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 :)

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.

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

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.

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

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.

“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” :)

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.

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)

for members :)

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Was ist der unterschied zwischen Ausguss und Abfluss?


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

Tom Burghause

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.



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

Dieses Kommentar schütte ich in den Abfluss aus.



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.

Lisa Horsington
Lisa Horsington

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


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.


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


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. :-)

Laura McShane
Laura McShane

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.


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.


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


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


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!

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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. :)


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


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


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


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


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!)


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.” :)