Word of the Day- “der Reiz”

Hello everyone,

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

der Reiz

 

A gentle balmy wind on the skin, the slight fragrance of cherry blossoms in the air, the refreshing bitterness of a cold beer on the tongue, the pollen induced itching in my nose, the first sting of a mosquito on the arm, the sound of birds going crazy at 5 in the morning in the ear.
Besides being all very “spring”-y these things have one thing in common… each one is something we perceive with our senses. Or put in one word – a Reiz.
Reiz  comes from an  old Germanic root that was at its core about carving or scratching a surface with a sharp object. This root evolved into words like to write and to scribe in English and reißen (to rip) or schreiben (to write). And there was reizen, which in the beginning was very true to the core meaning of carving or scratching a surface. But soon the meaning broadened, people started using it in an abstract sense too. What abstract sense? Kind of scratching our nerves. Well, just imagine someone trying to write on a blackboard with a knife… ritzen is what he does to the board (to scratch), reizen is what he does to your nerves  :).
Scratching our nerves … that’s what reizen was used for and the idea made so much sense that Reiz soon became what it is today…  the thing that makes our nerves react, the official scientific word for stimulus.

Reiz doesn’t sound as science-y as stimulus though and it’s used in more contexts.

Now, what makes Reiz a really useful word is the broader sense where we’re kind of the nerve and the Reiz excites us. And that can be positive and negative. Just compare the sensations of touching a hot stove and touching yourself. One is kinda hot and the other one is kinda hot… wait… this is confusing. What I mean is…   a stimulus  be pleasant and unpleasant and while the word stimulus has a positive ring when you use it in an abstract sense,  words with Reiz can go either way.

In these Reiz was something positive, it was a pleasant stimulus. And now for some negative ones.

Well, the last one actually comes from the verb reizen. And there, things are really mixed up because reizen  can mean to  attract, to entice as well as to irritate.

I  reizen someone usually means to interest or fascinate someone but other than that it really comes down to context. Same for the d-form reizend for example. Usually it means charming or nice but it can also mean irritating.

There are two words that are pretty clear though – die Reizung and gereizt which are both about the result of the negative reizen. Reizung is mostly used in context with the human body while gereizt works in all kinds of contexts.

  • “Kommste mit Fußball spielen?”
    “Nee, ich kann nich’ . Ich hab’ ‘ne Sehnenreizung im Knie.”
  • “We’re going to play soccer, you’re in?”
    “Nah, I can’t. I have a tendonitis (irritated/upset tendon) in my knee.”
    (what’s the proper term if it is not inflamed just yet but it definitely shows an “attitude” )

All right.
Now, a look at a word wouldn’t be complete without … prefixes. There are only few with reiz but they definitely deserve a mention.
The first one is der Anreiz which only exists as a noun. Anreiz is always positive so it’s kind of the perfect match for the English stimulus in sense of incentive.

Then there is the adjective aufreizend. This is obviously just the d-form of the verb aufreizen but the verb itself is super rare … like… I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen it anywhere. Aufreizend however is quite common in sense of sexy, saucy, salacious.

  • Maria hat sich zum Meeting ein aufreizendes Outfit ausgesucht.
  • Maria has chosen a saucy outfit for the meeting.
  • Aufreizend langsam zieht Thomas den Teleskopzeigestock aus.
  • Tantalizingly slowly Thomas extends the telescope pointer.

I feel like there’s some symbolism in here.
Anyway, it’s good she’s playing with her Reize because the topic of the presentation itself was really really boring and has 1524 slides with a LOT of text. And that brings us to the last word… überreizen, which basically means to wear out our sensory system with too much input.

Note that überreizt does not equal tired. You can be dead tired and still you can’t sleep because your thoughts and all the impressions are like a swarm of wasps.
All right. And I think… that’s pretty much it. This was our look at the Word of the Day der Reiz. It comes from a root that was about carving and today the main meaning is stimulus. Because a stimulus does kind of scratch our surface. It’s used in the biological sense as well as in quite a few more general contexts and it can be both, something positive or something negative.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** vocab **

der Reiz                                         – the stimulus, the charm
reizen                                              – attract, pique the interest, fascinate, irritate make angry
reizbar                                          – short tempered
reizend                                        – charming, lovely, delightful (often used in an ironic context), irritant
die Reizung                               – the irritation (mostly for body parts)
die Hautreizung                    – irritation of the skin
reizlos                                          – uninteresting, plain, unalluring
reizvoll                                       – interesting, alluring
Brechreiz, Würgreiz            – impulse to vomit
Hustenreiz                              – need to cough
überreizt                                  – overstrung, keyed up
aufreizend                              – saucy, sexy (mostly for outfits)
weibliche Reize                     – feminine charms
die Reizblase                           – the tiny bladder
das reizt mich sehr              – that really interests me/that piques my interest
der Anreiz                              – the stiumulus (incentive)
Ich bin ein bisschen gereizt. – I’m a little irritated/pissed. 

for members :)

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Kat
Kat

Super Idee mit der Vokabelliste, nur ist das Gelb sehr schwer zu lesen (zumindest fuer meine alten Augen :-). Vielleicht lieber ne andere Farbe? Was mir spontan zum Thema “reizen” noch einfiel: Skat! Gibt glaub auch noch andere Kartenspiele, wo man reizt. Du pickst wirklich immer interessante Woerter, ueber die man so nie nachdenken wuerde!!

MacFeagel
MacFeagel

Hi, super helpful as ever and as for the audio version; please go for it, I’m sure that would be tremendous.

You asked a couple of questions on English usage:
“Maria uses her feminine charms to get ahead in the job.” – that works perfectly (but I would assume it to mean physical charms if you get my meaning).
“Nah, I can’t. I have a tendonitis (irritated/upset tendon) in my knee.” – tendonitis is perfect but medical of course, if you want to be more colloquial you could just say “I have an aching/sore/throbbing knee” or “my knee is giving me gyp” (is that British only?)
Also, ‘überreizt’ sounds like it could be nicely translated as ‘wired’. “Jim spent all day watching Game of Thrones and now he can’t sleep because he’s wired.”

berlingrabers

There’s also “feminine wiles” :) – though that sounds more like behavior, so I’d also say “charms” is the right choice.

“Giving me gyp” definitely sounds British to me, but the other suggestions are all good. “My knee is acting up” would work (at least in the US), though that kind of sounds like there’s a chronic or pre-existing condition that happens to be causing problems at the moment.

“Wired” is perfect for “überreizt.”

Kat
Kat

Ausser im Kartenspiel (oder uebertragenen Sinn, siehe Erdogan) – sein Blatt ueberreizen. Overbid his hand??

matt
matt

Danke Ihnen für dies. Das ist ein sehr nützliches Wort.

berlingrabers

“Brech-/Würg-/Hustenreiz” lässt sich nicht wirklich ins Englische übersetzen… Man redet eher von “gag reflex”, d.h. die Reaktion auf den Reiz. (The gag reflex is “triggered” when you stick a finger down your throat, e.g.) “Tickle in the throat” ist wahrscheinlich die beste Übersetzung für “Hustenreiz”. Man kann ebenfalls von “cough reflex” sprechen.

“Arouse”/”arousal” trifft die Idee von “Reiz” ziemlich gut. Die Wörter klingen heutzutage zwar etwas sexuell aber eigentlich haben sie eine ähnliche Breite wie die “Reiz”-Familie.

Bran
Bran

Thanks for the lesson. I always start thinking what is he going on about? But then it always gets interesting! How will I ever learn this whole language though?? About the vocabulary list, I would be willing to pay for it, sure! Keep it up!

Anonymous
Anonymous

Ich habe gemerkt das die Leute “das reizt mich” immer für was positives verwenden. Könnte so was im Sinne von “das irritiert mich” verwendet werden?

Kat
Kat

Hm, also in Verbindung mit “etwas” wuerde ich reizen eigentlich nur positiv verwenden (ausser in Faellen wie “Der Rauch reizt meine Augen”. Aber mit Personen kann es negativ sein – jemanden reizen, da ist es dann eher “provozieren”

James Sidoran
James Sidoran

Where you have irony in brackets, is in fact not irony but sarcasm. However very good lesson. Sources like this are really helping me learn the language. Thank you some much for taking the time. Good tool, and I love the humor in your posts.

Nikolaus Wittenstein
Nikolaus Wittenstein

I would definitely use the Anki flashcards if you made them!

Anonymous
Anonymous

thank you. this definitely cleared up some confusion i was struggling with regarding the positive/negative aspects of this word.

please consider a darker colour for the vocabulary list at the end. i cannot read it as it is.

Zu langsam
Zu langsam

You took down the vote-on-flashcard-options gizmo before I’d found out enough to make an informed choice! Only flashcards I have any experience of are the paper/cardboard variety, and that is clearly not what you are contemplating. …Anki looks appealing – nice cat picture on their “How it works” page.
The bonus vocab list is much appreciated.

Sergei
Sergei

ANKI!
Fantastic! The best idea since beer fermentation!

JULIA MASTRANTONAKI
JULIA MASTRANTONAKI

YOU ARE SO HELPFUL TO ME NOW THAT I’M TRYING TO LEARN GERMAN , I’M GREEK AND I’M 66 YEARS OLD.AND AS SOCRATES SAID'” ΓΗΡΑΣΚΩ ΑΕΙ ΔΙΔΑΣΚΟΜΕΝΟΣ” WHICH MEANS ,SORT OF, I’M TRYING TO BE EDUCATED EVEN IN MY OLD AGE, A SUGGESTION : TRY TO LEARN GREEK , IT;S MORE THAN DIFFICULT BUT I;M SURE IT WOULD BE MORE THAN EASY FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!!! VIELEN GDANK UND LIEBE GRUSSE.

Ahm! Stein! (@Ahmmstein)

Hi. Okay so, two English corrections for you on this post:
1. The word for Rezept is recipe. A receipt is that small document/piece of trash that is given to you at the end of a purchase transaction.
2. “Dieses Spülmittel ist reizend. This detergent is irritant.” The adjective is irritating. Irritant is a noun. So you could say, “This detergent is an irritant,” but that wouldn’t match up with your reizend adjective.
ok bye till soon

Anonymous
Anonymous

Well spotted!! Plus, it’s “on edge”, not “on the edge”

Andrew Bill
Andrew Bill

Hi Manni, great article!!! I really hate German. But you make me feel ok about it all. So thanks! Did you make a Anki list in the end? I could REALLY do with that, as I’m sure your deck would be really, really useful!