to misuse, to misappropriate
(The idea is to use something for another purpose than the one it was made for.)
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Word of the Day - "der Zweck"

A fun look at the origin and meaning of "der Zweck" and its related words.


der Zweck, die Zweckehe, die Reißzwecke, bezwecken, zwecks, zwecklos

German Prefixes Explained - "ent-"

Word Family

Root: *dwo-

The core idea of this root was:


And there are basically four big branches we can identify. The first one is duo, and here the sense of two is pretty obvious.

  • duet
  • dual
  • double
  • doubt (“on two sides)”
  • dubious (“two faced”)
  • duplicity (“two faced”)

The next branch is around the syllables: di-, dia-. In some words in this branch the idea of two is pretty clear. Others  are about a theme of through which is probably an extension of the idea of from one side to the other.

  • carbon dioxide (“carbon with two oxygen”)
  • diploma (originally “official paper folded twice”)
  • diabetes (“passing through”, referred to excessive peeing)
  • diarrhea (“flowing through”, referred to.. well… you know)
  • diagram (“marked/bordered by lines”)

The third branch is bi-.
Here, the theme of two is also very strong, but sometimes it’s fairly obscured.

  • binary
  • binocular (“two eyes”)
  • biscuit (“cooked twice”)
  • combine (“make two, put together”)
  • balance (originally “scale with two pans”)

Last but not least, we have the Germanic branch of two, twi-  and zw(e)i.
Besides the actual numbers, this branch has a quite a few words that are about coming from two sides.

  • two, zwei, twelve, zwölf, twenty, zwanzig
  • twilight (“double light”)
  • between (“by/within two”)
  • twine, twist (probably originally about “twisting two threads together for a rope”)
  • twig, Zweig (branch splitting up “two ways”)
  • Zweifel (“on two sides”)
  • zwicken (to pinch – “pinch between two”)
  • zwingen, Zwang (to force – “pinch between two”)

The connection of “Zweck” was an assumption in etymological sources for a while, but it’s not supported by newer research. Still, I decided to include it here.

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