichtet, wird sie warm.
  • If you compress air, it’ll get warm.
  • Die Hinweise darauf, dass Maria die Kaffeemaschine im Büro kaputt gemacht hat, verdichten sich.
  • The clues that Maria broke the coffee machine in the office are solidifying/getting more numerous.
  • Man kann ein Loch in seiner Seele nicht mit Alkohol abdichten.
  • You can’t seal a hole in the soul with alcohol.

or of course nouns…

  • Eis hat eine niedrigere Dichte als Wasser.
  • Ice has a lower density than water.
  • Der Dichtungsring ist porös.
  • The poem ring is poet.

Wait, what the… this.. uh.. this should be gasket… “The gasket is porous.”
Gee, stupid interns! Since they’re “working” from home the quality of their work went down. EVEN FURTHER!! I’m fed up, actually. If you’re reading this, Max, Laura, Justine, Dakota, Chung, Nicholas, Wolfgang, Cari, Anja, Jenny, Janusz …it’s back to office time for ya’ll! Enough work from couch, the coffee machine won’t operate itself!!

But since we’re at poetry now, let’s get to the question, I posed initially, has anything to do with the German.
And actually, I’m kind of curious what you think, so let’s do a little poll real quick, just for fun.

Is "der Dichter" (poet) related to "dicht" (dense)?

View Results

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I mean… if we think about it, a poem is usually very “closely knit”, so it would make some sense.
So are you ready for the big reveal?
The answer is that dicht and dichten are not related.
The verb dichten instead comes from the Latin dicere, which meant to say, to proclaim, making dichten is a direct relative to dictionary and dictator.

  • Thomas und Maria schreiben sich Meckergedichte.
  • Thomas write each other nag poems.
  • Rosen sind rot,
    Veilchen sind blau
    Dichter dichten
    und kriegen die Frau.
  • Roses are red,
    Violets are blue,
    poets write poems
    then we then have to learn them in school.

Yeah, I know the translations didn’t exactly match up, but hey…  poetic license, amarite. Or in German, dichterische Freiheit.
Anyways, that’s it for today, folks.
This was our little look at dicht and dick and dichten. As usual, if you want to check how much you remember, you can take the little quiz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or you come across another nice dicht-word or phrase just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it, have a great week and I’ll see you next time.


** vocab **

dicht = dense (Forests, beard and so on. NOT for being stupid); very close (In the sense of location. Think of being close to a screen.); not leaking, sealed (Nothing can get through); closed (Colloquially used for stores and borders); shit-faced (Colloquial for being really drunk)
die Dichtung = the seal, the gasket (Any kind of contraption that has the puprose of sealing some gap); the poem, the poetry
die Dichte = the density
verdichten = to compress; to pile up (“sich+Acc verdichten” – for clues and hints only.)
abdichten = to seal (A leakage)
dicht machen = to shut down (For stores, colloquial)
dichthalten = to not leak (Rare in that sense); to not snitch, to keep a secret (Colloquial)
dick = thick; fat
verdicken = to thicken
die Dicke = the thickness
Dickerchen = fatty, tubby (Sounds more cute in German and less insulting. Still, don’t say it to your partner, maybe.)
Bist du noch ganz dicht? = Are you crazy?! (Often used in traffic in the sense of “What the hell are you doing?”)
das Gedicht = the poem (Also used as a great praise for food sometimes)
der Dichter = the poet (“-in” for woman)
dichterische Freiheit = poetic license
dichten = to write in rhyme, to write poetry
umdichten = to change a poem
andichten = to invent a story about someone (“jemandem etwas andichten” – always in a negative sense.)
eng = tight (Pants, races, budget etc. The core theme is a sense of being squeezed.)
Meerenge = the strait (In the context of a narrow portion of a sea or ocean)
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