Word of the Day – “melden”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day.
And today, we’ll take a look at one of those weird under-the-radar words.
You know… the ones you never really notice until you’re made aware of them. And then you start seeing them everywhere.
Kind of like opportunities. Or the beauty of small things. Or your coworker’s pee-markings on your desk… I mean, no one likes snitches, and marking your own desk is one thing – but marking half the office?
Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, let’s take a look at the meaning of

melden

 

Melden looks fairly similar to melting and moulding but neither one is remotely related. In fact, melden is one of those verbs that doesn’t really have an English relative anymore. At least none that I could think of or dig up.

The origin of melden is not known for sure, but one possible root is the campily ancient Indo-European root *meldh– which was about… talking to whatever deities they had.
This root is the origin of the Slavic branch of “моли” (“moli“), which is in essence about asking someone to do something – either “intensively” like in Russian where is about begging, heavy pleading.  Or just normal asking like in Bulgarian where моляmolja” is the word for please.

The German melden and its Germanic ancestors on the other hand – if they really are related to that root – focused on a different aspect of prayer: telling God what you want.

“Hello God, thanks for the great work on the dinner.
Please find attached your To-Do list the coming week.

Last week’s tasks of World Peace and Corona cure are still pending,
so make sure to include those as well.
Amen.” 

Now, of course the Germanic tribes didn’t pray like that, even though they were a little more buddy-buddy with their gods than… well… monotheistic religions. I mean, seriously… Greek and Germanic Gods would drink, have orgies and hang out on earth all the time. Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if we believed that God sometimes takes human form to hang out at the gym? I mean, God’s arms and shoulders sure look in shape in that Michelangelo painting.
But anyway, if melden really does have ties to the idea of praying, the meaning shifted a LONG time ago. Because already over a thousand years ago, the core idea of the branch was relaying information. And it truly hasn’t changed much.
Because melden is still a pretty dry, pragmatic word for reporting, passing on information.

  • “Dieser Facebookpost von Maria gefällt mir nicht. Ich melde ihn.”
    “Aber… warum?”
    “Weil ich Cancel-Man bin!”
    “OMG… Cancel-Man! Bitte tu mir nichts.”
  • “I don’t like this Facebook post of Maria. I’ll report it.”
    “But.. why?”
    “Because I’m Cancel-Man.”
    “OMG Cancel-Man. Please don’t hurt me.”
  • In Berlin wurden in den letzten 24 Stunden 504 neue Corona-Fälle gemeldet.
  • In Berlin, 504 new cases of Corona have been reported within the last 24 hours.
  • Maria ist noch in Berlin gemeldet.
  • Maria is still registered (as a citizen) in Berlin.

As you can see, the idea is not reporting in the sense of a reporter, though the noun Eilmeldung means breaking news for instance.
But generally, the gist is a somewhat formal passing on of formal information. And that also shows in the related words.

  • Salmonellen sind eine meldepflichtige Krankheit.
  • Salmonellae are a reportable/notifiable disease.
    (is this the right word for “have to be reported to the authorities”)
  • Eilmeldung: Deutsch vereinfacht seine Artikel.
  • Breaking news: German simplifies its articles.
  • Weil auf dem Pass keine Adresse steht, braucht man oft noch seine Meldebescheinigung – zum Beispiel, wenn man ein Konto eröffnen will.
  • Because there is no address on the passport, you often also need the proof of residence – for example, if you want to open a bank account.
  • In meiner Wohnung ist jetzt ein Rauchmelder.
  • In my apartment, there’s now a smoke detector.

My Rauchmelder won’t report all smoke it detects though, because it ain’t no snitch. Am I right, Rauchmelder? I know you can see the screen from the ceiling. Snitches get stitches, you know?
Anyway, if you’ve lived in a German speaking country, I am sure you’ve seen some of those uses already.
But still,  melden would be kind of a niche word, if it wasn’t for…  its use with a self reference: sich melden.
Taken literally, it basically means something like  “to report oneself”.

  • Wegen Corona kann man sich jetzt auch online arbeitslos melden.
  • Because of Corona you can now register/file as unemployed also online.
  • Maria hat sich heute krankgemeldet.
  • Maria called in sick, today.

These two examples fit in well with the vibe we had so far, but sich melden is not always that formal.
It can just mean putting your name out at a meeting and in fact, it’s THE word for raising your hand in context of school (or generally, signalling that you want to speak).

  • “Der motivierte Praktikant hat sich freiwillig für Kaffeedienst gemeldet.”
    “Hab’ ich nicht!”
  • “The motivated intern volunteered for coffee duty.”
    “I did NOT!”
  • Als der Lehrer gefragt hat, wer die Regel verstanden hat, hat sich niemand gemeldet.
  • When the teacher asked, who has understood the rule, no one raised their hand.

Here, the notion of reporting is still kind of visible, but what REALLY makes sich melden an everyday phrase is the fact it has evolved into a word that just expresses the general idea of getting in touch. 

  • “Seit wann hast du eine Katze?”
    “Sie saß vor drei Wochen vor meiner Tür. Ich habe Flyer ausgehängt, aber bis jetzt hat sich keiner gemeldet.
  • “Since when do you have a cat?”
    “It sat in front of my door three weeks ago. I put up flyers but so far, no one has contacted me.”
  • Thomas meldet sich immer nur, wenn er einen Gefallen braucht.
  • Thomas only ever gets in touch/calls, if he needs a favor.
  • Ich muss mich bald bei meiner Oma melden, sonst wird sie traurig.
  • I have to call/contact my grandma soon, or she’ll get sad.
  • “Wie war euer Date?”
    “War echt cool. Aber er hat sich seitdem nicht mehr gemeldet.”
  • “How was your date?”
    “It went really well. But he hasn’t reached out/contacted me since.”

As you can see, this is a really common everyday word, and it’s actually kind of hard to chose one translation, because it is so dependent on context.

  • Meld dich mal, wenn du gelandet bist.
  • Meld dich mal, wenn du in Berlin bist.

The first one could be a parent who basically just wants their child to let them know that they landed safely. The second one could be a friend who just wants you to hit them up if you’re in town. The fitting translation really depends on the context so don’t get too hung up on one translation.
But yeah… sich melden is definitely quite common in daily life and I’m sure you’ll hear it a lot. And it’s one of those words that’ll make you sound much more native, so if you dare, give it a shot and try it. Your friends will be impressed :).

Cool.
Now, we’re almost done, but of course we can’t talk about a verb without talking about prefix versions.
Melden doesn’t have many. Only four in fact. The least important one of them is, vermelden, is basically also about reporting but it’s REALLY rare and you can forget about it immediately. Like… 3, 2, 1… gone.
Then, there’s ummelden, which is what you do when you move apartments and you change your official registration.
But the ones that actually are useful are anmelden and abmelden.
In fact, I’m pretty sure most of you have done it a few times today already – directly or indirectly.
Some of you probably guessed it – (sich) anmelden is to register or sign up/sign in. You “inform about the presence” of someone or something

  • Thomas, der wieder Single ist, meldet sich im Yoga-Studio an.
  • Thomas, who is single again, signs up for Yoga class.
  • Klicken Sie hier, um sich anzumelden.
  • Click here to sign up.
  • Wenn man eine Rechnung schreiben will, muss man ein Gewerbe anmelden.
  • If you want to write an invoice you have to register a business.

And abmelden is of course the opposite to sign out or to “de-register”

  •  Wie kann ich mich vom Newsletter abmelden?
  • How can I unsubscribe from the newsletter?
  • Sie wurden wegen Inaktivität vom System abgemeldet… dem System KAPITALISMUS!!
  • Due to inactivity, you were signed out by the system… the system of CAPITALISM!!

Oh come on, are you serious… my interns made this because they think I “demand too much”. Come on guys, it’s not like you play computer all day in Communism. You have to work there, too, you know. Why is Gen Z so naive about some thi….
“OMG, that was very very Generationalist. I am SO gonna report that.”
What? Who said that?
“It is I, Cancel-Man.”
Ohhhhh, Cancel Man, so we meet at last. I knew this day would come. But you have to know one thing… this isn’t even my final form….*starts transforming
Buaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
Oh… that… that wasn’t the transformation sound, that was the BS-Melder. I’m clearly losing focus, so… uh … I guess it’s time to wrap this up :).
But we’re done anyway, so yeah… this was our look at the meaning of melden and sich melden and the latter is definitely something to add to your active vocabulary.
As usual, if you want to check how much you remember, just take the little quiz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or thoughts just meldet euch in the comments.
Have a great week and see you next time.

 

** vocab **

melden = report, register (formal, official sounding); raise hand (“sich melden”, in groups); get in touch (“sich melden”, translation depends on context, casual, colloquial and common)
die Meldung = the news report (short, on one issue)
sich freiwillig melden = volunteer for a task
der Rauchmelder = the smoke snitch… I mean detector
die Meldebescheinigung = proof of residence
anmelden = register, sign up, log in (sich anmelden)
die Anmeldung = the registration; the reception desk (sometimes, not in hotels)
abmelden = “un”-register, unsubscribe (sich abmelden)
ummelden = register at a new apartment after a move (sich ummelden)
etwas zu melden haben = have a say, have some authority (colloquial, dismissive if used in the negative)

 

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ade0
ade0
5 months ago

Hi Emanuel,

A quick question about keiner vs niemand…. (apologies – not directly to do with the purpose of your article :))

In one example, you say:
“Sie saß vor drei Wochen vor meiner Tür. Ich habe Flyer ausgehängt, aber bis jetzt hat sich keiner gemeldet.

And in the test, I believe one of the examples had something like: “Niemand hat sich gemeldet”

Are keiner/niemand completely interchangeable or are they used in different ways?

thanks
Ade

Mat
Mat
1 year ago

So regarding vermelden, is it just not used at all even on the news? Like it went extinct?

Is it just a formal melden like mitteilen?

Is there other difference? Wil people be looking at me if I use this word during a conversation?

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

seems like it is used on Austrian TV in the news quite often, something like “es gibt <…> zu vermelden”

Kay
Kay
1 year ago

Hallo
Ich habe das Folgende gelesen:
Guten Tag koennten Sie mich bitte mit Frau Meyer verbinden? Hier ist Frau Blau. Sie meldet sich nicht.
Kann “sich melden” im Sinne von jemandem antworten verwendet werden? Vielleicht im Zusammenhang mit dem Annehmen des Telefons?

Vielen Dank!!!

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

I just love your articles about the German language. I’m a bit of a nerd so I love explanations. Etymology rules! My plan is to learn to speak German well enough so that the nice German people do not answer me in better English when I try and talk to them. Thank you for all your help.

Abubakr
Abubakr
1 year ago

I find the remark that you made on “God” quite offensive. As Muslims we describe Allah “God” with the Names and Attributes that befit His Majesty.
Thought you should know.
Thanks for the dissection of this word.

Desdra
Desdra
1 year ago

You asked:Salmonellae are a reportable/notifiable disease.
(is this the right word for “have to be reported to the authorities”)

In English I would say, “you are required to report Salmonella to the authorities”. I think that gets at the meaning you want to convey. I’ll be interested to see if the German sentence you provided maps to that meaning.

Sunil Bhati
Sunil Bhati
1 year ago

Thank you do much …. It’s good to be the part of this journey

Bob R
Bob R
1 year ago

In the US, the verb “meld” can mean “to declare or announce (a card or combination of cards) for a score in a card game especially by placing face up on the table” (from Merriam-Webster.com). Etymonline says that this meaning is “apparently” from the German word melden. So there probably is an English word related to melden :-)

kwclinton
kwclinton
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob R

In Star Trek (nerd alert!) they also have mind-melds where you can basically connect your mind to someone else’s. So that definitely seems to come from melden.

Deborah
Deborah
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

That’s interesting. I’ve always understood it as a kind of fusion – which would be a blend of the two concepts.

You
You
7 months ago
Reply to  Deborah

Hi deb glad I got my name back from you so long

Fancypantser
Fancypantser
1 year ago

BS-Melder! Amazing! Ich muss mich einen kaufen.
Wie sagt man bullshit artist auf Deutsch? Leider bin ich eine/einer davon.

Frame
Frame
1 year ago

Sorry Emanuel, didn’t mean to be anonymous

You
You
7 months ago
Reply to  Frame

What is this

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Wie war EUER Date? ehm, did you mean ‘Deiner’ Date? I mean, how many people are in a date ;) ?

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago

Sie wurden wegen Inaktivität vom System abgemeldet… dem System KAPITALISMUS!!

Kind of reminds me of Qualityland. I’ve been meaning to read the new one.

I came across a new (to me) form of melden right after I read the article: “waren wohl heute noch ein paar Nachmeldungen (von Corona-Fällen) dabei.”

Since the unicorns came up, can I put in a request for squirrels? I really like the battle going on between them :)

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

In Russian, “молитва” also means “prayer”, and “молиться” means to pray. Awesome post!

Corn
Corn
1 year ago

Hit them up when they’re in town….don’t think that’s what you mean to say. Hit them up generally means to borrow money.

Jamie
Jamie
1 year ago
Reply to  Corn

I think both versions are correct, depending on the context. I say to friends, “hit me up when you’re in town.” But I also hear, “I can’t believe he just hit me up for $500. How’s that for a smooth tie-in to today’s word? ;-)

Travis
Travis
1 year ago

In der Schule haben wir den Begriff „ledig“ gelernt, für wenn man keinen Freund oder Freundin hat. Sagt man wirklich eher „single“ auf Deutsch?

0fqj3
0fqj3
1 year ago

“Mollify” may be related. It comes from Latin “mollis” — soft. It might be a stretch, but it is conceivable that one is getting in touch with the gods in order to soften their wrath…

Mari
Mari
1 year ago

I always look forward to the point in the article where you write, “Cool.” Promise me you’ll never leave it out. :)

You
You
7 months ago
Reply to  Mari

Cool

Elsa
Elsa
1 year ago

Hello,
Let’s do typos:
“Gods arms and shoulders sure looks in shape” (Gods arms and shoulders sure look (no s) in shape)
“kind of a niche words” (kind of a niche words)
“parent who basically just want their child” (parent who basically just wants their child)
“friend who just wants you to hit them of” (friend who just wants you to hit them up)
Oh, I’ve just seen that pmccann below has already pointed these out!

“sich melden definitely quite common” (sich melden is definitely quite common)
“make you sounds much more native” (“make you sound (no s) much more native)
“But the ones actually are useful” (But the ones that are actually useful)

And do I detect a typo in German?
Eilmeldung: Deutsch vereinfacht seine…” (Einmeldung…?)

As for the Salmonella question, and as already pointed out by pmcann, diseases are reported to the authorities, so they are “reportable diseases” (AE); the most current term in BE is “notifiable diseases” (this is actually my area of expertise, I translate a lot of SPCs (summary of product charecteristics) for medicinal products).

That’s it for today, thanks a lot for another great article, I actually hear the phrase “Ich melde mich” lots of times when I watch the German soa… erm… intellectual German TV show about cultural stuff… anyway, people say it all the time, especially when hanging up the phone and promising to give news soon on whatever the subject was, from going out for a drink to signing a business deal (or not).

Bis bald and please bring the Unicorn back (he’s nice and cuddly, which can definitely not be said of a stupid virus who’s turning us all into robots/zombies – not to mention not let me go to the Oktoberfest)!

Roger H
Roger H
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Don’t stress over English singulars and plurals … your issues make all us learners of non-English languages feel so much better !!

Equally it is very very kind of people to offer corrections !!

That said, I never miss what you actually mean !

So maybe it illustrates that grammar is meant to help understanding and taught well it can be useful, but I would miss it if your Germenglish ever became too perfect !!

This site is the best for explaining a language I’ve found anywhere.

Love the explanations, quizzes and comments !!

Elsa
Elsa
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Noooo, no, no, no, mate, please do be satisfied with yourself!
Your blog is the most helpful and useful resource for German learners (not to mention the wittiest) and a few typos are never going to change that :)

Angelina Andonova
Angelina Andonova
1 year ago
Reply to  Elsa

Hey I would like to subscribe to your page and sent you an email as well but haven’t heard back from you

You
You
7 months ago
Reply to  Elsa

Joy joy my life just got better Elisa

marko
marko
1 year ago

In Canada they are reportable diseases.

pmccann
pmccann
1 year ago

Thanks for the really helpful overview: while I’ve bumped into almost all those usages over time (Duolingo seems pretty keen on melden/anmelden/sich melden for some reason!) it’s really nice to see the distinctions and the family resemblances in one place.

A few little tidbits:
the standard term here in Australia is also “notifiable diseases”.
“…would be kind of a niche words” => … niche word
“a friend who just wants you to hit them of if you’re in town” => …hit them up if you’re in town ((At least I think that’s what you’re shooting for here.))