German Word of the Day – “neugierig”

kid is neugierigHi everyone,

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

neugierig

 

Neugierig is a good example for one of Ger-Mans superpowers. He can fuse words together and create a new word. What other superpowers does German have? He can make really long sentences, which are impossible to comprehend without making a mind map (oh I hate that word… damn consultants jargon). I think he made some really good translations of Goethe that captured the linguistical finesse and poetry of the original text… what? Oh… was he? Oh crap… I didn’t know that… well whatever, this is Particle Physics 101 after all. It’s not?  Oh… uhm… well…

Ladies and Gentlemen: our Word of the Day: neugierig

Neugierig doesn’t really feel like a compound to a native… at least not as much as Haustür does… but it actually consists of 3 parts… neu-gier-ig
For some reason that just made me think of this song called “Low rider” by War.
“Noi – gear – rick” … man that just works so damn well on there :).
Anyway… so let’s look at the 3 parts of neugierig.

First there is the word neu. This means new, and there is not much more to know.

The second part of neugierig is die Gier which is the greed. Also this is straightforward.

The last part, -ig, is not a real word. Ig and its brother -ich are used to make verbs and nouns into adjectives. They work like the English -y ending. For verbs it is a bit hard to predict what exactly the adjective means. Here are 2 examples, that illustrate different possibilities.

For nouns it is easier. You can add -ig or -ich to any noun and it will always be understood as “like that noun”. Not every word you invent exists but everything is understandable so feel free to play around.

The folks at the wine tasting will be astound by your expertise.  And we have a call here from Eggs and Bacon Bay in Australia, hi Tiffany, how is it going:
“Hi Emanuel, great to be on the show… “
What’s your question Tiff?
“Yeah… so I was wondering when to use -ig and when -ich… is there like a rule for that?”
Great question which I of course know the answer to. So it’s like this. When the noun has a … oh hold on… Ok, so as it seems we only have 5 minutes left and we need to finish in time today. Sorry Tiff you’re gonna have to look that up yourself.
“See… uhm, I think that you actually have no ide… “
Oh too bad … the connection was cut of by something. Anyway… so knowing that die Gier is the greed we can guess what gierig means… exactly… it is greedy. And all we have to do now is add neu to this and we end up with:

  • greedy for new

And thus the meaning of the word neugierig is …. curious as in interested.

Although Gier has a very negative touch to it, neugierig is generally considered a positive character trait and it doesn’t feel negative at all. If someone is overly curious, there is the nice English word nosey. German does not have an extra word for that. Neugierig is also the best choice here.

Now the construction of the word neugierig should make it pretty clear already but I still want to mention that it does absolutely not mean curious in sense of strange or peculiar. That would be not understandable. The words of choice in those cases are seltsam, eigenartig or komisch.

We are almost done but I need to say some words about the usage of neugierig. In German it a bit more shifted to a general character trait and it is not used so much for specific events. If I am curious as to whether someone shows up on time, I would say this with a different phrasing…. gespannt (geshpunt)

Gespannt literally means tense but in German it has a quite positive notion for some reason. If you are gespannt auf something, you are usually looking forward to it to a degree.

You can use neugierig in all these occasions but it in comparison to gespannt you won’t sound too involved. Generally I would say go for gespannt when it is a one time everyday event and for neugierig if it is a more general curiosity or if you are just a little bit gespannt :).  Note however that gespannt is NOT a character trait… it is a short term feeling.
And now that I said curiosity here is the German noun: die Neugier.

So this was our Word of the Day neugierig. It means “greedy for news” or curious but in many everyday situations the native choice would be gespannt.
But gespannt doesn’t work with Lowrider… god that song is great.

If you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

for members :)

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Aaron

Oh man, woke up this morning with Low Rider in my head. Im still humming the tune. My workmates are humming the tune and watching the video. What a great song :-)

Joyce Ramsden
Joyce Ramsden

Even though I have a good German dictionary, it doesn’t clarify the connotations of words. I love this web site for explaining subtle differences between words that might appear in the dictionary entry to be equal and interchangeable, but are not.

Falsche Freund
Falsche Freund

Neu-Gier-ig fahrt ein bischen langsamer, Neu-Gier-ig fahr ein bischen niederiger… verdamter Ohrwurm!!!!

Nick
Nick

Hey Emanuel, thanks so much for this awesome blog! I’m traveling to Germany in a few days and you’ve been instrumental on helping me brush up :)

I have a quick question about the pronunciation of ruhig. So it’s not totally related to the post, I’m sorry…
Does the -ig on the end (of neugierig and all adjective-fied verbs/nouns) get pronounced as a hard “ig” like it would be in english, with a hard k sound like “ick”, or with a soft “sh”-like sound like in “ich”? I’ve always been taught the last, but I found the first here (http://www.forvo.com/word/neugierig/) and it seems your guide has the second. Does it just depend on where you are in Germany?

Thanks again man, and keep up the great work!

Nick
Nick

Oops, I was thinking about the ruhig post I just read, but I really meant the pronunciation of neugierig. Well, I guess they end the same way!

miau12
miau12

the pronounciaton of the ig is different – when singing you always use the soft way, when talking it totaly depends on the people :) I’m Austrian and use mostly the hard pronounciation – but I had to try it in the different ways because I do it so automatically and use mostly dialekt :) hope you had a nice trip :)

Sam
Sam

Are there German phrases along the lines of:

(Just) out of curiosity, do you have plans this weekend?
I’m just wondering, do you know who that is?
Are you from the United States? (I’m) just curious.
Do you like beer? Just wondering.

und so weiter

Not sure if gespannt should be used here.

Danke!

Helmut
Helmut

Hello,
Do you use the akkusativ case after the “auf” in “Ich bin gespannt auf…….”?

Example: Ich bin gespannt auf deinen neuen Mantel.

If so, why don’t you use the dative case here if there is no change of location/movement? Just trying to get this straight in my head…

Vielen Dank!

Helmut
Helmut

Ahhhh, thanks so much!

Oberst Dackel
Oberst Dackel

This is a really great language resource and I thoroughly appreciate the contributors comments. It is very rare to find a book which can explain how German really works in reality outside the constraints of structured written HochsDeutsche- which is essentially non-spoken language anyway- I have even met tertiary professors who regularly lapse into regional variant and vernacular. Ja, alles prima ja- super, servus und grias di.

Oberst Dackel
Oberst Dackel

PS the Professional Speech link has a(n) url problem, the correction is: http://www.hoer-talk.de/showthread.php/4588-Korrekte-Aussprache-quot-ig-quot

Simone
Simone

Hi, why is the pronunciation with a “hard” final -ig and not with the classic “-ig” like for example in the name “Leipzig”?

SaeedNebo
SaeedNebo

OMG just last night I was reading this word and haven’t any clue for how to memorize it now it is sooo much easier than I have thought in contrary I now think that it is interesting thanks to Emanuel you are a real Language hero and thank you again for giving me a chance for have a free year subscription due to my situation as a refugee and trying to learn the lovely Deutsch
this is really a great site

mwilki01
mwilki01

You said, “Although Gier has a very negative touch to it, neugierig is generally considered a positive character trait and it doesn’t feel negative at all.” Likewise, curiosity, in common English parlance doesn’t have any negative touch to it. However, in ancient times, curiosity was considered a vice. St. Augustine spoke about the vice of ‘curiositas’. So there may be something more to the negative aspect of being greedy for novelty that has been lost in our societies.

Peter B
Peter B

Awesome website.

What is the “die” here: “Kennst du die meine neue Freundin?”

thanks!