Word of the Day – “schneiden”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: July 3, 2024

Hello everyone,

And welcome to our German word of the Day, today with a big fat dump of
boredom!
And by boredom I mean of course useful vocabulary, because today we’ll talk about the verb

schneiden

schneiden is the German word for to cut, so it’s definitely a nice one to have.
But of course, like many German verbs, schneiden comes with a fine selection of relatives and prefix versions and boy oh boy… there’s an absolute treasure trove of useful words waiting for us.
Too much for one session, in fact. Like… the article got longer and longer and longer and eventually I decided to cut it into two parts.
Today, we’ll focus on schneiden itself and some nouns and in part two, will go through the various prefix versions.

So let’s … uh… cut straight to the chase and dive right in :)

Quick word about the origin first.
to cut and schneiden are basically each other’s brother from another mother, meaning that they come from two separate Germanic families but both families were at their core about cutting.
And then, German and English each kind of picked one of the families and completely ignored the other. So there aren’t really any relatives to to cut in German, and English doesn’t really know any relatives to schneiden. Well, except Schnitzel, but that’s a German word essentially.

Anyway, let’s looks at some examples.

  • Thomas schneidet den Apfel in zwei Teile.
  • Thomas cuts the apple into two pieces.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Ich habe mich beim Rasieren geschnitten.
  • I cut myself while shaving.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Ich habe mich in den Finger geschnitten.
  • I cut my finger.
    (“I cut myself in the finger.”)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Little side note about the last example: you may also hear this one with mir instead of mich.

  • Ich habe mir in den Finger geschnitten.

In fact, I’d say that both versions are equally common. But the version with mir ONLY works if you also specify the “location” of the cut. Like we did here with “in den Finger”.
So in the next example, mir would NOT work because the location is missing.

  • Ich habe mich am Papier geschnitten.
  • I cut myself on the paper.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And I know that some of you are feeling a little anxiety right now, as you’re reading this. So please let me tell you… you really do NOT need to remember this detail about mir and mich. I just wanted to mention it for completion and also so you heard it once.

Now you heard it, and you can let it go. It’ll come back in due time.

Just stick with mich, to be on the safe side. Or play around and make mistakes, it’s not a big deal. But don’t overthink it – that’ll just cause your brain to get “tense” and we want our brains to chill. At least when we’re actually speaking the language.

Anyway, now, besides the basic sense of actual cutting, schneiden of course has a number of figurative uses, as well, but I think the logic is not too obscure for most of them.

  • Maria schneidet ihr neues Youtube-Video.
  • Maria edits her new Youtube video.
    (analogous to English “cut”)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Die Wohnung ist zwar klein, aber super geschnitten.
  • The apartment is small, but the floor plan/layout is perfect.
    (“the apartment is cut well”)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Wenn du denkst, dass ich immer abwasche, dann hast du dich geschnitten.
  • If you think, I’ll always do the dishes, then you’re very much mistaken.
    (fixed expression, quite common)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

When you look in a dictionary, you can find quite a few more translation options that might confuse you,  but keep in mind that those are REALLY specific. Like… for example schneiden CAN mean to cross, but that’s ONLY used in the context of two parallels crossing.
“Emanuel, parallels don’t cross.”
Quiet, Euklid!! Your boomer geometry is not relevant here.
Seriously though… you do NOT need to know all the various translations that schneiden might have once per year.
I think it’s best to just remember to cut and just keep an open mind that schneiden MAY pop up in a context where you wouldn’t expect it.

Cool.
So that’s the verb itself.
Now, let’s check out the relatives.

Related words to “schneiden”

The main noun for schneiden is der Schnitt. And what I just said about the verb also applies to the noun. So it’s okay to think about it simply as the cut, so long as you’re chill about it, if you see it with a different translation every now and then. The connection to cutting is always there in some way.

  • Der Schnitt ist nicht tief.
  • The cut is not deep.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Maria war beim Frisör und hat sich den Karen-Schnitt geholt.
  • Maria was at the hairdresser and got the Karen cut.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Dieses Hemd hat einen komischen Schnitt.
  • This t-shirt has a weird cut/“shape”.
    (Not sure what the best word is in English here. It’s the “layout” of the shirt)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Der Film gewinnt einen Award für besten Schnitt.
  • The movie wins a price for best editing.

 

  • Dieser Smart-Home-Mülleimer verfügt über eine USB-Schnittstelle. So können sie den Müll bequem einfach runterladen, statt ihn rauszubringen.
  • This smart home trash can has a USB port. So you can conveniently download the trash instead of taking it out.

The plural of Schnitt is die Schnitte, by the way.
And just because you might be really confused one day –  die Schnitte is also a SINGULAR word – a colloquial word for a slice of bread with something on it (or a waffle in Austria, I think), and a colloquial, slightly disrespectful term for an attractive woman.
Both are a bit old fashioned though and are slowly falling out of use.
There are way more useful schneiden-relatives.

And instead of going over them with examples, like I usually do, I actually want to make this a bit more “active”. So I’ll just give you the words and phrases along with a hint, and I’m sure you can figure out the translations yourself ;)

  • schnitzen (done to wood)
  • zweischneidiges Schwert (not hint here :)
  • der Schneider (bespoke suit)
  • der Kaiserschnitt (doctors do it)
  • Bolzenschneider  (Used for stealing bikes)
  • windschnittig (bullet train in Japan)
  • auf Messers Schneide (really close call)
  • Schneidezahn (celebrities have them “done” so they’re more shiny)
  • der Schnittlauch (like scallions but way smaller)

And, could you figure them out?
Now, just to be sure… you do NOT have to feel like “Oh, I need to remember all these.” 
If you do, that’s great, but the main point is that you walk away with a certain confidence, like  “I got this! I can figure them out in context when I see them.”
There’s no real gain in actively “learning” der Schneider for instance or die Schneide.
I mean, unless you’re at C1 already and you’re bored because German doesn’t challenge you anymore :)

Anyway, we’re almost done but I actually want to add one more fairly common meaning of der Schnitt.

  • Eine Stunde Arbeit dauert im Schnitt eine Stunde.
  • One hour of works takes on average an hour.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

You’re probably surprised, and I totally get it. Me too, I was like “Whaaaat” but it’s true. Scientists have conducted studies and an hour of work really does take an hour on average.
This lines up too well to be a coincidence, in my opinion! Someone made it that way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the lizzard eli…
“Hey Emanuel, we’re actually surprised about Schnitt meaning average.”
Ohhh… uhm, I’m sorry.
So yes, Schnitt and especially the phrase im Schnitt is about the idea of average, in the statistical sense.
The reason for that is the … a prefix verb.

And that’s where we’ll pick up in part two :).  Don’t spoil it in the comments please.

For today, we’ve done enough. This was our look at the verb schneiden and some of its relatives.
Now, I couldn’t really think of enough questions to ask that are not filler, so we’ll skip the quiz this time. But as usual, if you have any questions about schneiden so far, just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and I’ll see you next time, in part two.
Bis dann.

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