Word of the Day – “gießen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome back!! It’s 2018 and this year, German is gonna be even easier than before. Why? Because self-fulfilling prophecy.
I mean… why should this concept only work for bad stuff, right. You will be fluent, no matter what you do. You can sit on the couch all day and not learn any German and you will still be fluent.
So if it’s gonna happen anyway, why not enjoy the ride ;).
And with compelling logic let’s jump right to our first Word of the Day of 2018, which is


Gießen is a verb you need in contexts of drinks, plant care and making church bells.
Wow, sounds like an intense session of mind-yoga. But this time, I actually made it sounds more difficult than it really is.
Touching our mind-knees with our mind-hands while mind-standing is actually all the mind-bending we need to fully grasp gießen.
Because drinks, plant care and making church bells have one thing in common…

And that thing is pouring – the core of gießen.

The origin of the verb is the absurdly ancient Indo-European root *gheu, which too was about pouring, spilling. From this root comes for example the word geyser  – these natural fountains of hot water, in case you’ve never heard of the word). And also the English words  gush and gust. Those two might seem a bit random but if we think of an idea of sudden flow they make perfect sense. And this idea also helps  understand the connection to the Latin branch of the root, namely the verb fundere. W… which … erm… looks nothing like gießen. But I read about the relation on the web. In Buzzfeeds post “173 siblings you’d never think are related”.
Anyways, this Latin verb revolved around the idea of melting and pouring molten stuff  and it’s the origin of words like fuse, fusion, confuse or fondant.
So gießen, the German word for pouring, is  in fact related to fusion.
What does that help us?
Not a bit.
But examples will :)

  • Maria gießt dem armen Thomas ein Bier über den Kopf.
  • Maria pours poor Thomas a beer over the head.
  • Bleigießen ist eine sehr beliebte Silvestertradition in Deutschland. Man gießt geschmolzenes Blei in kaltes Wasser und liest aus der Form, die sich bildet, die Zukunft.
  • Lead-pouring is a much liked New Year’s tradition in Germany. You pour molten lead into cold water and read the future from the shape that’s emerging.
  • Die Wohnung von Maria wirkt wie aus einem Guss – alles passt perfekt zusammen.
  • The flat of Maria looks like it was made in one piece (“pouring”) – everything fits perfectly.
  • “Ist der Kuchen fertig?”
    “Nein, der Zuckerguss fehlt noch.”
  • “Is the cake ready?”
    “No, the frosting (sugar pouring) is still missing.”

One really, really important use is in context of plants because gießen is THE word for to water. And just like the English to pour, it’s also a pretty common synonym for to rain.

  • Danke, dass du meine Pflanzen gegossen hast, während ich im Urlaub war.
  • Thanks for watering my plants, while I was on vacation.
    (lit.: thanks, that you watered…)


  • Der Regenguss kam genau, als ich joggen war.
  • The shower of rain came right when I was on my run.
  • Gestern hat es den ganzen Tag gegossen wie aus Eimern.
  • Yesterday it was pouring down all day.
    (lit.: pouring like from buckets)

Now, of course gießen also has prefix vers… oh hold on, I see we have a call here, Anjelika from Romania, you’re on the air.
“Hi Emanuel, Bulgaria, not Romania… ”
Oh, my apology.
“Accepted. I have a question.”
Sure, go ahead.
“So, after that heavy rain yesterday, I was actually looking up to pour in a dictionary and I also got schutten.”
Uh… you mean schütten?!
“Oh yeah, right, schütten. What’s the difference between schütten and gießen?”
Great question! So one difference is the intensity. Schütten is more rough, less controlled than gießen. Like… you wouldn’t say that you schütten wine into a glass, but you might schütten it into the toilet, if it’s shit wine.
But the more important difference is that gießen is limited to liquids while schütten isn’t.
“Oh … “
So you can’t use gießen in this example

  • Maria schüttet das Katzenstreu ins Katzenklo.
  • Maria pours the cat litter into the litter box.

And schütten on the other hand doesn’t work in sense of watering plants. But yeah, when it comes to pouring liquids, they’re pretty synonymous apart from intensity.
“Cool, thanks a lot.”
Well, thank you for bringing that up. Do you want to stay on for a bit and explore the prefix versions with me?
“Sure, why not. Are there many?”
Quite a few.
“Ugh… sigh…”
But they’re all pretty coherent because the prefixes do their basic job of giving the verb a direction.
“Oh, because it would sound incomplete otherwise, right?”
Exactly. Many German verbs sound a bit odd or incomplete if they’re not given some kind of direction. One way to do that is just stating the location.

  • Thomas gießt den Wein in das Glas.
  • Thomas pours the wine into the glass.

And the other way is using a prefix which adds a vague sense of direction without being specific in any way.

  • Thomas gießt den Wein ein. (direction: into something)
  • Thomas pours in the wine.
  • Thomas gießt den Wein aus. (direction: out of something)
  • Thomas pours out the wine.

That’s a general theme of prefixes – giving the verb a direction. And for the versions of gießen it’s pretty obvious, because there hasn’t been much twisting going on. I think you can actually guess most of the gießen-versions just by context. In fact, are you up for a little challenge?
“Of course … “
Cool, so here are three examples… can you get the gist by context?

  1. “Ich glaub’ die Pasta ist fertig. Soll ich die abgießen?”
    “Ja, aber im Bad. Der Ausguss in der Küche ist verstopft (clogged).”

  2. Der Tee ist so intensiv, den kannst du zweimal aufgießen.

  3. Die Hose passt wie angegossen.

“Phew, tougher than expected. Pasta is ready.. hmmm… abgießen..I don’t know, maybe drain?! “
Perfect!!! And you’re spot on. Abgießen is “pouring off water” and it’s used for draining pasta and rice and so on. And der Ausguss is where the drained water goes.
“Oh, the hole of the sink, the drain.”
Exactly. Any idea for the next one?
“Well… I don’t know what you say in English but pouring the water over the tea so it becomes a tea?!”
Yes!! I think the word is to steep but I’m not sure. Anyway, the last one?
“Erm… I don’t know… like… the pants fit like they were poured onto you?”
Genau. That’s a fixed expression though, so you can’t really find angießen anywhere. But yeah… you got all of them!!
Do you think you can figure out the non-separable ones as well?
“Oh yes, bring them on! Huah!”
So, let’s start with vergießen… any idea what that could be?
“Hmm… I don’t know… of all four ideas of ver, the away-ver makes most sense to me so I’d say it’s pour away?”
Yeah, it is the away-ver. Though, for actually pouring away you’d use weggießen. Vergießen is more like to spill and it’s actually mostly used in context of tears and blood. Here’s a couple of examples.

  • Das Blutvergießen in der Region muss aufhören.
  • The bloodshed in the region must stop.
  • “Ich habe in der Oper die eine oder andere Träne vergossen“.
  • “I did shed a tear or two during the opera.”

“Awww, so the opera did touch you. That’s so cute.”
First off, these examples are 100% fiction and have nothing to do with me and second of all, I was crying tears of self pity. The only thing opera is good for is browsing the web.
“Uuhhhmm… Emanuel, about your jokes recently …”
I don’t wanna talk about it!!
“But you should. Because they’re really getti…. “
Hello… hello, Anjelika.. I can’t hear you… hmmm… looks like the connection failed. Well… that’s unfortunate.
But back to the prefix versions, the next one is begießen. And this is basically an intense, slightly technical sounding gießen. It’s not very common in daily life, but you might come across it as a synonym for to celebrate… you know… “intense pouring of alcohol onto an occasion” :)

  • “Ich habe den Job bekommen!!”
    “Wow, cool. Das müssen wir begießen.
  • “I got the job.”
    “Wow, cool. We have to celebrate that by having drinks.
  • Nachdem Maria Thomas die Meinung gesagt hat, steht er da wie ein begossener Pudel. (idiom)
  • After Maria told Thomas what she thinks of him, he stood there looking like a drowned rat. 
    (lit.: “a poured over poodle”)


Last but not least, there’s ergießen, or sich ergießen to be precise. Ther- has a notion of outward, exit  here and, as usual,  it adds somewhat of an epic vibe. You usually find it for stuff like streams pouring somewhere. But I think you’re more likely to see the noun der Erguss.

  • Der Lavastrom ergießt sich ins Meer.
  • The lava stream pours into the sea.
  • Tom hat einen Bluterguss am Bein.
  • Tom has a bruise/hematoma/”blood-outpour” on his leg.
  • Der Teenager guckt im Internet, was man gegen vorzeitigen Samenerguss machen kann.
  • The teenager looks online what one can do against premature ejaculation (“semen out-pour”).

And see you next time.

Oh… ups, that was kind of premature, too :). But yeah, that’s basically it for today. This was our look at the verb gießen which is the verb for pouring. Well… pouring liquids.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, just pour them into the comments.
I hope you liked it and see you next time :)

** vocab **

gießen (gegossen) – pour liquid, also: to rain
der Guss – the gush, the pouring
die Gießkanne – the watering can
das Gießkannenprinzip – the scattergun principle

ausgießen – pour out
der Ausguss – the drain of a sink
ausschütten – pour out (rough)
eingießen – pour in liquid
einschenken – pour in in context of drinks, fancy version
abgießen – drain (for pasta, rice and similar stuff)
aufgießen – pour something on something, steep (for tea)
der Aufguss – the brew (for tea), the infusion (in sauna) 

passt wie angegossen – fits perfectly (for clothes and similar stuff)

vergießen – “pour away”, usually used as shed for blood and tears
verschütten – spill 
begießen – pour something over something, also: to celebrate (pouring liquor over the occasion)
sich ergießen – pour into (the liquid itself does it), usually for bigger streams
der Bluterguss – hematoma, bruise
der Samenerguss – ejaculation (technical)

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27 days ago

Nice Post

1 year ago

Ich bin deutscher Anfänger. Dieser Artikel war sehr hilfreich. Ich habe eine Frage zu einem Ihrer Sätze:

Der Regenguss kam genau, als ich joggen war.

Was ist das für eine Zeitform? Ist dies das Präteritum? Oder die progressive Zeitform? 

Vielen Dank für jede Einsicht.

2 years ago

Thanks for the great article. One tiny point, for what it’s worth: it’s pretty common to use “bucketing down” for “raining really hard” in English, so “Gestern hat es den ganzen Tag gegossen wie aus Eimern” is quite neatly/naturally/neutrally/”neauturally” translated by “Yesterday it bucketed down the whole day”.

(Edit: ugh, those smart quotes are killing me!)

2 years ago
Reply to  pmccann

Interesting, and a useful comparison. I will note, however, that as far as I know, this is strictly British English. We Americans wouldn’t say it quite like this. Perhaps “it’s raining buckets” for us instead. Of course the most common expression being “it’s raining cats and dogs.” :)

3 years ago

Very interesting and useful. Love the “poured-over poodle” idiom – I must use that in English sometime to my German friends and watch their faces

3 years ago

I actually want to do more of these kind of family trees

3 years ago

Excellent post :) too bad about Anjelika, she sounded like a great person!

3 years ago

I am indeed grateful to be here on this site and thanks to those who made it possible. This is such a great site.

escorts services in delhi

Excellent post :) too bad about Anjelika, she sounded like a great person
I guess you could create some sort of family tree including both infundibulum and gießen. If you had lots of patience and free time. :)

4 years ago

Hi Emanuel. Ich bin Ihnen eine bessere email schuldig, aber ich möchte mindestens etwas kurzes schreiben, bevor die ankommt. Trotz der größe meiner Wohnungsort, bietet er relativ enig in Bezug auf Deuschsprachler an, also einen Kommentar hier, scheint mir irgendwie angemessen….Ich hoffe, Ihnen alles gut geht!

4 years ago

Excellent post :) too bad about Anjelika, she sounded like a great person!
(There’s a small typo with “rise” somewhere in the text)

Laura McShane
Laura McShane
4 years ago

You really blew my mind with this post. Why? Because this was the post for A Word a Day on very the same day: https://wordsmith.org/words/infundibuliform.html. As you can see, that word also come from the same Indo-European root gheu- (to pour). Did you and Anu Garg at A.Word.A.Day plan this or something?!!

I guess you could create some sort of family tree including both infundibulum and gießen. If you had lots of patience and free time. :)

In response to demoneyes136, you could also say, “Maria pours a beer on poor Thomas’s head.” To me, that sounds more normal than “over poor Thomas’s head.” And here in California, people definitely say “a beer,” whereas they wouldn’t say “a wine.” But any way you look at it, it’s a terrible waste of beer.

4 years ago
Reply to  Laura McShane

Hmm… to me (Texas) “over” sounds like a better fit for a scenario where Maria drenched Thomas’s head with the beer. “On” wouldn’t strike me as odd or anything, but I’d probably be more likely to say “over” if I were spontaneously narrating the event.

4 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Oh, and agreed on “a beer” – definitely idiomatic, I’d think, for American English in general.

4 years ago

Very interesting and useful. Love the “poured-over poodle” idiom – I must use that in English sometime to my German friends and watch their faces…

One minor point. We would never say “Maria pours poor Thomas a beer over the head.” Google might but we wouldn’t! It would always be “Maria pours a beer over poor Thomas’s head”. (Or more likely still, “her beer” or “a glass of beer” – “a beer” probably wouldn’t be used in that context just as we wouldn’t say “a wine”.)

Curiously you could say “Maria gives poor Thomas a whack over the head”, and that would sound entirely idiomatic despite being the exact same construction that sounds so wrong with pouring beer! But I think that’s because “whack over the head” is an idiom in its own right and so doesn’t need a possessive added. :-)

4 years ago

♪ Heute schütte ich mich zu, denn ich hab ja allen Grund dazu ♫

4 years ago

Ein Ausgießen des Giesens! Not sure that translates but an “outpouring” in English is like a gush or an outburst I guess. Thanks for the post, and 243’s contribution too.

Lisa Horsington
Lisa Horsington
4 years ago

I enjoyed this very much – thank you. Your posts are always very interesting and make connections that German textbooks never include!

4 years ago


I feel that there is a second aspect of “gießen” that you only scratched. An aspect that keeps the word a bit more apart from “schütten” or “kippen”. Because “gießen” can also be seen as an act of creation.
I mean “eine Glocke gießen” = “to cast a bell” is kind of far away from “Pour me a bell, would’ya?” (whenever that becomes a thing)
It gives this in other senses unintentional or chaotic “let it flow” of “gießen” a certain purpose and restricts it. You pour something into a form and the focus of the word shifts from the act of pouring to the act of giving something a form.
So, “eine Gießerei” is a “foundry/casting house”, “das Gusseisen” = “cast iron”. And I feel it explains the idiom “passt wie angegossen” a bit better. Because if the pants were made out of a solidified liquid, they could have been casted with your lower body as a mold (is that the right word? “Gussform” in German). In the same way, you make an “Abguss” of footprints in a criminal investigation. (The cast for a broken leg or a musical is “Gips/Gipsverband” and “Ensemble/Besetzung” respectively, though.)
And it also explains why we speak of “Bleigießen” instead of “Bleischütten” or “-kippen”, because “gießen” is closer connected to a form of art.
For all who won’t believe me that “Gießen” (here: “casting”) can be a form of art, read this beautiful piece from Schiller: http://www.lyrikwelt.de/gedichte/schillerg3.htm

PS: You might notice that in the poem the word is written “Guß”, that is because all the forms of “gießen” were written with an “ß” before they changed that in the begin of the century.

4 years ago

As a professional opera singer living in Germany, I resent your opera comment. ;)

Dieses Kommentar schütte ich in den Abfluss aus.

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I’m a tenor! I sing in the Landestheater in Passau. And yes, I get compliments on my Aussprache quite often because I also had to study it in college — the only problem is that people then misjudge my level of German! Of course the goal when singing is to sound like a native speaker, so you have to be kind of obsessed with pronunciation. I’m trying my best not be affected by the bayerisch accent, though. :)

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I have a German friend who is into amateur opera and whenever he visits he brings song sheets and some of his own recordings and he insists I sing along. He thinks I’ve got some minor untapped operatic talent or at least that’s what he says – just being polite I’m quite certain. Anyway, all the difficulty I have with “ch”s and “r”s evaporates into the summer air when singing along in that half strangulated operatic style. Maybe that’s an insider tip. Just go around talking German as though bursting into an aria!

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

There are always tricks. The “ich” sound actually does exist in English, but many people think it doesn’t. At the beginning of many words that begin with the letter h, that sound happens in most accents. Well, at least I can speak to American English. But take a word like “humid.” If you don’t allow the tongue to retract backward and slow it down, you can begin to isolate that ich-laut [ç] sound. For native English speakers who have trouble with the ich-laut, then, just bring them back to saying a word like humid after “ich”. So then you have something like iiiiiiichhhhhhumid…if that makes any sense. Also making sure the tongue stays flat and forward against the lower teeth the whole time. That can help. But along with that what it really takes is daily repetition. Two minutes of daily practice in front of a mirror is really all it takes!

Regarding the German “r” in the back – that’s a bit harder. It’s really what we call a voiced version of the ach-laut [x]. So if you can say “ach” correctly, then essentially you just need more air flowing to produce the guttural r sound. Native English speakers simply aren’t used to consonant production so far back in the throat, so it takes time just to be able to begin to conceive of it. I’ve heard some also recommend gargling…that seems useful to me because it allows the brain to begin to recognize what’s happening in the back of the throat.

On that note — I think of learning these types of things as part mechanical- and part brain-related. You have to get the mechanics working (the musculature and positioning of the tongue, lips, throat, etc.), but your brain also has to be able to say, “Ok, that new throat position is possible, and now I associate it with these particular R’s. From now on I’ll allow that to happen.” I suppose you could say more scientifically that you are opening up new neural pathways. Who wouldn’t want that?

Long-winded response, but I hope that helps a bit!

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Mark. Comment of the year right there. Well I know it’s only 16th January but I can’t see it being beaten honestly.

Tom Burghause
4 years ago

Ich glaube, wenn wir Ausguss und Abfluss mal die Verben herleiten, wird es vielleicht klarer. Ausguss ist dann die Stelle, wo wir etwas ausgießen. Und der Abfluss ist dann die Stelle, wo etwas abfließt oder auch wegfließt.


4 years ago

can you pour yourself into something? Like work? Ich gieße meines lieben in das job ein?

4 years ago

Was ist der unterschied zwischen Ausguss und Abfluss?