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.

  • Der Nerv reagiert auf den Reiz.
  • The nerve reacts to the stimulus.

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

  • Wenn man sich den Finger in den Hals steckt, bekommt man einen Brechreiz.
  • If you stick your finger down your throat you’ll get nausea (lit: the stimulus/drive to vomit)
  • Wundheilung ist oft von einem Juckreiz begleitet. (literally: an itching stimulus)
  • Wound healing is often accompanied by itches (pruritus).
  • Der Tee stillt den Hustenreiz.
  • The tea calms the need to cough/tickle in the throat.
  • Smartphones, Internet, Gaming – wie die Reizüberflutung unsere Kinder verändert.
  • Smartphones, internet, gaming – how sensory overload affects our children.

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.

  • Deutsch ist nicht schön, hat aber seinen Reiz.
  • German – it’s not pretty but it has its charm.
  • Die Version  des Songs ist ungewohnt, aber reizvoll.
  • The version of the song is unusual but not without charm/but interesting.
  • Maria setzt ihre weiblichen Reize ein, um beruflich voranzukommen.
  • Maria uses her feminine charms to get ahead in the job.
    (no idea about the English  but in German that’s mainly her  feminine physique… not her behavior)

  • Thomas hat Maria zum Geburtstag Reizwäsche geschenkt.
  • Thomas gave Maria flimsies/sexy lingerine for his birthday… I mean.. her birthday.

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

  • “Sag mal, können wir demnächst mal anhalten?”
    “Schon wieder? Du hast voll die Reizblase, ey… *rülps”
    “Na und? Du hast einen Reizmagen.
  • “Hey uh could we make a pit stop sometime soon?”
    “Again? Dude, you really got an weak/(irritable)  bladder…. *burp”.
    “So what? You have an irritable stomach.”

  • Die Polizei hat auf der Demo Reizgas versprüht.
  • The police has used irritant gas at the rally.
  • Mein Chef ist leicht reizbar.
  • My boss has a short temper.

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.

  • Das Projekt reizt mich.
  • The project tempts me/has piqued my interest.
  • Der Pullover reizt meine Haut.
  • The pullover irritates my skin.
  • Die ungewöhnliche Kombination der Gewürze ist, was mich an dem Rezept gereizt hat.
  • The unusual combination of spices is what fascinated/interested me about the recipe.
  • Das Pony hat meine Katze gereizt.
  • The pony provoked/aggravated/goaded my cat.
  • Hunger Games 3 Teil 1 gucken? Meh…  reizt mich nicht.
  • Watching the Hunger Games? Meh… not interested.
  • Reiz mich nicht!
  • Don’t make me angry!

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.

  • Dein Make Up ist reizend.
  • Your make up is charming/lovely.
  • Dieses Spülmittel ist  reizend.
  • This detergent is  irritant.

  • Den ganzen Tag Wassersprerrung?! Na ganz reizend. (sarcasm!!)
  • Water is shut off for the whole day?! Well now, that is a delight.

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.

  • Meine Augen sind gereizt.
  • My eyes are irritated/tired.
  • “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” )

  • Sorry, dass ich dich so angefahren habe. Ich bin in letzter Zeit ein bisschen gereizt. (super common phrasing!!)
  • Sorry, I snapped at you like that. I’ve been a little on edge lately.
  • Der Kandidat reagiert gereizt auf Fragen zu “Rücksitz-Gate”.
  • The candidate reacts testy to questions pertaining to “backseat gate”.

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.

  • Der richtige Duft im Laden kann ein zusätzlicher Kaufanreiz sein.
  • The right smell in the store can be an additional spending stimulus/incentive to buy.

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.

  • Thomas hat den ganzen Tag Game of Thrones geguckt und jetzt ist er total überreizt und kann nicht schlafen.
  • Thomas spent all day watching Game of Thrones and now he can’t sleep because his brain is overloaded with too much input/ he’s keyed up/wired.

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. 

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Andrew Bill
Andrew Bill
6 years ago

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!

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
6 years ago

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

Ahm
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Entschuldigung! Anscheinend habe ich mich geirrt. Ich höre “irritant” als Adjektiv nie. Vielleicht ist dieser Gebrauch in einem ärztlichen Kontext üblicher. Oder…vielleicht bin ich bloß dumm. In jedem Fall, soll ich in Zukunft das Wort nachschlagen, bevor ich eine smartypantse Korrektur vorschlage.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Ahm

Apparently, it’s both a noun and an adjective (I personally wouldn’t have used it as an adjective, either): http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/irritant

kat
kat
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

So I just asked my hubby, who’s first answer was, surprisingly, “irritant” – but then he went on to say “but that’s a noun”. So then I told him that it’s both a noun and an adjective…He said he wouldn’t really use and adjective to say that something is bad for the skin, he would use the verb – as in, “it irritates the skin”. He’s a native speaker, btw

JULIA MASTRANTONAKI
JULIA MASTRANTONAKI
6 years ago

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.

Sergei
Sergei
7 years ago

ANKI!
Fantastic! The best idea since beer fermentation!

Zu langsam
Zu langsam
7 years ago

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.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

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.

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yeah, must be a browser issue – I see it as all-black now.

Nikolaus Wittenstein
Nikolaus Wittenstein
7 years ago

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

James Sidoran
James Sidoran
7 years ago

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.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

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?

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“Könnte so was im Sinne von “das irritiert mich” verwendet werden?”

Das Verb “irritieren” ist irritierend bzw. irreführend. Wenn etwas irritiert, verwirrt das. Mit dem englischen “irritate” ist das Wort also nicht zu verwechseln. Das Wort ist nämlich einer der falschen Freunde eines Übersetzers.

Laut Duden wäre eigentlich auch die Bedeuting “ärgern, reizen” möglich, aber ich weiß von Muttersprachlern, dass sie nicht üblich ist. Lasst euch daher nicht davon irritieren ;)

Kat
Kat
7 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

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”

Kat
Kat
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Immer interessant, wie es sogar unter Muttersprachlern solche Unterschiede im Sprachgebrauch gibt! Das macht es natuerlich fuer die armen Lernenden nicht einfacher :-)

Bran
Bran
7 years ago

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!

berlingrabers
7 years ago

“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.

matt
matt
7 years ago

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

MacFeagel
MacFeagel
7 years ago

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
7 years ago
Reply to  MacFeagel

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
7 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

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

MacFeagel
MacFeagel
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

to overplay one’s hand

here hand = the set of cards you are holding.

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I think it would work for any card game involving either bidding or betting, but as pointed out, it’s generally metaphorical anyway.

Kat
Kat
7 years ago

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!!