Word of the Day – “schade”

Hello everyone,

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



A really really cool word which might actually be the key to intuitively knowing the gender of like ANY German noun right when you see it.
And it’s also a great word to express disappointment.
Hmmm… I feel like I know where this is going.
But let’s jump right in and find out…

Let’s start our little tour with the noun der Schaden. The origin is the “not as ancient as Indo-European roots but still pretty ancient” Germanic root *skath- which was about the idea of hurting, damaging and which also pretty reveals the English side of the family… to scathe. But while scathe is pretty rare nowadays and only seen as unscathed (unharmed) , the noun der Schaden is the German word for a damage or defect.
Here is is as a stand alone…

  • Der Sturm hat große Schäden verursacht.
  • The thunderstorm has caused major damage.
  • Wer kommt für den Schaden auf?
  • Who is paying/compensating for the damage?
  • Hast du’n Schaden oder was? (colloquial, quite serious sounding)
  • Do you have mental problems, or what?

And here are a couple of common compounds…

  • Nach dem Skandalinterview bemüht sich der Präsident um Schadensbegrenzung.
  • After the scandalous interview, the president is looking to do damage control (lit.: damage limiting).
  • Der Autohersteller muss den Kunden Schadenersatz zahlen.
  • The car manufacturer has to pay the customers “compensation for damages”.
    (help, what’s the proper English word here? The dictionary offers several option… danke)

And of course we have to mention the word that has made it into all “Top X Non-translatable German Words English should import”-lists ever.
Literally, it means harm-joy, damage-joy and it is the joy you experience about someone else’s misery. Sounds really awful, but I think everyone is guilty of it. Even Jesus!!
Like… I remember that one time, when Mattheus fell off the mule right after calling Jesus a Hippie. Jesus kept snickering the whole day. Anyway, examples…

  • Hilfe, mein Chef hat sich im Meeting eingepullert und ich habe Schadenfreude empfunden. Bin ich ein schlechter Mensch?
  • Help, my boss wet his pants in the meeting and I felt joy for his misery. Am I a bad person?
  • Schadenfroh erzählt Maria ihrer Freundin von Thomas’ TedTalk -Disaster.
  • Gloating, Maria tells her friend about Thomas’ TedTalk disaster.

So this is the noun der Schaden. And that’s exactly what schade was in the beginning… this noun. Well, without the n.
One way people would use it back then was to express that something sucks. Just like in English we say

  • ( It’s a) pity that….

they would say

  • Es ist ein Schade, dass… (not idiomatic anymore)
  • Lit.: It’s a damage that…

And by the way, French does the exact same they. There you say

  • “C’est dommage que…. “

Now, I don’t want to say that Germans like to whine, but Germans like to whine. And they used the phrasing so frequently that it got shortened and eventually schade lost all its noun-ness and turned into the word it is today… a marker that you think something is a pity.

  • Das Wetter war nicht so gut, das war ein bisschen schade.
  • The weather wasn’t that great, that was a bit of downside.
  • “Die Party war lustig, aber es gab viel zu wenig zu essen.”
    “Ja, Thomas findet es schade, Essen wegzuschmeißen. Deshalb macht er immer voll wenig.”
  • “The party was fun but there was by far not enough to eat.”(lit: much too little)
    “Yeah, Thomas finds it a pity to throw food away. So he always makes really small amounts.”
  • “Krieg ich noch einen Espresso?”
    “Nee, sorry, die Kaffeemaschine ist schon aus.”
  • “Can I still get an espresso?”
    “No sorry, the coffee machine is already off.”
    “Too bad/what a pity.”
  • “Du, ich glaub ich schaff’s nicht, zu deiner Party kommen.”
    “Echt nich’?! Oh wie schade.”
  • “Hey, I think I won’t make it to your party.”
    “Really?! Aww man, that’s sad/too bad.”
  • “Nein.” sagte Anastasia.
    Christian blickte sie an.
    “Schade.” sagte er. “Schaaade. Schade schade schade. Wirklich echt schade. Schade schade schade. schade…..”

That last one is an excerpt from a short story I’m working on, by the way.
It’s called 5000 Schades of Grey.
Hmmm…. no one is laughing…. schade!
Anyways, as you can see, it’s really useful and the exact translation varies depending on context. And that’s not all. There are also a couple of fixed phrasings. The first one is schade um (etwas sein) and it means that something is lost in some way and that that loss is a pity.

  • Mein Kuchen ist total verbrannt. Schade um die ganze Arbeit.
  • My cake totally burned. What a pity for all the work.
  • “Ich glaub, ich schaff mein Bier nicht. Willst du?”
    “Klar, wär schade drum.”
  • “I think I can’t finish my beer. You want?”
    “Sure, it would be a waste.

And then there is zu schade sein, which expresses that something is too good to be lost or wasted.

  • Ich zieh das Kleid nie an, aber es ist zu schade zum Wegschmeißen.
  • I never wear this dress but it’s too good to be thrown away.
  • Um die Waldlichtung aufzuräumen, ist sich das Einhorn zu schade.
  • The unicorn values itself too highly to clean the forest glade.

Ugh… unicorns. It’s really schade that they’re so stuck up.
Anyway, so this is the word schade and even if you’re still a fledgling and you can barely make sentences, you can at least use schade as a one word exclamation. It’ll make you sound much more native speaker like.
Now of course there are a few other useful related words, so let’s take a look at those real quick before we wrap up.
They’re all pretty easy to guess though, I think. The idea of damage is super clear and you don’t need much mind yoga.

  • Die letzten 10 Minuten haben für den ganzen langweiligen Film entschädigt.
  • The last 10 minutes made up/compensated for the entire boring movie.
  • Zuviel Schlaf kann schädlich für die Gesundheit sein.
  • Too much sleep can be detrimental, harmful for the health.
  • Im Gartenbau unterscheidet man zwischen Nützlingen und Schädlingen.
  • In gardening you make a distinction between “useful creatures” and vermin.
    (is there a better term than useful creature or is that really what is used? As silly as it might sound, Nützling is the proper gardening term)

And then there are the two verbs schaden and beschädigen. They’re both about doing damage but they’re not synonyms.
Beschädigen is more momentary, if that makes sense. It’s about doing damage to an object at a point in time. It’s not limited to tangible things, but it doesn’t work for living beings. Oh, and it only talks about a partial damage. For damaging completely, the word is kaputtmachen.
Schaden on the other hand is more long term and a bit vague. And it works for in context of living beings.

  • Der Monitor ist leicht beschädigt, funktioniert aber noch.
  • The screen is slightly damaged but still working.
  • Wie kann ich eine Kachel entfernen, ohne den Rest zu beschädigen?
  • How can I remove one tile without doing damage/damaging to the others?
  • Graffiti ist rechtlich gesehen Sachbeschädigung.
  • From a legal point of view, graffiti is property damage.
  • Rauchen schadet der Gesundheit.
  • Smoking damages/hurts/does damage the health.
  • Die Kälte schadet dem Akku.
  • The cold harms the battery.
  • Ab und zu früh aufstehen hat noch niemandem geschadet.
  • Getting up early every once in a while hasn’t hurt anyone yet.

Actually, there’s a third version, the verb schädigen, which is somewhere in the middle between the two but we’ll just do what the unicorn does with the forest cleaning schedule… ignore it :).
And that’s it for today. This was our look at schade and… what?… I forgot something? …. oohhhhh, the trick for guessing the noun gender. Oh well, that was of course nonsense. There is no such trick. But at least you now know what to say in a moment like this …
“You’re an idiot, Emanuel.”
Uh, that’s not what I meant.
As usual, if you have any questions or suggestions about schade or any of the other words, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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German is impossible
German is impossible
21 days ago

Hi. I stumbled upon this page through a web search. It’s more info than I needed, but it didn’t stop me from reading every word. Approachable, understandable, amusing — I could go on.

WRT damages, context dictates phrasing. Were you to speak formally, you’d employ the full legal term: compensatory damages. Colloquially, you’d most likely shorten to “damages.” [She was awarded $700 in damages. The concept of compensation also works for unknown quantities or descriptive phrasing. [The defendant must compensate the plaintiff for all costs incurred to repair the damage to the car’s rear bumper. The insurance company must compensate the homeowners for interim housing costs.]

WRT gardening, I suggest limiting the animal kingdom to “beneficial insects” and “pests.”

I would sign off in low German if I remembered any of the phrases I mangled with my Pennsylvania Dutch neighbor. I learned a few as his dementia advanced and he increasingly relied upon his second-generation first language. Alas, all I recall is a switchplate: outen the light.

8 months ago

Nice how to explore meanings and roots. That makes the language come to life. Will surely come back for more

1 year ago

Another article I laughed my way through! “Like… I remember that one time, when Mattheus fell off the mule right after calling Jesus a Hippie. Jesus kept snickering the whole day.” “5000 Schades of Grey.” You slay me, Emanuel. You slay me.

2 years ago

Ok danke für die Erklärung. Ich wollte immer wissen den Unterschied zwischen schaden und beschädigen. Ich hab trotzdem “zu schade sein” nicht voll verstanden. Warum ist es “ist sich das Einhorn” ? Mein Gehirn bevorzugt “ist sich dem Einhorn”.

3 years ago

This is all tremendously interesting and fun. Bravo for that. But it brings to mind the horrible thought that if it is true that the ultimate German soul delights in another’s misery, well you can see the roots of the concentration camps. Scare.

Dorie LaRue
Dorie LaRue
3 years ago

So I’ve been using this word all these years that apparently doesn’t exist: schadenfreund. Damaging friend, or frenemy.

4 years ago

Found this idiom: Dafür ist mir mein Geld zu schade. (I have better things to waste my money on.) Can one say, „Dafür is mir meine Zeit zu schade“? (I have better things to waste my time on.). Not sure if the former is a fixed idiom.

Andrés AG
4 years ago

Danke Emanuel, ich hatte bisher einen schlechten Tag aber nachdem ich dein Post gelesen habe, wird alles besser. Deine Witze finde ich wirklich lustige. :) Danke nochmal.

4 years ago

Let me give another view on the difference between “beschädigen” und “schaden”.
“schaden” implies a loss in quality while “beschädigen” implies gaining damage, if that makes sense. So “schaden” looks more at the result compared to what was before the damage occured. “beschädigen” looks more at the actual damage. If you had a car crash, “der Schaden” would be the monetary damage (“Totalschaden” = “total write-off”), “die Beschädigung” would describe a broken light and bumper. And in less literal damages like a damage to a reputation or health, “beschädigen” might not work as well.
The border is not very strict and “Schaden” can take on the meaning of “Beschädigung” if it is not ambiguous.

As little excuse for my rambling two connected words:

“schadhaft”: defective, faulty

“unbeschadet”: 1. adverb: unscathed (“etwas unbeschadet überstehen” = “to come out unscathed”) 2. preposition: without prejudice to/save (“unbeschadet aller Rückschläge” = “regardless of all setbacks”) [this one is only written, formal German]

4 years ago

Hi Emanuel!
‘Einpullern’ – is that really a word? And does it really mean ‘peeing in your pants’?

4 years ago

In talking of things in gardens “beneficial” is probably most used with “insects”, but that could be broadened to “beneficial creatures” to include other members of the animal kingdom. Although they’re no more or less created than animals “creature” doesn’t tend to be used for plants, bacteria, fungi,… “Organisms” covers all living possibilities. Plants that are grown for useful effects on the desired ones are often called “companion plants”. It’s all so much clunkier than “Nützling.” I’d vote for English adopting that, too, though it would be more likely to be mispronounced than “Schadenfreude”.

Is there any difference in tone, or anything else, between “schade” and “wie schade”?

4 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

The question could have been explained a bit.
I can recall being told by a non-native speaker that “wie schade” is more proper as an expression of sympathy than “schade” alone. I’ve also come across the idea that “wie schade” is more mocking than genuine. Does the use, or not, of “wie” really make any difference?

just me
just me
4 years ago

I agree with Sid that “beneficial” is a better choice than “useful,” but “fauna” would still sound awkward. If by “creatures” you mean animals, then “beneficial animals.” Otherwise, if “useful creatures” meant the opposite of small pests, bugs, or disease-carrying bacteria, you’d say, “beneficial organisms.”

As to the English “to scathe,” yes, the verb form is pretty rare, but the adjective “scathing” is used a lot, as in a scathing reply or a scathing movie review. Scathing means ‘severe’ or ‘critical,’ with a connotation that the speaker is very bitter about it. If you are going to post on political comment boards, sooner or later you’ll receive a scathing rebuke.

4 years ago

hallo, der meisterröster ist wieder da.

“Schaedlingen” would probably be “pests” – as in what “pesticide” is designed to kill (harmful insects), but accidentally ends up killing honeybees and destroying the world.

Schadenfreude is totally used in English, usually as *the* example of what a loan word is. It’s even explicitly referenced in an episode of the simpsons – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B01e7n4RzZc

4 years ago

Hello everybody, i’m one of the newest members of the community, if not the newest, and what i’m gonna say now will not be relative to this article. Sorry for that..

I just wanted to say “thank you!” to those who helped me be a member of German is Easy community, along with the team who are doing their best to teach people whatever they know.

So, thank you ladies and gentlemen for sharing your knowledge with the world, and me,
Aand iloveyou!

Sincerely, me.

P.S: You are the best!

4 years ago

“useful creatures” is better said “beneficial” creatures or fauna, perhaps?

4 years ago

This word reminds me of my favourite German street sign Straßen Schaden lit street damaged. Direct and to the point. It was one of the first times when I started learning German that I realised the directness it had. Like the one time in Bavaria when I came across an old water well pump in margetshöchheim. The sign said kein Trinkwasser. Love it.

4 years ago

More idiomatic would be: Gloating, Maria tells her friend about Thomas’ TedTalk disaster. Or, Maria gloated about Thomas’ Ted Talk-disaster.

We’ve always used “Schadenfreude” in English, to mean just what it means in German. Some Swedes use it, as well, but most don’t know what it means, they use, “Skadeglädje” which is “Skade” Schade/harm, “Glädje” Freude/joy.

However, in English, we pronounce it, “Shadenfreud” – those who attempt to sound worldly attempt the throaty “r” instead of the sharp American “r”.
The more you know…

In Chicago, we also say, “Es ist kälter als eine Hexentitte draußen” – dunno if that translates as well, (Colder than a witche’s tit out there) but it be mighty cold from Duisburg, Deutschland all the way up to Göteborg, Sweden right now. We’re talking, -0° degrees and wind. Not very cosy at all. Stay warm!

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Sorry, can’t reply in German – not good enough yet. Um, where I grew up, it was “allgemein bekannt” – but does everybody use the phrase? Hmmm… Dunno. Nobody I grew up with/attended school with spoke/studied German. Since Trump was elected, I refuse to set my foot there again so I can’t do any research on the subject, but if anyone does dare to visit, ask a cashier at Walgreen’s if she knows what “schadenfreude” is and we’ll have our answer.

Gestern habe ich Tickets für das Rolling Stones Konzert in Berlin am 22. Juni bekommen! TjooHoo! Wir sehen uns in Berlin! Die Woche danach, Billy Joel in Hamburg!

4 years ago
Reply to  Amerikanerin

In my experience (I’m also American), “schadenfreude” is well-known in English among the more educated. It is not a word I would expect the average Joe to know.

4 years ago

If the car manufacturer has to pay because they lost a lawsuit, I think you would just say. “The car manufacturer has to pay damages.”

4 years ago

Für “Schadenersatz” würde Man einfach “damages” sagen. “Compensation” selber ist auch gut aber weniger eindeutig. “Compensation for damages” ist nicht so idiomatisch, deshalb hat dict.cc (for damages) eingeklammert.

Inzwischen ist “Schadenfreude” auch ein englisches Wort und wir behalten es, wenn es dir nicht ausmacht!

Das Gerundium von “scathe”: “scathing” ist immer noch ein beliebtes Adjektiv, insbesondere in Bezug auf harte Kritik und spöttischen Kommentar.

Das Substantiv von “gloat” ist das Gerundium “gloating” wie “Full of gloating, Maria…”

Toller Artikel wie immer Emanuel. Tschüss!

4 years ago
Reply to  aoind

“Gloat” ist auch ein Substantiv, aber es braucht einen Artikel oder Aufzählung und beschreibt was passiert würde. Z.b. “I had a little gloat at that”.

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Entschuldigung. Was passiert worden ist/passiert wurde. Ist das richtig

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Was passiert ist.

4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oder was gesagt wurde. Ich habe die beide verwechselt!