Word of the Day – “der Bock”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll take a look at the meaning of

der Bock

 

Bock originally comes from the animal kingdom and there are similar words throughout all Germanic languages. The English counterpart is buck. Now, I am not an expert in uh … I think it’s called ‘animal botany’… but I think the German Bock is refers mainly to a male goat… also know as he-goat. Wait… he-goat? Is that a joke? No? Oh there is he-cat too? Does that mean that I can say he-cow  or he-snake? Or he-woman? Or even he-man with the power of not one but 2 swo…. aaaaanywaaaaays. 

So, Bock by itself is a male goat but it can be used a few other animals too such as Rehbock (roebuck) or  Steinbock, which is both, the animal and the zodiac sign).

  • “Was bist du für’n Sternzeichen.”
    “Ich bin Steinbock.”
  • “What zodiac sign are you?”
    “I’m a Capricorn.”

Now, what’s interesting about Bock is the fact that German is using the word for quite a number of other things…. just like it did with the word der Vogel. I don’t know about other languages but seems to me that German really likes using animal names. So… let’s start looking at all the different meanings.

In gymnastics class a Bock can be a nightmare for people. It was for me. Run towards it, jump on the spring board and then smash against it and sprain your ankle… oh the horror. What I am talking about is the vaulting horse (some pictures) and the leap over it is called Bocksprung (leapfrog).  Now, I never understood what the point of Bocksprung is because I NEVER jump over stuff that way in daily life … but what I do know is the purpose of the next Bock.

You need it if you want to work with wood or metal and again, just like with the sports-Bock, English is using the word horse for it… der (Säge)bock is the sawing horse  (some pictures).
Now… I know that these 2 Bocks are already incredibly fascinating and you can’t wait to get out and use them in conversation but there is an even more useful Bock.

Bock is a colloquial term for die Lust in sense of desire or appetite. Why does Bock mean that? Well, some claim that this one comes from Rothwelsh and it was a Romani word for hunger (bokh) so it has nothing to do with the animal. My etymological dictionary, however, suggests a different origin which can be summarized like this (the persons talking are the common conscious of all Germans of different centuries)

“A Bock is and shall always be a male goat.”

“Hey…uhm…  I have a funny idea. I have observed that male goats
want to mate with female goats quite often so let’s call a man with a
beard who constantly wants to mate with females a Bock

 “That’s cool… hey how about we say the lust of such a man is a Bock… so he has Bock.”

“Oh that sounds groovy… let’s be crazy and just not care what the
man wants or that it’s a man to begin with… let’s just always say that
we have Bock if we want something.”

And that’s where we are today. Bock haben is a very very very frequently used way to say to want something.

  • Ich hab’ Bock auf’n Bier.
  • I want a beer.
  • Hast du Bock auf Kino?
  • Do you want to go see a movie?
  • “Hey, ich geh’ zum Konzert von Milton Freedman. Willst du mit?”
    “Nee, keinen Bock.
  • “Hey, I am going to the concert of Milton Friedman. Wanna come?”
    “Nah, not interested.”

So… is Bock slang? The answer is a clear no. Bock maybe used to be limited to school yards while the parents would use Lust in all those examples but not anymore. Lust sounds so … behaved. Bock has made quite a career and it is now pretty common.
The young Left uses it a lot:

  •  Kein Bock auf Nazis. (festival flyer)

there are books with it in the title:

  • Null Bock auf Schule/Karma/Lernen (at Amazon)

and it is used in a (stupid) advertisement for a big ass electro chain:

Even a whole generation is named after the “I don’t care”-attitude they display – die Null-Bock-Generation.  By the way… null Bock literally means zero desire or NOT interested and  opposite extreme would be voll Bockyou  can’t say viel Bock. Why not? Pshhhh, why should I care.
So… I’d say we could call this “want to“-Bock commonly accepted by now. You shouldn’t use it when you’re talking with your professor or with the police in any formal situation  but with friends it’s all right. Even my mom says it every now and then. And my mom is usually very very mom.
Now, all the examples so far were rather short… so here is a longer one.

  • “Warum bist du denn so sauer?”
    “Ich hab’ halt einfach mal voll keinen Bock drauf, dass ich wie letztes mal die ganze Präsentation alleine vorbereite und du dann schön mit einer 1 rausmarschierst ohne irgendwas gemacht zu haben.”
  • “Why on earth are you so mad?”
    Well, I simply have absolutely  no desire to do the whole presentation alone like last time and then you waltz out of class with an A without having done a thing.”

What’s that? Oh no no.. this is real… this is how people talk. We do use THAT many particles in one sentence. I’d even say that I use the combination  “halt einfach mal voll keinen Bock fairly often… but I don’t want start talking about particles… you can just take the whole thing and say it to a German friend and maybe they be be baffled by how genuine you sound :).
Now, before we get to the last Bock and some other Bock-words, we should take a quick look at the grammar. You have probably noticed that I always used the preposition auf in the examples. Just like Lust or Appetit, Bock only works with auf or with a zu-construction … so … here are the 3 possible:

  • Ich hab’ Bock auf [insert thing] – “Ich hab’ Bock auf Bier.”
  • Ich hab’ Bock (drauf) [insert zu-sentence] – “Ich hab’ Bock zu schlafen”.
  • Ich hab’ Bock drauf, dass [insert minor sentence]. – “Ich hab’ Bock drauf, dass endlich Sommer wird.”

All right now on to the nex…. oh, wait, I almost forgot to mention that this Bock can mean fun too. The phrasing is Bock machen and it is a colloquial Spaß machen.

  • Das Computerspiel macht voll Bock.
  • The game is a lot of fun.
  • “Wie war’s die Achterbahnfahrt?”
    “War cool, hat Bock gemacht.
  • “How was the roller-coaster ride?”
    “Great, it was fun.”

I don’t know how it feels to you but for me Bock haben and Bock machen is kind of the same Bock… at least compared to the Bock that means mistake. It is not used much but you can see or hear it in the media so if you do and the other Bocks do not make sense – don’t be confused. This mistake-bock is also the base for the verb verbocken which is basically to screw up.

  • Wer hat das verbockt?
  • Who’s fault is that?

but this word isn’t used much either.
What’s that you’re asking? Oooooh, you want to know whyyyyyyy Bock means mistake. Well, it is basically hunters jargon. When they had there shooting competitions the looser would get a literal Bock as a consolation gift because…uh he-goats suck as a price I guess but hey… who cares… let’s get to the nice refreshing, inspiring, tasty, sparkling, amber colored, the ability to drive a car or operate heavy machinery impairing one… the

Bockbier

Bockbier is a kind of Bier. It is not THAT common and I have never seen it sold in a bar, neither on tap nor bottled, but you can get it at any grocery store.
No matter what brand, it will always have Bockbier on the label and, guess what, a male goat. The origin of the same are different though. It was first brewed in a town of Northern Germany called  Einbeck. From there, it made its way to Munich and the Bavarian dialect changed Einbeck into “oambock” and eventually just “bock”.
Now, the difference between Bock and normal beer is the percentage by volume (PV) of alcohol. For Bockbier it is usually around 7 while normal beer has 5. So Bock is a rather strong beer and the taste is definitely something to get used to. But it has definitely grown on me… and I don’t mean belly-wise… badum tish…. so I suggest you give it a try.
A few months ago I bought a beer that had 14 percent by volume. That makes it stronger than wine…  and it was basically like a liqueur. What was really interesting is the way it was made… they brew the beer as strong as possible. Then the yeast dies because the alcohol content is too high. So then they freeze the beer. Water freezes at higher temperatures than alcohol so they have a ice-beer-mix which they then pour through nylons – those socks women are wearing- thus separating the ice and the beer that now has a higher percentage…. yummie.
And 14 is just the start… there are reports of up to 70 percent per volume out there.
Now, Germany is not only known for its beer but also for its neighboring countries cuisine so naturally there is also a very fancy dish with Bock in it.

Slowly steamed for hours in boiling water from the spring of Tap,
served on a elegantly shaped  gray-white cardboard plate that is only
used this one time, accompanied by a delicate, golden colored sauce
that creatively combines mustard seeds and vinegar as well as a side
of oven-baked refined wheat-dust  comes:

die Bockwurst

Seriously though… Bockwurst has this name because people in Bavaria liked to eat it with their Bockbier. It is a sausage that is cooked and subsequently sits in hot water for a whole day before you finally buy it because the gas station has nothing else to offer you. Sometimes I really feel like getting one but I know that after half of it I will feel a slight nausea. If any of you out there has eaten one… was it the same for you or am I just weird???

Anyway… I think we’re done for today actually. I mean technically we’re not. There is still the word bockig and there is also an interesting phenomenon about the fun-Bock and cases but I’ll stop anyway because … Ich hab’ kein’n Bock mehr :).
But I have one more picture for you that sums up a lot … here. When you know that Kölsch is a very light beer then this is witty on 3 levels.
Alright, if you want to check how much you remember and if you know the basic phrasings, you can take the little quiz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to share your Bockwurst story with us just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

4.8 6 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
43 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Anonymous
Anonymous
10 months ago

Someone left this comment on my YouTube video, “Morgen Klausur gar kein bock.” And now I’m here.

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

A review of chapter 8 of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never Let Me Go. I guess they’re reaching a German audience.

Love your blog by the way!

Renka
Renka
1 year ago

I love,love, love this article. It’s really funny and I got all the answers that I needed. Thank you so much!

Bockwurst
Bockwurst
2 years ago

Yo

fairyhedgehog
fairyhedgehog
2 years ago

I would call a he-goat a billy goat and a she-goat is a nanny goat.
 
Fun article and I aced the quiz this time!

Bryan Bock
Bryan Bock
2 years ago

Great. My name is a goat

demoneyes136
demoneyes136
3 years ago

–I think it’s called ‘animal botany’

Not quite. Botany is the science of plants, so we’d never talk about Animal Botany unless conducting some very dubious genetic experiments! Biology is the science of both animals and plants, so you’d say “Animal Biology” to talk about just the science of animals.

Otherwise, agree with others that there’s only a limited number of animals one would use he- and she- with. Goat and wolf are certainly two; she-bear is another (I know it’s in a Kipling poem). It has a certain archaic quality though. I do quite like “she-friend” though as a translation of Freundin, especially as “girlfriend” has a very much stronger romantic connotation than Freundin necessarily has to.

(Heads off to find particle notes to decode “halt einfach mal”… :) )

demoneyes136
demoneyes136
3 years ago
Reply to  demoneyes136

(And apologies if the “botany” was just a joke! :) )

Herr Trout
Herr Trout
3 years ago

The loser not the looser, „would get a literal Bock as a consolation gift.“ Es ist verbockt!

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago

Really having trouble getting the feel for the end of a sentence starting with “Bock haben”.

Hast du Bock morgen nach der Arbeit auf einen strammen Spaziergang mit mir machen?

Or is it:

Hast du Bock morgen nach der Arbeit auf einen strammen Spaziergang mit mir zu machen?

And the “mit mir”…. Ugh – I’m FEELING that it should be where I placed it but grammar stuff is telling me to place it after “der Arbeit”. I don’t know why that FEELS wrong.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks for the prompt and helpful reply!

Here goes:

Hast du Bock nach der Arbeit einen strammen Spaziergang mit mir zu machen?

And if I want to add any “Time, Manner, Place” they would be:

Hast du Bock (morgen) nach der Arbeit (im Park) einen strammen Spaziergang mit mir zu machen?

The Time-Manner-Place is making me want to put “mit mir” just before “einen strammen Spaziergang, but you say it’s interchangable, so I’ll leave it.

OR:
Hast du Bock auf einen strammen Spaziergang (entity)?

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

The “mit mir” is starting to feel more natural between “Spaziergang” and “zu machen”.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
5 years ago

Are there any settings where “verbocken” would be inappropriate (the way “Bock” shouldn’t be used with professors or police)? Just trying to figure out the best way in a semi-formal academic setting to say someone bungled/botched something…

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Well, how about an example headline:

– Samsung’s Bungled Note 7 Recall Could Do Lasting Brand Damage

I mean, there it’s an adjective, but you could use it as a verb too: “Samsung’s corporate leadership bungled/botched the recall of its faulty Note 7 smartphone in the autumn of 2016, leading to a months-long public relations crisis.”

Could you imagine using “verbocken” in sentences like that if you were, say, teaching a business class?

billkamm
billkamm
5 years ago

We have bock beers in America. They are some of my favorite beers. I buy them all the time.

This is my favorite:
http://www.troegs.com/beer/troegenator/

And yes by U.S. law beer companies must prompt you and ask if you are 21 before letting you use their site. It’s pretty stupid.

Andrew
6 years ago

errata corrige: Abzug instead of Abug.

Andrew
6 years ago

Many thanks for this extensive explanation. Do you have any idea about the meaning of “so bock”? Here you are the sentence I found it in: “Rendite von 30-Jaerighen Sparplaenen, die im Abschwung 2009 augeloest wurden, belief sich nach Abug aller Fondskosten und des Ausgabeaufschlages immerhin noch auf 6,1 Prozent pro Jahr”, so Bock. (Handelsblatt Investor Magazine).

Thanks,

A

Andrew
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ohhh yes! I see now that Bock is the surname of the interviewed person! Thanks a million!

Andrew

Marcel
Marcel
7 years ago

He-goat would be a billy.
Asses are jack and Jenny,
Pigs boar and sow, etc.
Get these words a lot at pub quiz, is there a German word for pub quiz?

Gloria
Gloria
7 years ago

I think he-goat is legit, if she-wolf is a real thing (according to Shakira, and she(or her hip) doesn’t lie. lol https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=booKP974B0k

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It sounds funny to native speakers too. :) I think “he/she-goat” might be the most commonly recognized of those because the King James Bible translated the Hebrew terms for male and female goats that way. “She-wolf” is familiar from the myth of Romulus and Remus. Most other common animals have specific names for males and females, respectively, though you don’t hear a lot of those from people who aren’t specialists – it’s always funny to hear dog-show people refer to an animal as a “bitch” with a straight face.

Also, anybody who learns about Bockbier from this blog, develops a liking for it, and then goes to Texas: Shiner Bock is not at all a proper Bockbier. It’s a pretty bland dark lager, but it’s not bad if you can’t get anything better (though these days you usually can).

demoneyes136
demoneyes136
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I would cautiously warn though, that “shemale” or “she-male” *is* English slang, most commonly found in porn, or sex-service advertising, for a transwoman who has not (yet) had the “lower” surgery!

JEAP
JEAP
9 years ago

netter Artikel…danke für die Bier Lektion (I hope that means what I think it means, and if I make a mistake don’t leave it here for all eternity…bitte)

JEAP
JEAP
9 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

haha…I don’t care, leave it so I won’t make it again ;)

NN
NN
9 years ago

Bockwurst is very tasty :)