Word of the Day – “schätzen”

schaetzen-schatz-meaningHello everyone,

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



We’ll look at the verb itself, the most common related words, the prefix version and we’ll also learn something interesting… uh… I mean something else. The crazy career of Schatz and how it changed from a word for your goat to a word for your lover.
Sounds good? Then let’s jump right in. Oh and speaking of sound… there’s a super special surprise waiting for you.

Schatz – from cattle to honey

Schätzen comes from the noun der Schatz, which some of you might know as sweetheartSchatz comes from the Germanic root *skatta. Nobody knows where that came from, and it doesn’t have any relatives in modern English. What’s interesting about it is the meaning. Or better, the evolution of it.
The original meaning of the root was cattle, livestock; from there it gradually shifted toward possessions, money. That connection makes sense I think, and the fascinating thing is that Schatz isn’t the only example for it.
Do you have any idea where the word cattle comes from? I was super surprised to find out that it is related to capital. Cattle – cap’tal. They’re really just a mumble apart.
And back in the day cattle simply meant possession. Or take the word fee. Fees don’t exactly contribute to our personal wealth but they do have something to do with money. Now, German has a word that sounds exactly like fee: das Vieh. And Vieh is the word for cattle, livestock.  But there’s more. Fee and Vieh are both related to the Latin word pecu which meant cattle and which is the base for the Latin pecunia which meant … money. That’s where pecuniary and peculiar come from, by the way (if something is peculiar to you, you kind of “own” it).
Anyway, back to Schatz.  So, at first, it meant livestock, then it changed to possession, money and from there it was but a small step to the meaning it has today… treasure. It can be used for the old school “pile of gold”-treasure, but more importantly it is the number 1 term of endearment

  • Hast du “Die Schatzinsel” gelesen?
  • Have you read “Treasure Island“?
  • Mein Schatzzzzzzz!
  • My precious! (Mr. Spock in “The empire strikes back”)
  • Du bist ein Schatz!!
  • You’re such a sweetheart!!
  • Schaaaatz? Hab’ ich zugenommen?
  • Honey? Have I gained weight?
  • Manche Länder sind arm, obwohl sie reich an Bodenschätzen sind.
  • Some countries are poor although they’re rich in resources (of the ground… minerals, oil, gas, coal).

Oh and let’s not forget the wonderful word der Wortschatz, you’ve probably heard it. Wortschatz means vocabulary in sense of the whole of words a person can use or understand.

  • Auch für Alltagsdeutsch braucht man einen relativ großen  Wortschatz.
  • For everyday German you need a relatively large vocabulary.

So, that’s Schatz. From cattle to money to treasure to honey. Hey, that rhymes :). Now it’s time to get to our actual word... schätzen.


We can think of Schatz as  “thing of value”. Sounds abstract but it is cool because it fits the older meanings as well as the current one AND it is the perfect key to the verb: the prime meaning of schätzen is  assessing/gauging the value of a thing.
And it’s not limited to the context of money. It works for ANY kind of value. You can schätzen the value or price of something but you can also schätzen the temperature, the size of your sweetheart, or the time it’ll take her to forgive you for buying a 14 instead of a 10.
So you’ve probably figured it out by now: schätzen means to estimate.

  • Ich schätze, es ist Minus 10 Grad.
  • I’d say it’s minus 10
  • Lit.: “I estimate that the temperature is minus 10.”
  • Der Bürgermeister schätzt die Kosten auf 10 Millionen Euro.
  • The mayor estimates the costs to be 10 million Euro.
  • “Was glaubts du hat meine Hose gekostet?”
    “Keine Ahnung.”
    “Schätz mal!”
  • “What would you say was the price of my new pants?”
    “No idea.”
    “Come on, give it a shot.”

And it’s not limited to quantities. It also works for making statements about reality when you want to express that you’re not really certain. People often use it in sense of to guess or to think.

  • Ich weiß nicht genau, was das Problem ist, aber ich schätz mal, es hat irgendwas mit dem Server zu tun.
  • I don’t really know what the problem is exactly, but I figure  it’s something server related.
  • Ich schätze (mal), man  könnte das auch roh essen.
  • I guess you could eat that raw.

And of course there are also some common related words so let’s look at some examples for those, too.

  • Ersten Schätzungen zufolge liegt der Sachschaden der Pony-Stampede weit über 100.000 Euro.
  • According to first estimates the property damage caused by the pony stampede is way over 100.000 Euro.
    (not the best translation but I wanted to keep it close to the original)

  • Jeden Tag werden schätzungsweise eine Fantastilliarde Katzenvideos hochgeladen.
  • Roughly/round about one gazillion cat videos are uploaded every day.

Cool. Now, assessing the value of something actually isn’t the only meaning of schätzen. It also works for valuing the thing. Kind of like to estimate and to esteem combined in one word.

  • Die Chefin schätzt Thomas trotz seiner notorischen Unpünktlichkeit sehr.
  • The boss has high esteem for Thomas despite his notorious tardiness.
  • An dem Autor schätze ich vor allem die Einfachheit seiner Sprache.
  • What I like in particular about the author is the simplicity of his language/writing.

  • Ich schätze es nicht, wenn man einfach an meinen Computer geht, ohne zu fragen. (sounds stiff and official yet pissed)
  • I don’t like/appreciate it when someone uses my computer without asking.
  • Ich weiß das zu schätzen.
  • I really appreciate that.
  • Lit.: “I know to value that.”
    (used in contexts where someone does something for you and you want to express that it really does mean something to you)

If you’re now like  “Hey, so schätzen is an alternative for mögen, right?” then I’d say kind of. They’re both used as to like but schätzen sounds much more formal, unemotional even. You wouldn’t use it for stuff you really like, like your loved ones, your favorite movie, that one song or prefix versions of German verbs. Because we all love those, right? Right? Riiiiiiight?
Okay, we don’t. But they’re good for our Wortschatz so let’s take a look.

Prefix Versions of schätzen

Schätzen doesn’t have crazy prefix versions in that the original meaning is still completely visible. Not like some other verbs… yes, I’m looking at you “befehlen”. From missing to commanding… puhleeze.
Anyway, the first two common ones are überschätzen and unterschätzen and ich schätze mal you get what those mean :)

  • Die Rolle von Rythmus und Flow für das Sprechen und Verstehen einer Fremdsprache wird  unterschätzt.
  • The role rhythm and flow play for speaking and understanding a foreign language is underestimated, in my opinion.
  • Der Schauspieler wird überschätzt.
  • The actor is overrated (people think he’s better than he is).
  • Der Musiker K. West leidet an Selbstüberschätzung.
  • The muscician K. West suffers from (a light form of) hubris

The next two are einschätzen and abschätzen and those are somewhat tricky because they’re very similar. Don’t ask me why, but the ab adds a certain vibe of future. You’d use abschätzen for rough estimates about the future, not so much for estimating the height of a building. Though that wouldn’t be totally strange either.
Einschätzen has kind of a personal feel to it and it has the least focus on numbers. It’s often used in context of assessing people, how they are, what they’ll do. But it also works in sense of judging a situation or a performance.

  • Versuch mal abzuschätzen, wie viele Leute zu der Party kommen.
    Damit wir wissen, wie viel Bier wir kaufen müssen.
  • Try to make a rough estimate as to how many people will come to the
    party. So we know how much beer we need to buy.

  • Kannst du ungefähr einschätzen/abschätzen/(schätzen), wie lange das dauert.
  • Can you estimate/make a guess about how long that’ll take.
  • Ich habe Maria völlig falsch eingeschätzt.
  • Maria isn’t the woman I thought she was/I had a wrong impression about Maria.
  • Lit. “I appraised/assessed Maria completely wrong.”
  • Wie würden Sie selbst ihre Leistung einschätzen?
  • How would you (yourself) rate your performance?

I hope that I could at least give you some idea of the different vibe. Both, einschätzen and abschätzen are either used as a stand alone or in combination with questions like who, what, why or how. They do not work well for statements about reality.

  • Ich schätze etwas ab/ein.
  • Ich schätze etwas. this is weird because it could be gauge as well as appreciate
  • I’m trying to judge/appraise something.
  • Ich schätze, dass er wieder zu spät kommt.
  • Ich schätze ein/ab, dass er... this sounds quite odd to my ears
  • I‘d say/reckon he’s gonna be late again.

But hey…. please please don’t stress over these things too much. This is nothing you need to remember.  Just go ahead and start using the verbs in some way. And if you make a mistake, that’s fine. That’s great. It’s part of learning a language. And it’s part of estimating which brings us to the last word for today: sich verschätzen.  Schätzen is to estimate. The ver- adds the notion of wrong. And because that alone would make way too much sense, you also need a completely illogical self reference (which is part of so many verbs with the wrong-ver).

  • Ich habe mich um 10 Minuten verschätzt.
  • My estimate was wrong by 10 minutes.
  • Lit.: I misestimated myself by 10 minutes. 
  • Wenn du denkst, ich mache den Abwasch, wenn er nur lange genug steht, dann hast du dich verschätzt.
  • If you think I’ll do the dishes if only you let ’em sit there long enough, you‘ve misjudged the situation.

Yeah, that self reference really makes no sense.
I hope the rest did though. This was our Word of the Day schätzen. The base is the noun Schatz which changed from livestock to valuable item to treasure to honey and the verb schätzen itself is about estimating, gauging, appraising as well as valuing,  liking.
If you want even more words for your Wortschatz, check out the vocab and, 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 **

schätzen – estimate, value, hold in high regard
die Schätzung – the estimate
schätzungsweise – round about, approximately
unschätzbar – invaluably (mostly as an adverb)

abschätzen – gauge (rough, often used to talk about the future)
abschätzig – dismissive
(this has nothing to do with the other abschätzen. It’s based on the idea of “valuing downward” which isn’t used anymore today)

einschätzen – appraise, gauge
die Einschätzung – the appraisal, assessement
die Fehleinschätzung – error of judgement
die Selbsteinschätzung – self assessment

sich verschätzen – to make a wrong estimate
überschätzen – overestimate
unterschätzen – underestimate

der Schatz – the treasure, honey
die Bodenschätze – resources of the ground (oil, gas, coal, minerals)
der Wortschatz – the vocabulary
das Vieh – the cattle, also: creature (negative)
die Gebühr – the fee

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