Word of the Day – “der Drang”

Hello everyone,

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

der Drang


And we won’t only look at Drang of course but also at other cool words like dringend or drängeln.
Okay, drängeln isn’t that cool actually. But sometimes you have to do it. Like… when you have to get out of a packed train. Or when the article you’re reading to learn German randomly starts talking about a horse that just stands on a meadow. And it describes how the horse just stands there. And then it eats a bit of grass. And takes a few steps. And then stands there. And you’re like
“Dude, could we get started already?!”
That’s drängeln. So let’s jump right in.

Drang sounds quite similar to another German word: der Zwang. And in fact, the similarity is not only in sound. Zwang (we’ve talked about it in a separate article) translates to compulsion, coercion and it’s is essentially a force that is making you do something and you absolutely can’t resist it.
A Drang is kind of a softer, more “intuitive” version of that. It doesn’t sound as irresistible as Zwang and while Zwang can come from the outside, a Drang is always born within you.
The best translations are probably urge and desire but I’d say Drang is on the upper end if the intensity range of those.
Let’s look at a few examples

  • Nicht alle Leute haben den Drang möglichst viel zu reisen.
  • Not all people have the urge/desire to travel as much as possible.
  • Der Drang, zu rauchen, war sehr stark, aber ich war stärker.
  • The desire, urge to smoke was very strong, but I was stronger.
  • Ich empfinde starken Harndrang.
  • I feel a strong urge to urinate.
  • Seit ihrem Urlaub ist Maria voller Tatendrang.
  • Ever since her vacation, Maria is full of drive/zest for action.

The origin of the word is a super mega turbo ancient Indo-European root that was about thrusting, compressing.
It’s not entirely sure, but the word truncate might be part of that family and there might be a connection to the word Druck. And regardless of whether that’s actually the case or not, the idea of pressure and thrusting work really great as a core idea for not only the noun but also the verbs. Which brings us right to drängen and drängeln.

drängen and drängeln

The noun der Drang was only about pressure coming from the inside. The verb drängen on the other hand works for outside pressuring.  Someone “pressures, shoves”  in a certain direction.

  • Ich fühle mich von dir dazu gedrängt, noch ein Bier zu trinken.
  • I feel pressured by you to drink another beer.

But drängen itself isn’t actually all that common and it’s nothing you’d need in your active vocabulary. The same goes for the prefix versions aufdrängen, which means to “push something on someone”, and  bedrängen which is a more physical pushing into someone’s space.

  • Manche Zahnärzte versuchen, ihren Patienten teure Extras aufzudrängen.
  • Lit.: Some dentists try to push expensive extras onto their patients.
    (What would be a good translation here? Is there something a little more pushy than “sell them extras”? Danke :)
  • Maria fühlt sich von dem Strassenmagier bedrängt.
  • Maria feels hassled, besieged by the street magician.
    (dict.cc offers a gazillion translations here, not sure I picked the best ones)

The only word that’s quite common is verdrängen.  It’s based in the away-ver and even though it works for quite the range of contexts, the basic idea of “pressuring away” is pretty visible.

  • Die ärmeren Bewohner werden nach und nach aus dem Viertel verdrängt.
  • The poorer inhabitants  are slowly being pushed out of the neighborhood.
  • Thomas will seine Probleme nicht verdrängen, sondern verarbeiten.
  • Thomas doesn’t want to push away his issues but work through them.
  • Archimedes hat das Prinzip der Verdrängung beim Baden erkannt.
  • Archimedes realized the principle of displacement while having a bath.

As you can see, this is a pretty useful word and the same goes for drängeln.
These l-versions of verbs often carry a subtle notion of repetition. Drängen is pretty stream lined pressure in one direction. Drängeln is more of an on and off, hard soft, left right kind of thing. And if you’re now like “Huh?” just imagine you’re trying to walk through a dense crowd. Like or a concert or on very busy market. You have your destination and you push a little left, a little right, a little forward, gently, firmly…. THAT is the essence drängeln.
It’s also used on a more abstract sense of trying to make someone hurry, and let’s not forget about the prefix version vordrängeln, which is the German word for jumping the queue/line. Like… you don’t go to the end but somewhere in the middle instead.

  • Können Sie bitte aufhören zu drängeln? Die Bahn ist voll und ich kann mich kaum bewegen.
  • Could you please stop shoving? The train is packed and I can barely move.
  • “Bist du fertig? Wir müssen los.”
    “Hör auf zu drängeln. Ich weiß nicht was ich anziehen soll.”
  • “Are you ready? We have to go.”
    “Stop making me hurry. I don’t know what to wear.”
  • Was wenige wissen: Drängeln im Straßenverkehr ist eine Nötigung und somit eine Straftat.
  • What only few people know: jostling/tailgating in traffic is coercion and therefore a criminal offense.
  • Thomas drängelt sich an der Kasse vor.
  • Thomas skips the line at cash desk.

So verdrängen and drängeln are definitely words worth adding to your active vocab, but there’s actually still more.


Just like drängen, dringen itself is not all that useful. It’s kind of similar to drängen in that it’s also about pushing in a certain direction but it’s more about you yourself moving there. And unlike drängen you cannot do it to someone directly… blah blah blah… it’s REALLY boring actually. Just like the example…

  • Die Gewerkschaft dringt auf mehr Mitbestimmung.
  • The workers’ union pushes for more worker participation.

I know, some of you really like learning rare words and using them in everyday situations. I do likewise on occasion. But trust me… dringen is TOO rare and specific for that and it will not work.

So why are we even mentioning it? Because it has two related words that are SUUUUUPER useful.
The first one is dringend which is the German word for urgently.  Something that’s urgent is kind of shoving, pressing itself into your immediate reality, if that makes sense.

  • Ich muss dringend mit dir reden.
  • I have to talk to you urgently.
  • “Ist das dringend?”
    “Nee, nicht wirklich.”
  • “Is that a matter of urgency?”
    “No, not really.”

And the other really useful word is the prefix verb eindringen, which is about something or someone forcing their way inside somewhere. It works for a range of contexts and the translations vary but the basic idea is always pretty clear.

  • Wenn es beim Eindringen wehtut, sollte man über Gleitgel nachdenken.
  • If it hurts during penetration, you should consider lubricant.
  • Der Fuchs hat den Eindringling erfolgreich aus seinem Bau vertrieben.
  • The fox successfully chased out the intruder from the den.
  • Die Diebe sind über das Dach eingedrungen.
  • The thieves entered through the roof.
  • Maria bittet Thomas eindringlich, abzuwaschen.
  • Maria emphatically asks Thomas to do the dishes.
    (it means “in a very intense manner”… not sure if the translation is the best choice)

Oh, and I guess we could also mention aufdringlich. We already had aufdrängen earlier and aufdringlich is kind of the adjective for that and means intrusive, pushy.

  • Der Mann in der Bar war zwar nett, aber Maria fand ihn viel zu aufdringlich.
  • The guy at the bar was nice, but Maria found him way too intrusive/pushy.

And that’s it for today.
Yeah!! This was our look at the family of Drang. There are a few words and uses that we didn’t cover but I think with the basic idea of pushing, pressing in mind, you’ll be able to get at least the gist of them from context.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you have a Drang to try out some examples, just hop into the comment section. But please no drängeln :). There’s enough room for all of you.
I’m out for now, I hope you had a fun time and learned something.
Have a great week and I’ll see you next time.

further reading: 

Word of the Day – “zwingen”

** vocab **

der Drang – the urge, desire, compulsion
der Tatendrang – the zest, energy to do something

jemanden drängen zu – push someone to do something (rare!!)
jemanden bedrängen – ( physically ) pushing into someone’s personal space
jemandem etwas aufdrängen  – push something onto someone (figuratively)

verdrängen – displace, push out, repress/suppress (psychology) 
die Verdrängung – gentrification, displacement, repression

drängeln – shove and push (in crowds), also: nag someone to hurry
vordrängeln – skip the line/queue

dringend – urgently
eindringen – penetrate, percolate, forcefully enter
eindringlich – with high intensity (usually in context of eye contact or questions)
aufdringlich – pushy, intrusive

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