Word of the Day – “der Schritt”

Hello everyone,

and welcome back to Summer, Sun, Vocab Fun, which is a lot like the usual articles, but more chill and less quiz ;). And this time, with a look at the meaning of

der Schritt

A great word to practice the German “r” because without it, Schritt literally sounds like shit.
Which would be the PERFERT moment to insert a little segment about how to actually pronounce that.
Oh well.
I guess some other time.
Seriously though… I actually started writing it, but then I felt it was too long. Or maybe not too long, because this is a short one overall, but the article got “weird proportions”, if that makes sense. Like… there was no flow.
And so I decided to cut it.
Not to worry, though, I’ll probably make it into an article on its own.
But today, we’ll completely focus on collecting some sweet, sweet vocabulary around Schritt…

… which is the German word for a step.
And that can be a physical step…

  • Ich versuche, jeden Tag 4.000 Schritte zu machen.
  • I’m trying to take 4.000 steps a day.
  • Halt! Keinen Schritt weiter!
  • Stop! Not a step further! (Don’t move!)

… and it can also be a figurative step

  • Zwei Liegestütze sind kein Workout, aber ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung.
  • Two push ups are not a workout, but a step in the right direction.
  • Schritt für Schritt haben die Einhörner die Elfen aus dem Wald vertrieben.
  • Step by step/gradually, the unicorns pushed the elves out of the forest.
  • Die Eichhörnchen überlegen, welche Schritte sie als nächstes machen.
  • The squirrels are thinking about which steps they’ll take next/what their next moves are.

The two words really line up pretty well, I think, though I’d say that Schritt is maybe a little more broad and can cover the idea of a move as well.
Oh and der Schritt is also used in an anatomical sense of crotch. Because, after all, the crotch is kind of where the step originates, so it makes sense.

  • Die Hose ist mir im Schritt zu eng.
  • These pants are too tight for me around the crotch.
  • Das Einhorn fasst dem Wanderer von hinten in den Schritt.
  • The unicorn touches the hiker’s crotch from behind.

These unicorns are really getting out of control. It’s high time the high council of the forest take appropriate steps. Speaking of which… that is something you do NOT say in German. You do not TAKE steps…

  • Ich nehme Schritte... NOPE

That sounds really really strange.
In German, you either MAKE steps. Or, if you talk metaphorically and you want to show off a bit, you’d say unternehmen (undertake).

  • Welche Schritte hat das Unternehmen unternommen, um  transparenter zu werden?
  • What steps has the company taken/implemented, to become more transparent?

But yeah… no Schritte nehmen.
Now, obviously Schritt is pretty useful by itself, but there are also loads and loads of really cool compounds with it.

  • Mein Deutsch hat große Fortschritte gemacht.
  • My German has made great progress.
    (lit.: “steps forward”)
  • Hier darf man nur mit Schrittgeschwindigkeit fahren.
  • Here, you can only drive at walking pace.
  • Die Einschränkungen werden schrittweise gelockert.
  • The restrictions are being eased gradually.

There’s also der Rückschritt (a metaphorical “step backwards”),  der Zwischenschritt (an intermediate step) and the wonderfully German word Herzschrittmacher, which essentially makes your heart “take steps”.
And hundreds more, honestly, but I think they’re all clear from context, when you see them.

But not all the relatives actually have Schritt in them, because Schritt actually comes from a verb…

schreiten and friends

The origin of schreiten is a bit murky. Etymologists tie it to a root that was about turning but it has come a long way since then and there don’t seem any relatives in modern English.
There was scrīþan in old English apparently, which was about moving forward, but that has disappeared.
So no surprising connections this time. And no, it is not related to to stride.
How lame!
But don’t worry – schreiten does have a surprise for us.
Because seeing how the noun means step, it’s of course natural to assume that the verb is about taking a step.
But it isn’t! Not really, anyway.


Seriously, the standard for taking steps in German is either Schritte machen, or the verb treten, which also means to kick.
We’ve talked about treten in a separate article, so I’ll leave the link below if you want to check that one out.

So what does schreiten mean then?
Well, it is about taking steps, but it’s basically a word for a very specific way of walking. Taking long majestic strides without being in a hurry is a good description maybe. Think of someone about to get wed walking up to the altar.
You might see it here and there in a couple of fixed phrasings but what really makes it useful, though, are … and this is not going to surprise anyone … the prefix versions.
Of course :).

And there, thinking of schreiten as “to step” actually works quite well.

Let’s start with überschreiten, which means to cross. You can use it for crossing an actual border, but it’s more common in the figurative sense of crossing a threshold.

  • Emanuels Kaffeekonsum hat die Grenze des gesunden überschritten.
  • Emanuel’s coffee consumption has crossed the threshold of what’s healthy.
  • Die Temperatur im Kühlschrank sollte 7 Grad nicht überschreiten.
  • The temperature in the fridge should not go above 7 degrees.

Oh, and there’s also unterschreiten, which is basically the same, but it’s for crossing a threshold to the downside.

  • Wenn Bitcoin die 20-Tausender Marke unterschreitet, dann kann er sehr tief fallen.
  • If Bitcoin crosses below the 20 thousand mark, it can fall very deep.

Next up, we have einschreiten and that one is about “stepping in”, in the sense of intervening. Primarily in the context of there being a conflict that gets out of hand and a third party has to step in.

  • “Thomas und Maria streiten sich in der Küche, und Maria wirft mit Töpfen. Ich glaube wir müssen einschreiten.”
    “Nee, nee, lass die mal. Die machen das öfter.”
  • “Thomas and Maria are fighting in the kitchen and Maria is throwing pots. I think we need to step in/intervene.”
    “Nah, let them. They do this every now and then.”

And that brings us right to ausschreiten, because as a verb itself it’s super rare and only used in the sense of making wide strides. But the noun die Ausschreitung(en) are exactly what would make the police einschreiten, because Ausschreitung is a riot… people stepping “out of line” if you will.

  • Nach dem Spiel kam es zu Ausschreitungen zwischen den Fans.
  • After the match, riots broke out between the fans.

Then we have fortschreiten, which is barely ever used as a verb but you probably know its ge-form fortgeschritten

  • Diese Übung ist für Anfänger und Fortgeschrittene.
  • This exercise is for beginners and advanced (learners, trainees… ).

And then let’s give a shout-out to beschreiten, which if we take it literally means “to step on” but which is pretty much ONLY used in fixed phrasings of taking a metaphorical path.

  • Die Firma will neue Wege beschreiten.
  • The company wants to explore new avenues.

And I think we’ll actually wrap it up here… like… I don’t know… that last example just really has überschritten the line to boring. 

So yeah, this was our quick look at the meaning of Schritt.
As usual, if you have any questions or suggestions, take the Schritt into the comment section and let me know.
I hope you liked it, have a great week and I’ll see you all next time.

further reading:

Word of the Day – “treten”

** vocab **

der Schritt = the step, the move
schrittweise = in a step by step manner, gradually
Schritt für Schritt = step by step
der Fortschritt = the progress, the step forward
fortschrittlich = progressive, advanced (ONLY in a figurative sense. Not for actual location)
fortgeschritten = advanced (In the sense of difficulty and skills)
der Rückschritt = the step backwards (ONLY metaphorical steps)
die Schrittgeschwindigkeit = the walking pace
der Zwischenschritt = the intermediate step

überschreiten = to cross (For real borders and all kinds of thresholds or limits, that are crossed to the upside)
unterschreiten = to cross (Crossing thresholds or limits to the downside)
einschreiten = to intervene, to step in
die Ausschreitung(en) = the riots, the clashes (Usually used in plural)
beschreiten = to “step on” (Used in a figurative sense in combination with “Weg” or “Richtung”)

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