Word of the Day – “nähen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day, the Summer, Sun and Vocab Fun special edition.
Which basically means it’s shorter and stupider. But also more fun :).
And today, we’ll take a quick look at the family around the German word

nähen

 

which is the German word for to sew.
And in case you’re now like
“Bruh, I don’t even use that in English.” or
“Bruh, my torn jeans are a way of self expression.” or
“Bruh, I’m living with mom, I’ll ask her.”  let me tell you… yes, sewing sounds boring.
But sewing a tear or sewing on a button is not hard at all and it is a really helpful life skill. And especially for the dudes and bros among you – sewing is an absolutely sexy alpha chad skill. Like… basically, it is like spear fishing, just with a smaller spear and without fish. No wonder it is part of the basic curriculum in Chad-school.

 

 

You can be that guy. And it’s not about the looks, bros. It’s the skill.
And guess what the word  sew is directly related to.
It’s Kama Sutra. Look it up, if you don’t believe me.
Shakespeare nailed it back a few hundred years ago:

“He who wants to sow, ought to know to sew.”

So yeah… sewing definitely a skill worth learning.
And the German word for it is also nice to have, because I believe that to truly know a language, you also need to know some random fringe words that you maybe use once a year. And also because it has some nice relatives.

But let’s start with nähen itself and look at a couple of examples.

  • “Dein neuer Freund ist so sexy beim Holzhacken.”
    “Nicht nur da. Der kann auch nähen.”
    “Mrrrr…..”
  • “Your new boyfriend is so sexy when chopping wood.”
    “Not only there. He can also sew.
    “Mrrrr….”
  • Der Chirurg hat die Wunde genäht.
  • The surgeon has sewed the wound.

This is pretty straightforward and also the prefix versions don’t need much explaining. zunähen and vernähen (technical sounding) are about the idea of closing, aufnähen is for a patch for example and and annähen is what you do with a button, for example.

  • Ich habe den Knopf wieder angenäht.
  • I sewed the button back on.
  • Ich habe alle Hosen von meinem Mitbewohner zugenäht. (PRANK GEHT SCHIEF )
  • I sewed up (“closed”)  all pants of my flatmate (PRANK GONE WRONG).

Cool.
So that’s the verbs, but of course there are also a few nouns.
First up, we have die Naht, is basically the result of nähenthe seam.

  • “Schatz, hab ich zugenommen?”
    “Frag mal lieber die Nähte von deinem Hemd.”
    “WAS?!?!?!”
  • “Honey, have I gained weight?”
    “Better ask the seams of your shirt.”
    “WHAT?!?!?”
  • In vielen Youtube-Videos gehen der Content und der Sponsorenteil nahtlos ineinander über.
  • In many Youtube-Videos, the content and the sponsored segment seamlessly blend/transition into one another.

And the next one is the tool that we need if we want to do some nähen, which is called die Nadel. And yes… that is totally related to the English needle.

  • “Beim nächsten Teammeeting suchen wir die Nadel im Heuhaufen… wortwörtlich.”
  • “At the next team meeting we’ll search the needle in the haystack…. literally.”
  • Ich habe 30 Tage auf einer Nadelmatte geschlafen – hier ist das Ergebnis (Ihr werdet es nicht glauben #superkräfte #Neurodermitis)
  • I slept on a needle mat for 30 days – here’s what happened. (You won’t believe it #Superpowers #Neurodermitis)

And needle is not the only English relative. Most of you probably know this certain plant, that when you touch it, it makes your skin burn. Kind of… like a bunch of needles.
No wonder it is called (stinging) nettle and in German it is die Brennnessel (“the burn nettle”).

  • “Warum hast du so viele Brennnesseln in deinem Garten?”
    “Die halten die Einhörner fern.”
  • “Why do you have so many stinging nettles in your garden?”
    “The keep away the unicorns.”

And that’s still not all, because arguably the most important or most “prolific” member of the family is the word for the very thing you’re on right now… the net, or das Netz in German.

  • “Woher weißt du das?”
    Aus dem Netz, bro, aus dem Netz!
  • “Source?”
    From the web, bro, from the web.”

Nähen, die Naht, die Nadel, die Nessel und das Netz…. pretty nice family, right?
So where does it all come from?
Well, the origin is the disgustingly ancient Indo-European root  *(s)ne- and this root was about twisting, turning, twirling … just think of a string or a cord.
Oh and by the way… the origin of word sew and seam is another Indo-European root *syu-, which was about binding and sewing, and which is also the origin of … drumroll please… the Sutra in Kama Sutra. Look it up, if you don’t believe me. I told you sewing is sexy.

Anyway, so the family of nähen comes from a root that was about twisting and twirling and the perfect mental image for that is a string or cord… you know… these twirled ones.
And that brings us to the last member of the family, die Schnur, which is the generic word for a cord or string that is made from fabric, but not as big as a rope. Actually, the yarn you use for sewing is usually called Zwirn… at least the really fine one.
But while Schnur  itself is maybe not all that useful in daily life, I’m sure you’ll see some of its idioms and relatives sooner or later in everyday speech.

  • “Wie war der Auftritt?”
    “Super, alles lief wie am Schnürchen.”
  • “How was the show/performance/gig?”
    “Great, everything went like clockwork.”
  • Die Straße ist schnurgerade.
  • The street is super straight.
  • Der mysteriöse Wanderer schnürt sein Bündel auf seinen Rücken und verlässt die Taverne.
  • The mysterious wanderer straps his bundle onto his back and leaves the tavern.
  • Dein Schnürsenkel ist auf.
  • Your shoe lace is undone.

And that’s pretty much it for today.
Hooray.
This was our quick look at the family of nähen and I really hope it wasn’t as boring as you initially thought.
As usual, if you want to recap a bit and see how much you remember, just take the quiz I have prepared fo… oh wait, it’s Summer, Sun Vocab fun edition. So no quizz! Hooray for me, oh no for you :D
Seriously though, of course, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** vocab **

nähen = to sew
die Naht = the seam
nahtlos = seemles(ly)
die Nadel = the needle
die Brennnessel = the stinging nettle
das Netz = the net, the web
die Schnur = the cord, the string
schnurgerade = super straight
wie am Schnürchen = like clockwork
schnüren = to bind up, to strap (rare in daily life, except for shoes)
der Schnürsenkel = the shoe lace
der Zwirn = the yarn, the sewing cotton

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Janee
Janee
14 days ago

I have been interested in etymology since my teens, when my parents found an old dictionary in a bookshop… Very big and heavy – I left it with my niece when I came here from the US 5 years ago, so I don’t have the title, but I think it was from the 1800’s… so I am having a lot of fun with your word trails. I wondered why there were grandchildren in Schnürsenkel, so I looked it up in DWDS. I thought other readers might like to know it is Schnur + Senkel, which refers to the bit of metal at the end, from weighing something down, or “senken”. It probably affects the pronunciation too. schnurs-enkel (American) vs. schnur-senkel.

Starbuck
Starbuck
19 days ago

This is super interesting for me, because I want to study tailoring/fashion design, and I am extremely concerned about being able to keep up if I’m being taught in German!

Any ideas where I could go to learn some more industry-specific vocabulary?

Last edited 19 days ago by Starbuck
Starbuck
Starbuck
19 days ago
Reply to  Starbuck

Just replying because I’m not sure if I subscribed and don’t know how to check, and I don’t want to miss your reply ^^

Starbuck
Starbuck
18 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks! I’ll see what I can find

Kitabikeera
Kitabikeera
25 days ago

I wanted to drop a quick thank you to anyone who paid a little extra to the site. You’ve sponsored my learning and I am so grateful for it.
What a wonderful community.
Veilen dank!

kaansrd
kaansrd
25 days ago

Ein herzliches Dankeschön an Emanuel undddddd ALLE, die mir geholfen haben, das Stipendium zu bekommen!!! ;)

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
27 days ago

Just wanted to say I like the new layout for related words in the dictionary. Easy to use and informative. The feature to search for a word in the translations (aka in English) is pretty exciting too.

Oh, and for anyone who’s curious…there are some fun tidbits hidden in the dictionary. Well, a lot, really. It’s got sass. Just hop over to the search bar and plug in “weak verb.”

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
26 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oh, do you mean like the entry for *keu (hören, schon), where it tells you some of the notable English words before you click into the entry? I thought that was a really useful addition. Cause then I have a small word cloud in English, and then I click in and start building one in German.

The navigation is easy to use and working well, so I don’t have any suggestions on that right now. I was wondering if the words will eventually be in alphabetical order. Like if I click on the dictionary tab, leave the search field blank, and search for all adverbs. The results don’t seem to be in any particular order, but I figured I probably just need to be patient there.

I liked Elsa’s suggestion for a random article button, and I think that would be a good feature for the dictionary too.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
25 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

The three-sentence summary at the top is so short but it adds a lot of (easily digestible!) information. Not an easy trick.

I really like the word outline/list and how it follows you when you click on a word. The indenting too, nice and logical. Can you tell I’m a fan? :)

Btw “offspring” only has the one form for singular and plural. “Offshoots” is another option.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
22 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It’s grammatically correct, but “descendants” would sound better. Or you could say “words that developed from/evolved from/are derived from this root.”

“Offspring” is rarely used with a number before it. You mostly see that in scientific writing, like something on genetics.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
20 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

OR “some notable offspring are.” Just now occurred to me. Tiny bit formal, but works.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
26 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I was also meaning to mention that I came across a new (to me) source on Indo-European roots. The American Heritage Dictionary Indo-European Roots Appendix. I find that it sometimes has more or different information than Etymonline and the University of Texas lexicon. Not always, but sometimes it has additional related words or a different spelling of a root.

Max
Max
27 days ago

Two free posts weekly? Where does the second one go?

SanDraz
SanDraz
25 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I think what Max means is that we are not able to get two free articles per week for free. I’m not able to get even one. Not on my smartphone or on my computer. I’d really like to read your article on sewing :) !

SanDraz
SanDraz
22 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It’s working for me! Thanks! I enjoyed the article very much.
(I have you in my ‘favorites’ drop down menu. That’s how I get to your site.)

cbodien@yahoo.com
cbodien@yahoo.com
27 days ago

Thanks for interesting and well-researched topic!

Anonymous
Anonymous
27 days ago

That was an entertaining little excursion. Thank you.
Gütermann, who make excellent sewing threads, sold around the world, call them Nähfäden, so apparently agree with you about der Faden.

I’d love to know what mental image goes with “wie am Schnürchen.” What are those reliable Schnürchen doing?

pmccann
pmccann
5 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

A little hunting around suggested two possibilities: one was related to Rosenkränze (each of the beads is “in Ordnung”/ “eine Perle nach der anderen”/”in der richtigen Reihenfolge”). The other was some scheme by which the person controlling a horse-drawn carriage (“der Kutscher”: thank you, Brothers Grimm!) used to have a lace tied around his arm that dropped down into the carriage, and could be pulled upon to signal a desire to speed up or slow down. I guess the idea here is that the passengers could use it to *smooth* out the ride?

pmccann
pmccann
3 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yeah, it’s all too often true that explanations of Redewendungen end up sounding like the sort of “just so” stories that evolutionary biologists use to explain particular/peculiar features of animals or plants. Ein Körnchen Wahrheit, umhüllt von einer großen Schale der Fiktion. (Oder so ähnlich!)

paixsvp
paixsvp
28 days ago

Interesting article, as always! Love YDG!

P.S. For sewing with a needle, the english word for Zwirn is thread. Another homonym for ya! Haha

hanneskr
hanneskr
27 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I would guess that the English word twine might be related to Zwirn? I would think of twine as generally being thicker/stronger than a thread as well

JenGLWM
JenGLWM
29 days ago

Very interesting article Emanuel, not boring at all. Could you use zunähen or vernähen to describe suturing up a cut (closing a wound)? or would nähen, like the example above, be the best word to use in those situations?

Jinnie
Jinnie
30 days ago

Not boring at all Emanuel. In fact, it is really interesting for me, as I love sewing, as I love quiting and embroidering my own designs from inspiration around me, and definitely not clothes or mending, as those really are boring!. Thank you.

Elsa
Elsa
30 days ago

Hi,
Let’s remove some typos and get a seamless article:
a quick look at family (a quick look at the family)
my torn jeans is a way (my torn jeans are a way) (I have a lot of difficulty with jeans being singular in German, so back at ya!)
straightforward (just one word)

just take the quiz I have prepared for you – ein Witz?

Bis bald!

Elsa
Elsa
29 days ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ja, ich habe Urlaub in Dänemark und Schweden gemacht, habe mich mit Amerikanerin getroffen, bin auf ein Duran Duran Konzert in Stockholm gegangen und hatte eine menge Spaß!
Im moment ist es mir zu heiß, aber im September fahre ich nach Amsterdam!

stee pedro
stee pedro
30 days ago

In med school, I got pretty close to one of the cadavers, and we explored every side to the Kama Suture.

pmccann
pmccann
1 month ago

Sonst niemand? OK, OK, ich sage es.

Netter Artikel, aber ein bisschen schüchtern in Bezug auf das Quiz!