Word of the Day – ” die Stimme”

stimme-german-pictureHelloooo-hoho-hoooo-hoho-hooooooooo ev’ryone,

and wellllllcome… to our German      WORD ofthe
You’re now probably all like “Hey, who’s that talented tenor on the German show?”. Well, that’s me and the reason I am singing is that, today, we’ll look at the meaning of

die Stimme


Or actually, we’ll look at the whole Stimme-family… like… Stimmung, stimmig and stimmen. We’ll not look at any of the prefix version of stimmen though because that would be too interesting.
Okay, I’m kidding, of course we’ll look at verstimmen, anstimmen, bestimmen, zustimmen and all the others as well. Sounds good? Cool.

So, Stimme means voice and while voice comes from, big yawn, Latin, no one knows where the word Stimme comes from and , as far as I know, it has no relatives in English.
Now, just like we can do a lot with our own Stimme, we can do a lot with the word. For example singing … and so it is no wonder that Stimme is used in the world of music.

Now,let’s suppose you’re with friends, hanging around, drinking PBR. You’re all kinda bored, so one of you is like “Hey, let’s play a Mozart quartet.”, and, because you’re all incredible hipsters, you’re like “Sure, why not.” So you all get out your instruments and you start playing but…. it sounds like a soundtrack to a creepy scene in a movie. Of course it’s not your fault. You’re all accomplished virtuosi, that’s not the point. The problem is that your instruments are not in tune. And what you need to do then is stimmen.

Sure, this use might not be the most important one. If I want to tune my guitar, I just put the it on top of my IPad and have the tune-app do it for me (you can  buy this amazing app here). But this whole idea of getting into a certain tune is very very very very very very very important. Why so? Well… let’s find out.

The tune idea

coming from this tuning idea, the verb stimmen took on the meaning of to be right. You could think of it as to resonate or to sound right, jut stronger. If someone wants to agree with something you said, a very common way is to just say… stimmt.

And that brings us to a very common mistake… stimmen ONLY works with statements. Only those can can stimmen. Never a person.

  • You’re right.

You could say

but not

  • Du stimmstWRONG

This means nothing and I’m not even sure people would get that you’re trying to say. So… with this stimmen it’ll either be stimmt or stimmt nicht… or of course variations of that.

But don’t underestimate the phrase… the little you can do with it, you can do a lot. People say “Hmmm stimmt” all the time, and oh by the way… it is also part of standard phrasing to give tips. Suppose you have to pay 8,50, then you’d just hand over a 10 and just say…

And as we’re at it… is it custom to tip in Germany? Yes, it is. It doesn’t have to be as much as in the States. Anything between 5 and 10% will do. But you cannot pay 153,- if your tap is 153,-…. including food. That is almost an insult. This happens far too often though, and so some countries gain a reputation over time… I am looking at you France, Spain and Sweden ;). Don’t complain about rude waitstaff…  people have had their dreams crushed too often.
All right.
Now, stimmen is by far not the only word that has this tuning-idea in it.
There is for instance the word die Unstimmigkeit, which means discrepancy or dissonance

Oh, I got incredibly bored just now… phew… come back interest, come baaaaaaa… oh there you are. Good. At the core of Unstimmigkeit, there is stimmig, which we’ve seen earlier already as a voice counter of sorts.

But stimmig can also mean harmonious, for instance for your furniture, or a fashion. Things go well together. They resonate with each other.

Next, let’s get to verbs with the tuning idea.

Those two are rather limited  in use. Especially umstimmen is NOT a general translation for change someones mindSo I’d recommend putting those on the passive pile . But there is one that is a little more useful… verstimmen. The ver-prefix adds the notion of wrong in this case so verstimmen would literally be to de-tune. A piano can be verstimmt (out of tune) but so can a person…

Oh… and my tummy

And thus we have arrived at what is probably the most important word that is based on the whole tuning-idea: die Stimmung. 

Vibe probably best captures the whole resonance idea that is in it… but all the others are fine, too… it really depends on the sentence. It is kind of always about how well things fit together, how well they resonate. And there are always humans involved, either in creating or in feeling what is there. I mean, sure… there are uses like these:

and there are millions of pictures of sunsets tagged with Abendstimmung. But a peaceful lake in a forest… that sure has a peaceful atmosphere but friedliche Stimmung? I don’t know. To me, that makes it  sound like there are people there.
As for mood, there is another German word which is more common for the basic good or bad mood that you can be in.

  • Ich habe gute/schlechte Laune.
  • I am in a good/ bad mood.

Saying Stimmung here would be rather unidiomatic but Laune is pretty much limited to just this phrasing. It wouldn’t work for bars or concerts or teams. And there are many compounds with Stimmung, like Stimmungsschwankung (mood swings), Stimmungsaufheller (mood elevator), Stimmungsbarometer (barometer of public opinion) or Stimmungskiller, which loosely translates to moaning the name of your ex at the wrong moment. Like… “ahhhhh Steph… oh…uhm…oops… I mean uhm… ”
Yeah… you’re in for some serious Unstimmigkeiten then.
By the way, know what else is a real Stimmungskiller in bed? Politics. And that’s what we’ll talk about next.

The vote idea

Besides our face and our body, our Stimme is the most important way … wait for it… voice our opinion. Even before democracy there have always been gathering of the eldest or of the tribal chiefs and people we speak up for or against something. And so it is no wonder that Stimme has taken of the meaning of vote.

And from that unfolds a whole family of words…

And there a many compounds with that idea… Stimmenmehrheit (majority of the vote), stimmberechtigt (entitled to vote),  Abstimmung (the vote) or one of my favorite German words… Stimmvieh. Stimmvieh (voting cattle)  is used for people who do have the right to vote about something but they don’t really vote, they just follow directions and make it look like democracy. I believe, this term was used in English, too, but has kind of seen its best days. In German it is definitely used regularly in newspapers and it even gave birth to another word I really like… Klatschvieh … something both, dictatorships and TV depend on for a good show :).  (here’s an article about how badly TV stations treat their life audience)
Now, some of you are probably asking themselves “But what about wählen?”. Well, wählen is used in context of political elections but in parliament as well as daily life it means to chose and in the example above it wouldn’t work.

This only tells us that you’ve made a choice between alternatives. But there is no actual voting implied.
Now, there are two quite important verbs that are not as closely related to voting but they do come from the same background of raising your voice for a cause. The first one is zustimmen (+ Dative) which means…. to agree.

As you can see, the grammar of both words is quite different, and the use is as well… at least to a degree.  Zustimmen is not as common in daily conversation as to agree is and often you’d either just say Stimmt! or you’d use a different phrasing.

But zustimmen (Zustimmung, zustimmend) is definitely a word you’ll come across regularly. Oh, by the way… a similar word is übereinstimmen. Yes, this is a word. It is also kind of to agree. But while in ZUstimmen I raise my for FOR a certain cause, in übereinstimmen, two voices are just in tune.

Anyway, übereinstimmen isn’t that important so I’d say… passive pile.
And thus we get to the last word for today… bestimmen. It is the be-prefix at its best, meaning “to inflict voicing on something” and in essence it is just a stronger zustimmen, a bossy zustimmen. If a chief zustimmen to something he’s just like “Yeah, sound good.”. If he bestimmen it, then he’s like “THIS is how it’s done and the discussion is over”. Over time though, the word has softened a bit and today a good match is to determine… ranging from finding something out to making a decision.

And that brings us to bestimmt. In the last example, it was a verb but it can also be used as an  atchecktive or advurp.  Dictionaries translate it as certain(ly), definite(ly) and particular… but only part of that is correct. It does work in examples like this.

But it doesn’t make sense as an adverb.

  • He’ll definitely come.
  • Er kommt bestimmtWRONG

If used to determine how likely something is, bestimmt is NOT certain. Sure, bestimmt is more than vielleicht ( maybe) but it leaves doubt. I would say that if I believe that someone is coming, not if I know that the person is on the way that very moment.

All right. Do you have room for one more? Good.
The last word is die Bestimmung. Based on what we know about bestimmen it would make sense if it were determination… and it at some-boring-times, but it has a second meaning… a much more deeper, meaningfullerer meaning. Some people have found it, others are looking for it, some try to ignore it and others don’t care… that’s right.. Bestimmung also means
Candy Crush Saga… okay no, it means destiny or purpose

That was me trying to be deep. I think it’s not my destiny :D. Anyway, in a way destiny is like any other decision… only that it is divine. Like… when you were born, God, Allah, Gaia, Life or Gene or however you want to call it were just like “You shall be Batman.
You can grapple with that all you want, the higher being is just gonna be like
“I’ve made my decision. Now go reboot.”
Hey, wait! Not you,  computer… I  need to write an outro still. So… this is it for today. This was our German Word of the Day  die Stimme and the whole family. It means voice and our voice is  so important to us that it is no wonder that you ca… blah blah blah… recap shmecap. This is always puts me to sleep. Recaps just suck. I remember, in that bar, they would serve me a recapped beer once and that wasn’t pleasant. Like… no bubbles at all. Can’t say the same about the financial market… I mean 19 shitzillion dollars WhatsApp? That seems kind of too much for a flipping instant messeng… What? Oh… you scrolled down all the way to just read the recap? There will bestimmt be one next time ;).
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions about today’s words, or if you want to try out some example, go ahead and leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.



0 0 vote
Article Rating

for members :)

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments