The meaning of “die Eile”

Hello  everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day.
And this is the perfect episode if you don’t have much time but you still want to learn some German because today, we’ll take a look at the meaning of

die Eile

 

And not only will it be a super quick look. It’s also right on topic, because Eile is the German word for hurry.

Now, if I  asked you if those two words were related you’d probably be like “Nah, they look too different.”. And you’d be right, because they’re not.
The English relatives that Eile does have, however… well… they look even more unrelatederer.

There’s ambition and itinerary and preterite and ion and coitus. And bunch of other words from the spelling-bee pool that all come from Latin and look boring. Well, except coitus. I know that one because it’s still on my bucket list…. I… I mean, was.
Anyway, as unlikely as it seems, all these words do come from one and the same origin – the savagely ancient Indo-European root *ei- and the meaning of that root was simply… to go. Same root as where the Slavic verbs for to go come from, like the Russian идти (idti), for example.
If you’re into etymology, it could be kind of fun to look up all the various words that came from it and explore the connection between the idea of going and their actual meaning. I’ll leave a link to Etymonline.com below, if you want to geek out a little.

But for the German die Eile, we actually don’t need any mind yoga, for once. Die Eile is the noun for the verb eilen, and eilen more or less means … to go fast. So basically what you do when you’re in a hurry.
Tadah.
Now, eilen is still around actually, but it’s a little outdated and you can mostly find it in fixed phrases.

  • Der Einhornjäger eilt dem Wanderer zur Hilfe.
  • The unicorn hunter rushes to the hiker’s aid.
  • “Kommst du?”
    “Ich eile.” (slightly dramatic sounding, for fun effect)
  • “Are you coming?”
    “I’m flying.”

The noun die Eile on the other hand is really really common… especially in a world like ours that seems to get faster every day.  #boomertears

  • “Hey Maria, lange nicht gesehen…”
    “Oh… ja… hi… äh… ich bin leider grad total in Eile.”
  • “Hey Maria long time no see.”
    “Oh… yeah… hi… uhm… I’m really in a hurry right now, unfortunately.”

As you can see, just like you’re in a hurry you can be in Eile in German. But just as common is the phrase “es eilig haben”, which literally means “to have it hurrily”… like… maybe think of it as “I have things in state of hurry.”

  • “Sorry, der Kartenleser ist manchmal ein bisschen langsam.”
    “Kein Problem, ich hab’s nicht eilig.
  • “Sorry, the card reader is sometimes a little slow.”
    “No problem, I’m not in a hurry.”
  • “Können wir schneller laufen?”
    “Wieso? Hast du es eilig?”
  • “Can we walk faster?”
    “Why? Are you in a hurry?”

And then, for things like projects, you can also find Eile haben (having hurry).
But that is mostly used in the negative version.

  • “Wann muss das fertig sein?”
    “Das hat keine Eile.”
  • “When does that have to be finished?”
    “There‘s no rush/hurry.”

Cool.
So now we know how to say that we’re in a hurry.
What we don’t know yet is the verb to hurry. Like … how to tell an intern to HURRY UP WITH THE FREAKING COFFEE for instance. Seriously, where’s the Flat White I ordered before the show?! What am I even paying you for?
“Uh.. you’re not paying us!”
I know. It was a rhetorical question.
Seriously though, big pinky-swear that we’ll talk about payment once 2020 is over but I really need this flat white now.
Anyway, where were we… oh yeah, the German verb for to hurry.
So we already had the verb eilen, but as I said, that’s more about rushing to a place and it’s kind of rare these days.
The standard verb for to hurry is … drumroll…  sich beeilen. Looks a bit like a typo but it really is eei because it’s basically the be-verb of die Eile. So literally, it means to put hurry onto. Or more precisely to inflict hurry onto oneself, because the self reference HAS TO BE THERE. Even if you’re in a hurry. Haha.
So where in English you’d just say “hurry!”, in German you have to say “hurry oneself“. Maybe think of it as pressuring yourself – that might make the self reference feel more natural.
Let’s look at some examples.

  • “Du bist ja total außer Atem.”
    “Ja, ich hab’ mich beeilt.”
  • “Wow, you’re completely out of breath.”
    “Yeah, I hurried a lot (to get here in time).”
  • Wenn wir den Zug kriegen wollen, müssen wir uns beeilen.
  • If we want to catch the train, we need to hurry.
  • “Ich schaffe es nicht pünktlich. Der Bus hat Verspätung.”
    Beeil dich.”
    “Äh… okay, ich warte schneller.”
  • “I won’t make it on time.”
    Hurry (up)!
    “Uhm… okay, I’ll wait faster.”

Oh and pay attention to the pronunciation…. there is a pause between the be- and following eil-. Many people kind of join the syllables but that’s hard to understand actually. If you can’t make the pause, that’s really something worth working on. Be… silence… eilen. And the be doesn’t even have to be all that proper. Maybe a bit like the pause the British do when they say Bri’ain, just without the r.
Anyway, sich beeilen is so common, that Germans actually made a the noun die Beeilung from it, which is basically another way to say hurry up!.

  • Beeilung Leute, der Countdown läuft gleich ab.
  • Hurry up, guys! The countdown is about to run out.

And there are a few other Eil-words like Eilmeldung (breaking news), Eilauftrag or the quite handy word voreilig, which is about rushing something a little too much.

  • Marias Gehaltserhöhungsparty war ein bisschen voreilig.
  • Maria’s pay raise party was a little over-hasty/ premature.

And to wrap this up, here’s a little proverb that reminds us that hurrying is not always the good way to go.

  • Eile mit Weile. (proverb)
  • Haste makes waste.

And that’s it for tod..
“Here man, you’re Flat White.”
It’s “your” not “you’re“, you just said that wrong. And also the show is low key over… but thanks, I guess.
*takes sip
Ahh… it’s good coffee, well done!
So yeah, this was our quick look at the meaning of die Eile and beeilen. As usual, if you want to see how much you remember, you can take the quick little quiz my interns will have prepared. Hopefully.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

further reading:

The Root *ei- (link external to Etymonline.com)

 

** vocab **

die Eile = the hurry
sich beeilen = to hurry up
eilen = to rush (to a place, NOT for rushing work, kind of out of date)
voreilig = “over-hasted”, premature (you rush something a little too much, not for premature in an accidental sense)
Eile mit Weile = haste makes waste (Proverb)
Beeilung = the hurrying up (often used to say “Hurry up!”)

 

 

4.6 22 votes
Article Rating

Newsletter for free?!

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.

Your Thoughts and Questions

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
44 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Derya
Derya
1 year ago

Hello!
I’m a young med student and I love learning new languages. For my future career steps, I have started to learn German by myself. Let me tell you, this language is not easy to understand and learn and let alone being self taught. There are A LOT OF sources on internet but not all of them are truly helpful.
But thanks to this site I can find myself understanding the fundamentals of German. My financial condition is not so great, and they are so generous to offer me a scholarship. I would like to say thank you to funders who helped me getting a scholarship and Emanuel for making learning German fun and accessible!

Bori
Bori
1 year ago

Ich habe gestern das Wort ereilen gehört im Zusammenhang mit einer Krankheit..aber bin mir nicht sicher, ob ich es richtig verstanden habe..kann das sein? Wie verwendet man ereilen?

Bori
Bori
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ahh ok, dann werde ich bei der Arbeit nicht sagen: viele Aufgaben haben mich ereilt:D

Danke!

Carrie Marsh
Carrie Marsh
1 year ago

Wait, so, even in the vocab list after the test “eilen” is “to rush”, which means the same as “to hurry”, but I got question 4 wrong when I answered that “eilen” is the German word for “to hurry”! The test says that “beeilen” is the correct answer but that should be “sich beeilen” (shouldn’t it?) and means “to hurry oneself” which admittedly does just mean “to hurry” in English. Errrmmmm…I’m going to the bottom of the class, aren’t I? Can I interest you in an apple?

shre
shre
1 year ago

thank yo so much

Nancy
Nancy
1 year ago

In case you weren’t totally goofing around, there is no word “unrelateder” (let alone “unrelatederer”, haha); one would just say “even more unrelated”, or better yet “even less related”.

Carrie Marsh
Carrie Marsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Did you know it’s a reference to Alice in Wonderland? “Curiouser and curiouser” I like adding “er” to the end of words – “betterer and betterer” is a fave!

matthewgrad
matthewgrad
1 year ago

Kann man auch ‘sich ranhalten’ fuer ‘to be in hurry / hurry up’ verwenden?

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago

Faszinierend, dass so viele Wörter, die nichts miteinander zu tun zu haben scheinen, doch irgendwie verwandt sind. Man lernt nie aus – auch wenn es um die eigene Muttersprache geht.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Nein, Englisch ist meine Muttersprache. Ich wollte nur sagen, dass ich nicht damit gerechnet hatte, Englisch besser zu beherrschen, in dem ich Deutsch lerne. Das mit der Etymologie ist immer super interessant und diesmal ging es um englische Wörter :)

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago
Reply to  coleussanctus

Also die Wörter, die mir ins Auge gesprungen sind, sind “sudden” (up to + to go) und “perish” (through/forward + to go). Letzteres finde ich besonders interessant, weil es mir aufgefallen ist, dass “per-” manchmal eine negative Bedeutung hat (oder dazu beiträgt), wie z.B. “persecute, perjury, perfidy”, aber auch neutral oder sogar positiv sein kann: “perennial, persuade, persevere”. Es kommt mir ähnlich vor wie “ver-” im Deutschen.

Ich musste ein bisschen überlegen, um das alles auf Deutsch zu schreiben :)

Zuckerbaby
Zuckerbaby
1 year ago

I think that the tiny Luftpause between be- and -eilen (oder: Luftpäuschen?) is somewhat analogous to a (also tiny) glottal stop. Since I learned the language by ear, it never occurred to me how the word looks on the page, and it looks not unlike beeline, which looks like a cousin to beeilen.

anerbenartzi
anerbenartzi
1 year ago

Did you typo the word typo on purpose?

fairyhedgehog
fairyhedgehog
1 year ago

The sound replacing the “t” in words like “Bri’ain” is a glottal stop. Is that what is in beeilen?

Capital_ Ash_
Capital_ Ash_
1 year ago

Her name would be Billie eilig if she ever wants to desperately go to the toilet. Buh dum tssss

Neil
Neil
1 year ago

“Here man, you’re Flat White.”
Typo, you’re =you are. Your= belonging to you.

BillLever
BillLever
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“You’re” vs “your” is an endless source of entertaining humor in English.

Renate
Renate
1 year ago

Typo: “your flat white” not you’re

Elsa
Elsa
1 year ago

Hello,

Nice to get this article today, because “ich hab’ es eiling heute”, I must finish a project and “dat hat eigentlich Eile”. Have I used these right?

Typos now:
“And bunch of other words” (And a bunch of other words)

Great! Now “muss ich mich beeilen”…

Thanks for another great article and bis bald!

Elsa
Elsa
1 year ago
Reply to  Elsa

das, not dat, in “das hat eigentlich Eile”!

paolob
paolob
1 year ago

And the famous:

Take your time, but hurry up!

Lass dir (ruhig) Zeit aber beeil dich!

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
1 year ago

Hello lieber Emanuell
Dieses Sprichwort ist eine Paradoxe oder ein Oxymoron : Eile mit Weile ! Wie muss man den analysieren und einfach verstehen? Was ich davon verstehe, bedeutet sowohl geduldig auch eilig haben ! Habe ich recht ?
Bis Bald

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Danke!

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Ich bin nicht in Eile.