Word of the Day – “die Eifersucht”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German word of the day. Spring is coming to the Northern hemisphere, with balmy evenings, birds, skirts, shirts and flirts. And what better time to talk about one of the least rational emotions of all:
jealousy.
Or in German:

die Eifersucht

The word Eifersucht consists of the two parts – der Eifer and die Sucht. Die Sucht is the German word for addiction and I’m sure many of you immediately thought of the verb suchen. I definitely did… I mean, if you’re addicted to something, you do seek or search that.
So I was genuinely surprised when I found out that die Sucht actually has nothing to do with suchen.

Instead, die Sucht is related the word die Seuche, which means plague or pandemic and the fairly rare verb siechen, which describes the slow physical decline from an illness. And Sucht itself originally was a word for illness.

And looking at those meanings, you might be able to guess the English member of the family… it’s the word sick.
Originally, German also had the adjective siech but then Germans started using krank more and more. I mean… krank… it does sound kind of sick.
So yeah, siech eventually fell out of use, but the related words die Seuche and die Sucht are still around. Oh, and of course the adjective süchtig, which means addicted.

  • Wissenschaftler sicher – Youtube Ads sind die nächste Seuche.
  • Scientists are certain – Youtube ads are the next pandemic/plague.
  • “Thomas, du musst deine Youtube-Sucht in den Griff kriegen.”
    “Du hast recht… Ich gucke später ein paar Tutorials.”
  • “Thomas, you need to get a handle on your Youtube addiction.
    “You’re right… I’ll watch a few tutorials later.”
  • Einhörner sind süchtig nach Aufmerksamkeit.
  • Unicorns are addicted to attention.

Cool, so Sucht means addiction and it comes from an idea of illness. That’s a pretty damn good match for jealousy. But what about the first part, der Eifer.
Well, it’s not really a word you need to use actively, but you can find it in various forms in daily life here and there, and the core idea is zeal, effort.

  • Ich bewundere Marias Arbeitseifer.
  • I admire Maria’s work ethic/zeal at work.
  • Der kleine Tim eifert seinem Bruder nach.
  • Little Tim tries to equal/emulates his brother.
  • “Wie war deine Präsentation?”
    “Wie ein Traum. Ich hatte im Eifer des Gefechts vergessen, eine Hose anzuziehen.”
  • “How did you presentation go?”
    “Like a dream. In the heat of the moment, I had forgotten to put on pants.”
    Lit.: “in the zeal of the skirmish”
  • Maria ist ein bisschen übereifrig, wenn es ums Putzen geht.
  • Maria is a little over-zealous when it comes to cleaning.

This is a fairly new meaning though, and we most likely have Luther to thank for that. The famous 15th century software developer used Eifer in his Bible 2.0 Christianity blockchain protocol standard as a translation for the Latin zēlus in a sense of “anger/agitation borne out of caring”, which then slowly got a positive spin.
Like my boss always used to say… “I swear because I care”.
And it wasn’t no oaths she was swearing.
Anyway, before Luther’s use, the word Eifer meant.. drumroll please… jealousy. Yup, I am not kidding. And it’s not really known where that comes from. It might be based on an old Germanic word for bitter or tart which would make Eifersucht kind of the  “tart/bitter disease“. As I said… it’s not really scientific canon, but that certainly matches the feeling.
Cool.
Now, time for examples:

  • 11 Tipps wie Sie mit der Eifersucht Ihrer Katze umgehen.
  • 11 tips how to deal with your cat’s jealousy.
  • Maria ist eifersüchtig auf die Kellnerin.
  • Maria is jealous over the waitress.
    (what’s the proper preposition here, actually… jealous of or jealous over? Both seem ambiguous. Thanks :))

And time for examples is over :).
Seriously, there isn’t really much to talk about in terms of usage, but we do have a little time left on the… uhm…  German Experience podcast, so I wanted to talk a little about jealousy’s little brother envy.
So Joe, jealousy, or envy…  where would you put your money if the two were to duke it out in the Octagon, Joe.
“That’s an interesting question… the two definitely have similar fighting styles and they both have incredibly stamina. Man, they can go on forEVER. It’s truly remarkable…”
Yeah… it’s pretty crazy.
“But if I had to pick one, I think Jealousy is gonna win it. Yeah, Jealousy would take it home. It’s got way more passion. Like envy is a little sneakier and quicker maybe, with lots of little jabs but jealousy man… if that gets into the zone, man…”
Yeah, I think so to. Do you know what envy is in German?
“No. I’m kind of doing the Duolingo German tree, but I’m only in the beginning.”
It’s der Neid.

der Neid

“Ohhhhh… is it related to need? Sure looks like it could be. That would make sense, right? If you feel envy, you feel like you need something.”
Yeah, but no!
Neid comes from an old Germanic word that started out with a sense of “competitive feeling” and soon took a hostile turn. And there aren’t any English relatives. At least none I could find.
“Okay, I get it. So scientifically, Neid and need are not related. But if I wanted to use that as a learner to help me remember, I could still do that, right?”
Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely a nice little mnemonic:  Neid is kind of a need gone sour.
It’s kind of similar in English, by the way, because the word envy is based on envision, so it’s basically “envisioning gone sour”. The French word envie actually covers both sides, because it means envy AND (positive) desire.
And while we’re at it, let’s also mention where jealous comes from. We’ve kind of actually already seen it earlier, when we were talking about Eifer. Because  jealous is a variation of… drumroll … zealous. So there too, we kind of have a dichotomy. There’s a positive aspect of being protective and caring, and then a sour, overdone version of that.
And speaking of dichotomy … the sentiments of envy and jealousy are actually fairly similar and primal and often come from the same source. And I find it oddly interesting that so many languages have two distinct, unrelated words… German, English, French, Russian… they all have two words and everyone knows for the most part when to use which, but when you ask people to explain the difference, they have to think for a bit. I think in Hebrew for example, there is only one word for both concepts and I’m REALLY curious how it is on other languages, like Chinese, Hindi or Arabic and if this two-word approach is something we got from Greek philosophers maybe.
So if you speak any of these languages or if you have any thoughts about this, please please, share in the comments :)!

But yeah… so the German word for envy is der Neid, and adjective is neidisch and the use is pretty straight forward.

  • Mein Nachbar wird grün vor Neid, wenn er meine neue Freundin sieht.
  • My neighbor will turn green with envy when he sees my new girlfriend.
  • Ich bin neidisch auf Marias Haare.
  • I’m envious of Maria’s hair.

Oh and let’s not forget the verb to envy.  One option is  beneiden, but in daily life “neidisch sein auf” is way more common.

  • Ich beneide Leute, die einfach anfangen, in  einer Fremdsprache zu sprechen, obwohl sie erst Anfänger sind.
  • I envy people who just start speaking in a foreign language even though  they’re only beginners.

 

  • Pferde sind neidisch auf Einhörner.
  • Horses envy/are envious of unicorns.

And I think that’s it for today.
This was our little look at the German words for jealousy and envy and their little family relations.
As usual, if you want to check how much you remember, just take the little quiz I have prepared for you. And if you have any questions about the post, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time :)

 

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david_l
david_l
2 months ago

It’s funny, English has 2 words jealous and envious, but I have never once heard envious in spoken conversation. Everyone says jealous for both meanings. The English teacher would bring up jealousy vs envy in school once per term as an interesting fact, but almost no one would remember the difference the next week haha

Last edited 2 months ago by david_l
Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

How did Green become associated with envy?

gumusoyku
gumusoyku
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It’s commonly believed that this association comes from Greece.

Somehow, it was known that when you were ill, the body produced too much bile, the bitter/yellow liquid produced by the liver. So the ancient Greeks believed that envy or jealousy was caused by the overproduction of bile, giving the skin a green tint.

Besides the “Green-eyed monster” from Shakespeare’s Othello, this association can also be seen in The Wizard of Oz, The Wicked Witch Of The West character.

patrik.osgnach
patrik.osgnach
1 year ago

I’ll add my two Italian cents.
The translation of jealousy is “gelosia” and it’s mainly used in terms of love, as it’s primary meaning is “fear that someone will steal your loved one”. It also means the feeling of resentment when someone prefers someone else instead of you. By extending this second meaning, one can also express the feeling of envy. It can have also a positive meaning as it can express deep care for someone or something. As a final mindfuck, gelosia is also a type of window.

The translation of envy is “invidia” and has a different etymology from “gelosia”. It expresses the feeling of coveting something that another person has, but you don’t

Natasa
Natasa
1 year ago

Thank you :)

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Heyhey, shouldn’t it be in the last question: “Einhörner beneiden mich um meine Mähne.”?
Thanks for the interesting post!

Bob R
Bob R
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It is the last (8th) question in the test.

paulocigar
paulocigar
1 year ago

Enjoyed the article Emanuel but I have a question – Why is envy green? I’ve read that Slavic cultures have white envy and black envy. Also Germany has envy in yellow. Can this be really true and what’s the difference between yellow and green envy??

chowb01
chowb01
1 year ago

First, your blog is awesome, and I would highly encourage/support as many examples as possible using Einhörner vs Eichhörnchen in their unending battle for domination of the Zauberwald. And please visit Easy German again sometime soon!

I also would say in English I normally use jealous ‘of’. I rarely use jealous ‘over’, and usually that is ‘over’ a big-picture situation (requiring a more expanded explanation than just a couple of words) – but even in that situation, usually I really mean ‘envious of’. To me, ‘jealous’ implies suspicion and competition, where as ‘envious’ is coveting some other person’s advantage or superior status in something. I might be jealous of the attention my partner gives to an ex, and envious of the ex’s private jet, for example. But ‘jealous’ in common English is often used for both distinct meanings. In my limited Chinese, I think there is a similar word for both, too, but there is another expression for envy which has the characters for ‘admire’ and ‘adore’. Interesting.

Ahmadjam
Ahmadjam
1 year ago

Hello Emanuel and the German learning community. Since not long ago when I found this website I only could read a few articles a month. For some reasons I couldn’t pay for the subscription; Although that didn’t stop me from visiting and following the posts. But now, thanks to Emanuel himself and the community, I have received an subscribed account by which I can enjoy all of his great content. So, I really wanted to appreciate all of you guys, thank you for making this happen. Peace ✌

Eduardo96
Eduardo96
1 year ago

Great post!

g13
g13
1 year ago

Hi! In Spanish the translation for “jealous” is “celoso” (latin: zelōsus), which is someone who perceives a threat to something they consider theirs, including that the person they love could show interest in somebody else. I am really surprised about the similarity of the words. It also translates to “envidioso”, which is the proper translation for “envious” (someone who feels sadness because of something the other person has and he doesn’t).
I also found that the difference between celos (jealousy) and envidia (envy) is that the first one relates to the fear of losing something one already has, while the latter relates to something coveted but up to that time unobtained.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  g13

YES!

Bae snacc
Bae snacc
1 year ago

Where can i make suggestion for some nasty verbs? Like wahrnehmen.

Toranome
Toranome
1 year ago

Japanese has several different words and expressions for ‘envy’ and ‘jealousy’. I would translate ‘envy’ as 羨ましさ(‘urayamashisa’) (spoken) or 羨望 (‘senbō’) (written), and ‘jealousy’ as 嫉み (‘netami’) (spoken) or 嫉妬 (‘shitto’) (written) (NB: the spoken/written distinction is not black-and-white, it’s just a guideline). As with the English equivalents, the former implies more a yearning feeling that might be expressed with a wistful sigh, while the latter implies a darker, grudging emotion more likely to be expressed with gritted teeth and an angry glare. A colourful expression for sexual jealousy in Japanese is 焼きもちを焼く(‘yakimochi o yaku’), which literally means ‘to toast toasted rice cakes’!

Seidel John
Seidel John
1 year ago

I think most American English speakers would use “jealous of“.

Nina
Nina
1 year ago

“Thomas, du musst deine Youtube-Sucht in den Griff kriegen.”
Ich habe mich gerade darüber beschwert, wie mein Browser “YouTube” automatisch ausfüllt wenn ich “y” eingebe (und auch “yo” und “you”……) aber eigentlich zu yourdailygerman.com gehen möchte… Must….resist…….

Esil
Esil
1 year ago

I’m not even a month old member, I’m kinda new and this one is my favorite article so far, thank you so much!

John
John
1 year ago

I love this discussion and the many interesting comments from readers! As one more small point, in the introduction you use the abbreviation “ya’ll” for “you all.” Almost any English speaker can recognize that Americanism, but one should be aware that it is frequently associated with Southern dialects (like mine) and is not ordinarily used in other parts of America or in other English speaking countries. It is considered to be very casual and informal.

Nina
Nina
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Hi John! I’d like to add that “ya’ll” has become popular in the 20-30 age range (give or take maybe a decade on each side? no idea) in other parts of the US, and maybe the English speaking world in general. I live in Philadelphia, and my friends say it when they want a “gender neutral” to “hey guys.” I’m a woman who’s not offended by being called “guy,” but “ya’ll” gets used alllll the time around me nowadays, whereas when I was a kid I would have laughed if I’d heard it anywhere but the south. I no longer see it used in this post, so maybe Emmanuel removed it, but from my (30-something northerner) perspective, “y’all” seems totally fine here. Perspective is a funny thing.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Nina

So interesting, thanks! Having grown up in the South, I quickly learned when I moved to New York not to use the expression, so I’m glad to learn that it is back in use.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I personally stopped hearing it once I left the south. Pity because english is sadly lacking an equivilent.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Just gonna be ever so slightly ridiculously pedantic (especially considering I’m not authentically Southern myself): it really should be y’all, with the apostrophe before the ayou => y’ + all = y’all. You definitely see it written both ways, and it’s not like it’s standard English, but there is a logic to it.

It’s interesting, I’ve heard real proper Southerners insist that they’re actually saying “you all” even if the uninitiated hear “y’all.”

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Haha well, I don’t know what I am… neither of my parents was/is Southern at all, though my maternal grandfather was from Mississippi originally. I grew up in Texas (not really the South, even though related), Atlanta (not really Georgia, even though the capital), and a little town in West Virginia (and Appalachia is kind of its own thing). So in some ways I’m Southern-ish, but I’m definitely not dyed-in-the-wool Southern culturally.

But for real though, tooooons of native speakers (including people for whom y’all is really just part of their dialect) put the apostrophe in the wrong place, so don’t be embarrassed at all, seriously.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

They are third-culture kids for sure.

It was super hilarious when my oldest was in kindergarten here and they had a Maifest with the whole deal, maypole and folk dance and everything. My poor kid was one of the few not in Tracht. He danced like a star, though.

My wife comes from a deeply South-Carolina background but grew up overseas herself, so our kids are going to be a cultural muddle all around.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

No, German is sort of our “public” language. So if we’re out and about, getting together with somebody, having a guest over, that sort of thing, we’ll all speak German, including with one another, because that’s our setting. I mean, you always end up speaking some Denglisch as an ex-pat sooner or later, and that’s definitely part of our home life too, but we really only speak English when we’re alone as a family.

I’ve wondered whether I ought to try to speak German at home consistently next time we’re back in the US for a year (starting summer of next year). It could be doable, but it would be really demanding – I know it’s hard enough for families trying to raise their kids bilingually with each parent speaking their native language.

But it is pretty hilarious some of the things that I think they think of as German or that they only really know from here – like, they always pronounce “Coca-Cola” with a totally German accent, or “Lego,” “Mario” (as in Nintendo Mario)… there are probably other things I’m not thinking of just at the moment, too.

Srahfox
Srahfox
1 year ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

They can insist all they want, it’s totally Y’all most southerners are saying! Lol Kind of like N’awlins, sure, it starts out with a muddle mouthed New Orleans, but it doesn’t stay that way. ;)

20tauri
20tauri
1 year ago

In Serbian, the word for jealousy/die Eifersücht is ljubomora (ljubiti (to love, to kiss) + moriti (to kill, to torture)); and for envy/der Neid is zavist (za + videti (to see) – analogous to latin invideo, invidere, which is the same root as in English/French)).

Both can be used without a malicious meaning, and understood as such by everyone, but in principle, they are negative at their cores and those would be the first meaning in the dictionary.

chien.yuying
chien.yuying
1 year ago

Thank you! This was a fun read with a morning coffee, and some laughs.

Zuckerbaby
Zuckerbaby
1 year ago

This happened recently: using “sore” when the expression in English needs “sour”: ” … is kind of a need gone sour …” (not “sore”)
Another “sucht”: Sehnsucht

Zuckerbaby
Zuckerbaby
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ja, das war auch von mir, glaube ich. Die beiden Worte klingen etwas ähnlich aus.

jsmh
jsmh
1 year ago

Maria is jealous of the waitress
My wife is jealous of my mistress