Word of the Day – “dauern”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a look at the meaning of:




And although it doesn’t really have a direct one to one translation in English it won’t take long... and yes, the color is on purpose. Because this is kind of like the meaning of dauern.
Dauern is to take an amount of time. Its origins are Latin. The word durus meant hard, solid and the related verb durare first meant to become hard, solid, lasting and then it took on the meaning of to last or  to take an amount of time.
Quite a useful verb so even after the Roman empire had stopped … ahem… lasting , all Roman based languages kept a version of it. And the German tribes, even though they had their own word währen for the concept,  were like “Hmmmm…. this dur-thing is pretty cool.”  So they imported it from French and in medieval  German as well as in Old English and other Germanic languages there was a verb dūren. The Germans then made some adjustments to it…
They added an a and changed the order of letters a bit to dauern… because they figured that with aue it would be 10 % more fuel efficient,  and even longer lasting. A huge success. Währen lost a large part of its market-share. It still exists as a verb but it’s kind of rare and its true legacy is certainly the IMPORTANT word während… which means while and during.

Now, while the Germans were huge dauern-fanboys, the Brits didn’t like it all that much and decided to just use to take [time],  while duren was soon forgotten. Only the verb, that is. There are a bunch of words based on this root. The most obvious one is duration which would be die Dauer in German. Then, there is the verb to endure which still has the whole lasting idea in it. But the most fascinating word is… during. Think about it.

  • During the day,….

Sounds like an everyday phrase. But it is nothing but a regular -ing-form with a weird sentence structure… a poetic one… or at least it seems poetic to me. Let me embarrass myself real quick:

And as I entered the God-forsaken borough, 
I tell you,
I saw plenty I didn’t expect to see

drinking, the men; drinking, the women; drinking, even the children; 
 drinking from barrels, from bottles, from puddles
and even from a goat’s teat.

My point it that during actually used to be a verb and during the day was something like “the day was lasting/during”, if that makes sense.
“Emanuel… can we talk about dauern, now?”
Oh… sure. Sorry.
So, I said the best translation would be to take an amount of time.

Actually, it even works without any indication of time, but then it will often come with a coloring words that implies that something takes or took long.

Now, in English you can easily add a person to the whole thing by saying “it takes someone  [amount of time]. Makes sense to add that information but from a grammar point of view it is a really strange phrasing. And because German is nowhere near as open minded as English with grammar, it is no surprise that this does  NOOOOOT work in German. You have to use brauchen (to need) in these sentences.

The second one is so weird, there is a good chance that they won’t even be able to guess what you’re trying to say. Why? We’ll see in a bit. So … here’s a direct comparison:

And that’s not the only pitfall. Dauern also doesn’t work for the phrasing “X takes [amount of time] to do.”. Like here….

  • The cake takes 10 minutes to prepare.
  • Der Kuchen dauert 10 Minuten um gemacht zu werden…. is pretty wrong.

In German, you’d rephrase into “it takes [amount of time]to do x.”

So basically, dauern works in the following pattern

  • Es dauert [insert time], …. zu tun.
  • It takes [insert time], to do …


  • Es dauert [insert time], bis/ehe….
  • It takes [insert time], until/before

or, if the stuff that is done has been said already:

  • Das/es dauert [insert time].
  • That/it takes [insert coin].

And just to make sure… it does NOT work as “it takes me [amount of time]”.
Now we already mentioned die Dauer, but dauern has quite a few other related words that are pretty useful. So let’s take a look.

the dauern-family

First up, we have dauernd and it’s brother andauernd. Both words mean about the same and their translation, at least to me, is a slightly negative sounding casual all the time…. in sense of not literally all the time but a lot and reoccurring.

A similar word is dauerhaft but this carries no negative overtones and the meaning is more like lasting or there to last (dict.cc has like 20 translations for it). But it’s more for the newspapers and you will understand it when you see it so we’ll skip the examples.
Another really really useful word is die Ausdauer. It can mean endurance or stamina, in a fitness context it also means cardio. But it is not limited to the physical so it can also be perseverance or similar words.

And of course, there are also prefix version. For instance andauern and überdauern. Überdauern means to outlast or outlive.

Andauern is harder to translate. The dictionary Leo.org suggests a bunch of words like continue, last, hold up, stand or  linger. And each one might at some point be a valid translation of andauern. But andauern will almost never be a good translation for any of those words. It is rare anyway, so we can just put it on our passive-pile.

Last but not least, we have bedauern. Which is to regret or to be sorry for. It often sounds slightly formal and it is not as strong and “personal” as bereuen, but still you’ll probably hear it in everyday life.

And now the big question most of you are asking themselves is … HOW. Like… how does this meaning tie in with the core idea of lasting. And the answer is: it doesn’t. Bedauern is actually related to teuer (expensive) and has nothing to do with the lasting.
And making a connection between expensive and regret is not that hard. I just need to look at my new yacht for instance. That was such a waste of money. I should have taken the kebab instead, but what can you do when a unicorn is whispering in your ear.
Hmmm…. I feel like this article just got really confusing.  Time to wrap it up :)
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.


** vocab **

dauern – take [amount of time]
die Dauer – the duration 
jemand braucht [amount of time] – takes someone [amount of time]

dauernd/andauernd – incessantly, continuously, all the time (often with a slightly negative tone)

überdauern – outlast

die Ausdauer – the stamina, cardio, perseverance
bedauern – to be sorry for (deed/person
das Bedauer – regret, compunction
bedauerlich – [it’s a] pity
bedauerlicherweise – unfortunately

for members :)