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 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.

  • Meine Hose ist neu.
  • My pants are new.
  • Kennst du meine neue Freundin?
  • Do you know my new girlfriend?

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

  • Gier war einer der Hauptgründe für die Finanzkrise.
  • Greed was one of the main reasons for the financial crisis.

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.

  • Ich bin sehr vergesslich.
  • I have a very bad memory.
    I am very “forgetty”  (lit.)
  • Mein Auto ist nicht verkäuflich.
  • My car is not “selly“. (lit.)
  • My car is not for sale.

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.

  •  Mein Milchshake schmeckt sehr bananig.
  • My milkshake tastes a lot like banana.
  • Der Wein schmeckt sehr chardonnayig.

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.

  • Ich bin ein sehr neugieriger Mensch.
  • I am a curious person.
  • Ich bin neugierig darauf, deine neue Freundin kennenzulernen.
  • I am curious to meet your new girlfriend.

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.

  • Mein neuer Mitbewohner ist ein bisschen zu neugierig.
  •  My new flatmate is a bit too curious /nosey.
  • Sei nicht immer so neugierig.
  • Don’t always be so nosey.

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)

  • Ich bin gespannt, ob Thomas pünktlich ist.
  • I am curious whether Thomas will be on time.

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.

  • Ich bin gespannt auf deine neue Wohung.
  • I am curious for your new flat.
  • I am looking forward to see your new flat.
  • I am eager to see your new flat.
  • Ich bin gespannt, wie der Film ist.
  • I am curious how the film is going to be.

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.

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