Word of the Day – “erledigen”

ledigenHello everyone,

and welcome to our German word of the Day. This time with yet another one of those words that are quite common in everyday German, that somehow get overlooked by textbooks. Ladies and gentlemen… get ready for a look at the meaning of



And because erledigen isn’t only really useful itself but also has quite an interesting family, we’ll start thousands and thousands of years ago, with the hyper ancient, allegedly incredibly good looking Indo-Europeans.
More specifically, with the Indo-European language root *el.

The core idea of this root was bent, limber and we can actually pretty much see the original root in the German and English name of a bodypart. I’ll give you a hint… its main purpose is bending.
I’m talking about … the elbow, der Ellenbogen in German.

In German, there’s also the word die Elle, which is one of the bones in the lower arm (ulna) and an old unit of measurement (ell). And even though the lower part of an arm is usually not that long, the word ellenlang somehow ended up with a negative sense of super long.

Well, I guess if the monologue has the length of a lower arm in print then it can be quite lengthy. But anyway, the elbow is actually not the only body related word that comes from the Indo European root *el. We mentioned that it carried the notion of limber. Well, guess where the word limber comes from :).
And the same goes for the word for the most moveable body parts… the limbs. Quite obvious, right? Despite that I never noticed how close limb and limber really are.
Anyway, the German counterpart of limb is das Glied.


On first sight, the “i” seems to be the only thing they have in common, but the connection becomes more apparent once you know that Glied is actually a ge-form. It used to be Geliethe, referring to the whole, the sum of bendable parts.
And if you’re now like “Wow, that’s really interesting.” then you’ll love the book that I have been promising for like five years. I know, I sound like I’m pulling a George R.R. Martin on you, but it’s definitely coming :).
Anyway, let’s look at a few examples for das Glied.

As you can see in the last example, it’s also the word for the link of a chain. Makes sense, I think. I mean, the link is the bendable part of the chain.
And what’s also worth mentioning is that Glied is usually used in plural in the sense of body parts. Because in singular, it refers to one specific body part. This poem from Goethe might give you a hint.

Gerne der Zeiten gedenk’ ich, da alle Glieder gelenkig – bis auf eins.
Doch die Zeiten sind vorüber, steif geworden alle Glieder – bis auf eins.


Yes, that really is THE Goethe. What he’s saying in the poem is basically that he misses the days when all his members were limber, except one because now all members are stiff, except one. And with the one he is referring to… well.. his little Johann, as we say in German. His member.
And speaking of member… that actually brings us right to another really useful member of the family: das Mitglied, which is the German word for member in the more common sense of belonging. If you’re wondering why, just recall that Glied was also the word for a link of a chain. A Mitglied is basically a part of a whole.
Oh and just in case you were wondering: yes, technically it means “with a member” and yes, there’s a pun to be made there.
Anyway, examples

And then, we also need to mention the verb gliedern which is about dividing something into sections and the corresponding noun die Gliederung.

Cool. So this was the word das Glied and its close relatives.
But that wasn’t our actual word of the day yet. Remember… that was erledigen.
And the next step toward that is the adjective ledig.


Do you remember the super ancient root *el that we learned about? Ledig is another offspring of that. Its original sense was simply free, unrestricted but eventually it focused on a more narrow meaning, that’ll make perfect sense to all those of you who have been in a long relationship or worse… uh… I mean… more serious. Ledig is the official word for not married. As in never been married.

What makes this adjective useful is the fact that it is at the core of a few other words. The first one is lediglich, which is a somewhat fancy alternative for only.  I tried to find a connection between the idea of free and the idea of simply, but I wasn’t too successful to be honest. Maybe something like “little burden”, “almost free”. Not sure, if that makes sense to you. Anyway, lediglich is not a word you need to use yourself, but you’ll see it sooner or later in texts.

Also primarily found in writing is the verb entledigen. The proper full phrasing is actually sich einer Sache entledigen (with a Genitive), and the meaning is to rid oneself of something. That fits quite well with the notion of free that ledig used to carry.

And last but not least we’ve finally reached our actual word of the day … erledigen


Originally, erledigen was about setting something  free. But then the old Germanic tribesmen started using it in the sense of getting tasks done because they thought of tasks as pent up energy that needs to be released. Okay… no, I just made that up. I actually don’t know why the meaning shifted. But shift it did, and today erledigen is a quite common option for the idea of taking care of something in the sense of getting it done. And it’s especially common in everyday German in context where you don’t really want to say what exactly it is that you’re doing.

Also common is the phrasing sich erledigen, in which the tasks basically take care of themselves. Or not.

Especially the second one is a really common phrasing and often a good translation for never mind, so you should definitely add that to your active vocabulary.
Besides the main meaning, erledigen also carries the idea of killing someone, which is kind of a morbid take on the whole free-idea. And the ge-form erledigt is a somewhat common colloquial way to say that you’re exhausted.

And because I don’t want you to feel completely erledigt after this and we actually have erledigt all on the to do list , we’ll wrap it up here.
Hooray :).
This was our look at the meaning of erledigen, Glied and a few other useful words. As usual, you can test how much you remember by taking the little quiz I have prepared for you. Of course, if you have any questions or suggestions about today just leave me a comment. And if you’re not a Mitglied of yourdailygerman yet, it’s time to take care of that.
I hope you liked it and see you next time :)

for members :)

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English speakers (at least those who are bibelfest) may be more familiar with “cubit” as the standard translation of “die Elle” as a unit of measurement (the length of the forearm from elbow to fingertips). I assume it comes from the Latin Vulgate translation.

What’s meant by “Ellenbogengesellschaft”?


I suppose it’s elbowing (forcing) your way into places. Pushy maybe?


Sorry , I don’t understand it.


Dog eat dog world. Nobody gives a flying f*** about others and cares only for him/herself.


Ich habe alles erledigt :-)




Typos first and usual:
everyday is just one word in the sense you’ve used it (i.e. routinely)
“apperant” (apparent)
“shjould” (should)
and that’s a wrap for the typos, all erledigt…

But today is the day where my questions outnumber your typos and I’m going to ask you to explain something to me that’s been driving me up the wall… so here goes:

1. dehnt alle Gliedmaßen aus – so is the verb for stretching “drehen”? Because I’ve been doing aerobics dubbed in German (yes, you’re entitled to laugh all you want) and the woman is always saying “beugen, strecken, beugen, strecken…”, so I just assumed it stretch was strecken :)

2. does ledig mean a spinster than? and if so, what do Germans call a person who’s not currently in a relationship, regardless of having or not been married, divorced or whatever elese before?

3. I didn’t know Goethe wrote adult poetry…

4. the ISSUE over which I’ve been losing sleep – I know it has nothing to do with this article, but I’ve been trying to learn the conditional in German based on your series, which is super, by the way. After having thought I’d nailed it, including the clusterfabulousness that is the past conditional with modals, I started coming across the phrase “blah, blah, blah… gewesen sein” in books and TV shows. Now when do you use “gewesen sein”? What kind of grammatical structure is it? “wuerde gewesen sein” sounds like “would have been” to English speakers… but your articles had already drilled into my brain that wuerde is NOT used with the past conditional, it’s always waere or haette… So where does this “…. gewesen sein” belong to?

And that’s all for today!
Bis bald!


Jeez, here I am correcting your typos and then I go and write a load of them myself (I blame it on the “gewesen sein”)! But the only one that matters is the word I used in my question 1 to you, I meant “dehnen”, not “drehen” (which I know means turn)!


Typo: Legt euch *af* die Matte

Have you done an article about überraschen and what happened to the verb raschen?


Section A) – Contribution

I was just,today, thinking? It would be cool if we get a body part like Kopf, but thought there was not alot of potential for them. When I saw elbow, I knew I had to had sth so here is an idiom.

seine Ellbogen gebrauchen (idiom).

Pons, context example is below (from the internet,not the dictionary . 2 is from me though.

1)Wenn es sein muss , sogar mit dem Ellbogen .
2- my try) – Muss ich meine Ellbogen gebrauchen?

Section B) – Testing the article with more unicorn convos

Unicorn A : I will eine Ellenbogen haben,aber mit ellenlanger Näse ist das unmöglich.

Unicorn B : Ich kann nicht glauben, dass es eine biologische Glied zwischen mir und dir gibt.

Unicorn C : aber.. wenn die Näse des Einhorns, so sein Glied

Unicorn B : Ruhe in Frieden, Deutsche.Er hat dich geschlachtet

Unicorn D : Uni B. Du bist unser unschätzbares Mitglied,aber er hat keine Mitgliedschaft. Gehen Sie.

Unicorn B : Die Schaft Der Gliederung ist….

ledig Unicorn E : Ich würde gerne lediglich einen Poop-Wettbewerb vorschlagen.

Unicorn C : Diese Shcaft Wird sich dir entledigen. I muss die übung erledigen. Sie sich nicht erledige.


Unicorn A : I want an elbow but with a long nose, this is impossible.

Unicorn B : I cannot believe there is a biological link between me and you

Unicorn C : but…. you can tell the size of a unicorn member by the size of his nose

Unicorn B : Rest in peace, German. He butcherd you.

Unicorn D: You are our invaluble member unicorn b, but you dont have a membership. Go away.

Unicorn B : This structure of this society is ….

Never married unicorn E : I just would like to suggest a pooping competition.

Uni C : This society will take care of you. I have an excersie to do. It won’t take care of itself

Secetion C) – Further notes


Gerade ( as in just now)
Nur ( as in just a little bit)
einfach (as in, he is just a boy, simply a boy)
Erst( as in He is just 20 and still young) or Erst (as a process) (I think , I also saw another context)

Where would those fit in ?
bloß (Just)
lediglich ( Just)

And How would the following phrases be made
Just chillin
Just eatain
Only just
Just a cat. Just a dog. Just a ” Noun”

I wonder if there is any other “only” I should know about.

Section D – Suggestions

In some posts, I have seen a word summury/fact sheet at the end. Did you stop these? They were awesome

Larry Seymour
Larry Seymour

Emanuel: the old word Gelieth reminds me of the english word” lithe” meaning supple or graceful. The rest of the article says it is not used as much as it was. Schade. Impoverishment of English. Eine wunderbare Tour der indo-germanic Worten. Danke

dennis moser
dennis moser

“Das geht dich gar nichts an. Ich habe ein Recht meine Privatssphäre.”
“Bleib ruhig. Ich wollte lediglich wissen, wann du nach Hause kommst.”
“That’s none of your business. I have a right to privacy.”
“Chill out. I just wanted to know when you’ll come home.”

To “link” to your meaning of “simple”, that phrase could be translated to “… I SIMPLY wanted to know when…”


Hello! Love your posts! By the way, there is a strong connection to the English words simple, to simplify, simplification and simply. For example, in one of your examples, the response, ‘I just wanted to know when you would be home.’ sounds defensive as would using the word ‘only’. However, perfectly correct, and far less defensive, to say, ‘I simply wanted to know when you would be home.’ Additionally, completing my to do list would mean that I am simplifying it (and my life…). And, by the way, simple and limb sound kinda similar, old Mitglieds, perhaps!


Ha! Thanks for the funny Goethe poem, had never heard of that.

Jo Alex SG
Jo Alex SG

Loved it to no end, especially the diachronic approach! Vielen Dank, Emanuel!

Camille Melbourne
Camille Melbourne

Am I a Member? Where is work out section!


The word Ellenbogen for elbows is a very unusual plural form isn’t it. I’m curious about that. Any comment?


Great piece, as usual -thank you.

Aussie Lawyer
Aussie Lawyer

The imperative of “to lie” is “lie”, as in “lie down”. Maybe you meant “lay” as in “lay it on the table” or even “lay yourself down>

Keith Chaitoff
Keith Chaitoff

Excellent content!!!


LOVED this, as usual. Even managed 7/7 on the quiz which means that all your jokes helped get the content into my head!


Ich habe gestern diesen Beitrag gelesen und heute schon drei Mal den Begriff ‘lediglich’ in den Arbeitspapieren gefunden :)
Ganz toll. Danke sehr


Überraschenderweise gibt es auf russisch auch diese zweite Beteutung von “das Glied” im Singular, die ziemlich oft verwendet wird. Anscheinend ist Deutsch nicht die einzige Sprache, wo man “es” entweder als einen “bedingungsweise beweglichen” Körperteil oder als einen wichtigen Mitglieder des Körpers betrachtet ))) Kennt jemand andere Beispiele ? )


Danke von den worten. Du habst wessenlich Erledigungen machen!!!