Word of the Day – “regen”

regen-aufregen-abregen-meanHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we’ll have a look at the meaning of



Now you’re like “Hey, we know that! That means rain.” but what you mean is the noun der Regen. We will talk about the verb regen.
“But doesn’t that just mean to rain?”
No, that would be regnen with an extra “n”.

Extra N ® – extra ConfusioN since 1856 

Regen the verb doesn’t have much to do with water falling from the sky. The origin is not entirely known but it might be related to rock as in Rock’n Roll. That would make sense, because regen is about movement. A movement slowly starting, to be precise. Think of an elephant who’s just waking up from its afternoon nap and starts moving and stretching its limbs and body. This would be regen. Actually, it would be sich regen because regen comes with a pointless self reference.

Pointless Self Reference ® – extra Arse pain since 1878

here it is in practice.

  • Der Elefant regt sich.
  • The elephant moves/starts moving its body.

Note that regen is NOT about travelling in any way. It’s about movements on the spot, if you will.

  • Meine Katze liegt seit 2 Stunden regungslos auf der Tastatur.
  • My cat has been lying on the keyboard for two hours – motionless.
  • Bis auf ein Zucken der Augenbrauen zeigt das Gesicht meines Chefs keine Regung.
  • Except for a little twitch of the eye brows the face of my boss shows no movement.
    (not sure if this is idiomatic, probably not)

And in fact, the verb itself is pretty much only used in an abstract sense of some sort of desire or opposition starting to grow or show or whatever.

  • Bei den Anwohnern regt sich Widerstand gegen das neue Einkaufszentrum.
  • Opposition against the new mall starts growing (lit.: starts moving) among the residents of the neighborhood.
  • In Thomas regt sich der Wunsch nach mehr Abenteuer in der Beziehung.
  • In Thomas, the desire for more adventure in the relationship is growing/awakening.

And if you’re now like “Hmm… that doesn’t seem like it’s all that useful” then let me tell you this:
You’re correct.
Regen – the verb – is about as useful if you want to speak German, as Regen – the noun – is if  you want to watch Game of Thrones. It’s nice to have it but it doesn’t really make a difference.
But like all German verbs regen has prefix versions – and those are extra useful.

Prefix Versions ® – extra useful since 1802

The prefix versions of regen

Regen doesn’t have many prefix versions. Only 19.
Nah, kidding. Only four. But boy, are they useful. We’ve learned that regen is about the idea of getting into motion but we’ve seen that it’s mostly used in an abstract sense. The prefix verbs are abstract, too. Their focus is not motion but the more general idea of agitation; some sort of rise in energy level. That’s the core of three of the prefix versions… erregen, anregen and aufregen. And they all have their own take on it.

Erregen has an interesting double meaning.

  • Thomas versucht verzweifelt Marias Aufmerksamkeit zu erregen.
  • Thomas desperately tries to get/stir up/ lit.: stimulate Maria’s attention.
  • Thomas versucht verzweifelt Maria zu erregen.
  • Thomas desperately tries to arouse/stimulate/(make hot) Maria.

That’s right. Erregen can have a neutral or slightly negative sense of agitation or excitement but it’s also THE word for sexually arouse. So context plays a big role here. Especially for the ge-form erregt which can mean excited, agitated as well as horny.

  • Der Hund wedelt erregt mit dem Schwanz.
  • The dog wags his tail in agitation/excitement.
  • Thomas wedelt erregt mit dem Schw… Actually, let’s stop that right here.

I think you got the idea. Just think of erregen as to arouse. It’s not automatically sexual but whenever it feels like it does have the adult meaning… erregen probably does too in that context.
All right.
The next one is anregen. The best translation for that is to stimulate, but unlike erregen, anregen is never nervous and it doesn’t sound sexual at all. It’s a positive, G-rated stimulation. Like … a good discussion with a friend can be anregend. Or a bubble bath with herb scents.

  • Lesen regt die Fantasie an.
  • Reading stimulates our imagination.
  • Der neue Hellwach-Tee® von Biotee – wirkt anregend und erfrischend.
  • The new Wide-Awake Tea® by Biotee – stimulating and refreshing.
  • Kaffee regt die Verdauung an.
  • Coffee stimulates digestion.

There’s also the pretty common noun die Anregung  which means something like idea, inspiration, suggestion. Something that gets someone else’s brain or imagination going… strictly non sexual, that is.

  • Der Professor gibt dem Studenten ein paar interessante Anregungen.
  • The professor gives the student a few interesting ideas/impulses/suggestions.

The last one of the three, (sich) aufregen. The related words, namely the noun die Aufregung and the ge-form aufgeregt are all about general excitement or nervousness.

  • In einer Woche fahre ich nach Toronto. Ich bin schon ganz aufgeregt.
  • A week from now I’ll go to Toronto. I’m already excited.
  • “Gestern hatte ich ein BlindDate.”
    “Oh, wie aufregend.
  • “Yesterday I had a blind date.”
    “Oh, how exciting.”

Now, it is important to note that these aufregen-words DO NOT have the same vibe as excited or exciting.

  • Maria ist vor Präsentationen immer total aufgeregt.

This doesn’t mean that she is looking forward to it. It means that she is nervous.

  • Before a presentation, Maria is always super nervous.
  • Was soll die ganze Aufregung.
  • What’s up with all the commotion/anxiety/agitation.
  • Versuch, trotz der Aufregung ruhig zu bleiben.
  • Try to stay calm despite the chaos around you (or in you… that’s up to context)

Aufgeregt and Aufregung are MUCH more nervous and much less euphoric than excited.
And that brings us to the verb aufregen itself, which is actually not positive at all.  Aufregen (or sich aufregen) is super uber common and means to get worked up about something, but also to bitch or to rant.

  • Thomas regt sich immer wegen Kleinigkeiten so auf.
  • Thomas always gets worked up over trifles.
  • Es regt mich auf, wenn ich sowas sehe.
  • It makes me angry when I see something like that.
  • “Mann, wie die Küche schon wieder aussieht. Ich könnt’ mich nur aufregen ey.”
    “Äh… also technisch gesehen regst du dich schon nur auf.”
  • “Dude, look at how messy the kitchen is again. I could rant and rave again.”
    “Uh… technically you are ranting and raving.”
  • Warum regst du dich so auf?
  • Lit.: Why are you agitating yourself like that?
  • Why are you so upset?

And aufregen brings us right the last regen-verb: abregen. Well… sich abregen. God, these self references. So annoying. Anyway,  sich abregen is the perfect word if someone is ranting in front of you and you want to tell them to calm down.

  • Reg dich ab.
  • Calm down/chill!
  • Ruf wieder an, wenn du dich abgeregt hast.
  • Call me back when you have calmed yourself.

And that’s it for today. This was our look at the meaning of  regen. The verb itself is about motion or agitation but the real takeaway are the prefix versions. Erregen, anregen, aufregen and abregen… they’re all super useful and you’ll definitely hear all of them in people’s daily talk.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to try out some examples just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** vocab **

sich regen – move/start making movements

die Regung – the motion (of a body)
regungslos – motionless
rege – vivid (rare)

erregen – arouse, excite, make horny
die Erregung – the sexual arousal
erregt – agitated, horny

anregen – stimulate (positive, non-sexual), also: to suggest (rare)
anregend – stimulating
die Anregung – idea, suggestion

(sich) aufregen  – to get worked up about something, to be angry, to rant and rave
aufgeregt – excited, nervous (NOT the same vibe as the super positive “excited”)
die Aufregung – the agitation, the commotion

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8 months ago

I was wondering if there is a difference between Ärgern and Aufregen?
ps. your dictionary is actually the best (I tried many) it’s insanely helpful

8 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ye this clears it up

Fla Floi
Fla Floi
11 months ago

Danke ! Noch mal einen tollen Artikel

8 months ago
Reply to  Fla Floi

Ich stimme zu. Danke!

2 years ago

In dem Beispiel “Ich könnt’ mich nur aufregen ey.”, was heißt “ey”? Ich kann das in keine Wörterbuch finden…

6 years ago

Hello another big fan of your blog here & commeting for the first time! :D

You wrote that ‘aufgeregt’ is more like nervous. But doesn’t ‘aufregend’ actually mean exciting?

i.e. A: Ich fange bald mit meinem neuen Job an!
B:Oh, das ist ja aufregend! (as in, oh that’s exciting!, without any negative connotation)

If aufregend does include a bit nervousness, what word can we use to say ‘exciting’ only in positive sense?

i.e. A: I am getting married!
B: OMGOMGOMG that is SOOO EXCITING! (how would you say this kind of ‘exciting’ in German?)


5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Hi Emanuel,

Wonderful post! I too think as ‘aufgeregt’ is also could be in terms of exciting rather than just being nervous.
I remember one of my friend asked me before we were going to ‘Oktober Fest’ as it was my first time ever.
She asked me: ‘Bist du aufgeregt ? ‘
Also one more question Could ‘Aufgeregt’ and ‘Begeistert’ be interchangeable?

6 years ago

One of your best posts since long ago!! (I don’t mean that the others are bad, they are really helpful and well written, but here you made an awesome job, veeeeery funny and easy to understand! :) ) Thanks a lot!!

6 years ago

Thank you so much. Your posts are really helpful :)

6 years ago

I liked this word of the day. Aufregen and abregen are pretty useful for my friend group.

6 years ago

Hi, in the song “Alle Vögel Sind Schon Da”, there are the lines, “Wie sie alle lustig sind – Flink und froh sich regen’. I always assumed that “regen” here just meant ‘to move about’, but does it always mean ‘to stir’, or ‘to start moving after having been still for a while’, even here?

6 years ago

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/regen#German sense 3 says “to be active doing something”. I don’t know if that’s correct, but it seems to fit. “Nimble and glad, (they) dart about”?

Aleksa Zivanovic
6 years ago

Your blog came up in past google searches when i wanted to find out something in German and your texts always helped. From this day I am starting to read your blog on a daily basis, to keep me fresh with my German. Thank you for your effort, you are very good in passing knowledge and simplifying otherwise hard German language. Keep the great work it is appreciated and I hope it pays of in a way that you consider fulfilling.

6 years ago

Hi, Emanuel! In the Toronto example (In einer Woche fahre ich nach Toronto. Ich bin schon ganz aufgeregt.) Is this person “much more nervous and much less euphoric” than excited? If someone said they were excited, I’d assume they were just really looking forward to it.

6 years ago

I’d probably use the verb “to budge” on many occasions to translate “(sich) regen”. It is often used in conjunction with describing the transition between two snapshots in time and space, one in which the object or subject in question was motionless and the other one, where it is in motion, be it physically, emotionally or any other means of motion.

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Same here, though “won’t budge” can also be perfectly literal. It can also be transitive: “He heaved and strained, but couldn’t budge the stuck lever.” (Or “couldn’t make the stuck lever budge.”)

I can’t say I’ve ever seen “budge” the way gogetthem is describing it. To me, it would always have sort of a passive meaning, “to allow oneself to be moved,” and it’s way, way more common in the negative (“can’t budge it,” “won’t budge”). As for change of location – maybe not necessarily, but definitely a change of position.

6 years ago

I’d say the best translation for “sich regen” is probably “stir,” at least in the literal sense. If you want to sound sort of old-timey and more German, you could even say “bestir oneself” (that also sounds more intentional, though, with some kind of goal).

Aoin D
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Hopefully I won’t get a double post – last one got rejected “gateway error”.

Anyhow I don’t see it needing an object although it has a fairly limited use – probably about as limited as sich regen. I can’t think of any other use than third person singular and present tense would look odd (continuous less so).

– the lion stirred (and then either awoke fully or went back to sleep)
– the lion is stirring (from his slumbers)
– Mount Vesuvius stirs… (would sound better told to your little brother at night while pointing a torch up your face from beneath)

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

You can “stir up a crowd”, which requires the object being stirred. I can’t think of an example in which there is no object. “Jessica stirred” just doesn’t work. However, “Jessica stirred up quite the controversy when she tried to marry her horse” is just fine. Well, you know what I mean.

6 years ago
Reply to  DantesDame

“Jessica stirred” would be absolutely fine. It would mean she started to move after being still, especially if she’d been asleep or unconscious.

6 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

You’re right. I was thinking about it later and realized that it could work.

Another example: “His loins stirred when he watched Jessica get undressed”. (Yeah, just a little racy – hubba! hubba!)

6 years ago

“Gestern war hatte ich ein BlindDate.” I don’t understand why war is in this sentence?

6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Haha. One advantage to not reading your blog the day it comes out. It gives you time to correct any typos so that I don’t learn the wrong thing :)
As others have said (and I’ve said in a previous post), I really enjoy your blog. You really do have a great way of explaining things. And because I love etymology, I REALLY love it when you delve into the history of the words. Thanks!

Johnathon Finlay
Johnathon Finlay
6 years ago

PS. Do please delete this post, it’s just to let you know there was a mistranslation:
Thomas versucht verzweifelt Marias Aufmerksamkeit zu erregen.
THE CAT desperately tries to get/stir up/ lit.: stimulate Maria’s attention.

Johnathon Finlay
Johnathon Finlay
6 years ago

This was amazing. Your way of explaining stuff is just brilliant. I think I have found exactly the blog I was looking for! Vielen Dank!