Word of the Day – “schützen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And today, we’ll take a look at the whats and wheres of German verb for to protect.



Hmmm… whats and wheres… is that even a thing in English?
Anyway, the verb to protect is related to the German word die Decke and has no connections to schützen. But schützen does have English relatives.
So I thought it might be fun to give you guys the option to guess, before reading the article.
And then I thought it might be even more fun to do a little poll… so we can see what you as readers think as a whole :).

Which of these words is related to "schützen"

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Can’t wait to check the results.
But now let’s jump right into schützen.

And we’ll start with some examples right away.

  • Sonnencreme schützt ihre Haut.
  • Sun screen protects your skin.
  • Die 11 besten Tipps wie Sie sich vor Top 10 Listen schützen.
  • The 11 best tips how to protect yourself from top ten lists.
  • Durch ihr dickes, weißes Fell sind die Raben vor der Kälte der Karibik geschützt.
  • Through their big white fur, the ravens are protected from the cold of the Caribbean.
  • Alter schützt vor Torheit nicht. (German proverb)
  • Age doesn’t protect from folly.

But proverbs apparently protect from grammar. Because that position of nicht in the last one… that really should be before vor Torheit. But I guess, it gets a pass because it’s poetry or something.
Anyway, both verbs, schützen and to protect take the thing or person you protect as a direct object, but there’s a slight difference if you want to add the threat. In English you protect from, in German you schützen vor.
That’s actually a general theme that German verbs that involve danger or threats in some way go with the preposition vor. But we’ve talked about that in a separate article in detail, so I’ll leave the link below if you want to check that out.

Now, besides schützen, German also has beschützen. Beschützen ALSO means to protect, and oddly enough, the phrasings of schützen and beschützen are exactly the same, which is rare for verbs and their be-versions.

  1. Ich schütze dich vor etwas
  2. Ich beschütze dich vor etwas.
    I protect you from something.

But there is a difference in tone and like often, the be-version is the more “intense” one.
Beschützen is active, kind of direct or immediate. It sounds protective and implies caring.
A lotion for example can’t really beschützen your skin. That would sound like the lotion knows what it’s doing, and actually does something actively. And also it wouldn’t sound idiomatic to say that the goal of a law is to beschützen something. Because the law itself doesn’t care and isn’t active.
Similarly, it’s a bit odd to say that we’re beschützen our environment. That sounds like there’s a super villain coming for it and we’re putting up a fight.
Just think of schützen as a more general, abstract protecting and beschützen as the actual, hands on, momentary action.

  • Der Politiker will die Privatspähre schützen. 
  • The politician wants to protect privacy.
  • Schnell!! In der Höhle sind wir vor dem Regen und dem Sturm geschützt.
  • Quick!! In the cave, we‘ll be protected from the rain and the storm.
  • Die Entenmutter beschützt ihre Jungen vor dem Fuchs.
  • The duck mother protects her ducklings from the fox.
  • Wenn Thomas sich über andere Leute lustig macht, wird Marias Beschützerinstinkt wach.
  • Whenever Thomas makes fun of other people, Maria’s protective instinct wakes up/is triggered.

I hope you get an idea about the different tones.
Now, besides those two verbs there’s also the noun der Schutz, which of course means protection.

  • Im Schutz der Dunkelheit erkundet der Spion das Gelände.
  • Protected by the dark, the spy explores the vicinity.
    Lit.: “in the protection of the darkness… ”
  • “Du bist beim Wandern von einem Einhorn angegriffen worden?”
    “Ja, aber ich hatte einen Schutzengel.”
  • “You were attacked by a unicorn while hiking?”
    “Yeah, but I had a guardian angel.
  • Das Horn ist nicht nur zum Schutz. 
  • The horn is NOT just for protection.
  • Die Verbraucherschutzzentrale kritisiert Emanuel dafür, dass er die Zeit seiner Leser verschwendet.
  • The consumer protection office criticizes Emanuel for wasting the time of his readers.

Oh yeah? Well, Verbraucherschutzzentrale should mind their own business. I mean, come on…  Vrbrchrschtzzntrle… so many consonants … that’s not the most consumer friendly name, if you ask me.
And the only thing that gets wasted during my articles is myself when I’m writing them. I mean… occasionally. I mean… sometimes. Like… I mean… not really wasted. I just might have a beer or two. If that’s a crime, then I am guilty but I am not wasting anyone’s time. Ever.
Anyways, so far, everything about schützen was pretty straight forward.
But that’s gonna change when we look at these examples…

  • Maria flirtet mit dem Tierschützer.
  • Maria flirts with the animal rights activist (lit.: animal protector).
  • Maria flirtet auch mit dem Sportschützen.
  • Maria also flirts with the marksman (sport shooter).
  • Und Maria flirtet mit dem Schützen.
  • Und Maria flirts with the Sagittarius.

And this raises some questions. Like… what is up with Maria? And what does Thomas say about this? Does he know?
But the question that matters most for us is what protection has to do with shooting and archery (which is the core of the Latin Sagittarius).
And that brings us back to our poll from the beginning and the question which word schützen is related to… shoot, shut or sheet.
And the answer is… drum roll please… both of them. Yup, that does mean shutting and shooting are related.

You see, when we think of shooting we think of a bullet and pulling a trigger. But think about what’s really going on physically. All we do is to quickly “shove” a small thing somewhere. Same with an arrow… you “shove” a stick somewhere. Or just think of fast growing plant. We might say it “shoots” up.
This notion of quickly shoving, hurling (and also chasing)  was the core idea of the super ancient Indo-European root *skeu, from which all these words come. The verb to shoot has stayed pretty true to that idea only the way we shoot has changed.
And the idea of shutting comes from the notion of “shooting” (shoving) a bolt in a door or fence. Just think of chase in a movie… there’s often this close up of a bolt going into the latch. Katchunk. That’s the connection to shooting.
Not super obvious, but not as crazy as it sounds either.
And the connection between to shut and schützen is actually pretty intuitive. Shutting the door or a window does have an element of protection to it. And in fact, a few centuries back, schützen also meant to lock in a room, but it then lost this notion of shutting.

Now, if you want to dig deeper, you can also find connections to scheu (timid) and shy and sheet and even der Schoß (lap). But we won’t go into detail here because then this Vrbrxthczhsnle will start whining again that I am wasting time.

What I do want to do real quick before we wrap up, though, is to look at the German side of the shoot branch.
The verb itself is schießen. Of course it comes with a bunch of prefix versions, and a bunch of idioms, but overall it’s pretty clear.

  • Die Elfe schießt auf das Einhorn.
  • The Elve shoots at the unicorn.
  • J.F. Kennedy wurde erschossen.
  • J.F.Kennedy was shot to death.
  • Thomas hat mit seiner Präsentation den Vogel abgeschossen.
  • Lit.: “Thomas shot down the bird with his presentation. “
  • Thomas jumped the shark with his presentation
    (to me, the idiom sounds a bit negative, but the dictionary said it was “to take the bun”, which is positive… so I don’t know. It definitely involves an extreme performance in some way)

The noun for the shot is der Schuss or in plural die Schüsse. Of course, it can be used for actual shots, but there are also a few idioms and it’s used in the sense of adding a bit of a liquid to food.
Strangely enough, der Schuss doesn’t mean shot in the sense of shot of vodka. So… you can say that you add a Schuss of rum to your tea, but that’s just an unspecified small amount. For THE shot, you also just say Shot.

  • Die Bar ist weitab vom Schuss. (idiom)
  • The bar is far away from the action/busy parts/city center.
    Lit.: The bar is far away from the shot.
  • Ich hätte gerne einen Shot Tequila mit einem Schuss Rum.
  • I’d like a tequila shot with a bit/splash of rum.

And then, last but not least, there’s the noun das Geschoss. One of the meanings of Geschoss is the thing being shot… the projectile. But Geschoss also means story or level or floor in sense of buildings. Normally, you use der Stock or die Etage, if you want to refer to a specific floor. But the ground floor is called das Erdgeschoss and the attic floor is das Dachgeschoss.

  • Ich wohne im vierten Stock/in der vierten Etage.
  • I live on the fourth floor.
  • Niki wohnt in einer Dachgeschosswohnung.
  • Niki lives in an attic floor apartment.
  • In Ljubljana habe ich in einem Elf-Geschosser im 11. Stock gewohnt.
  • In Ljubljana I was living in an eleven story building on the 11th floor.

And if you’re wondering what shooting has to do with the floor of a building… well, it’s because buildings “shoot up” from the ground. Not the most natural connection, maybe but still much better than story. Like… that high rise I was living in didn’t just have 11 stories. It has countless stories. Behind every door, there are stories upon stories. Stories about hopes and dreams, failure and success, hate and love. Stories about watching Netflix. Stories about accidentally inventing time travel and destroying it to schützen humanity.
Seriously, I had to do it. We’re not ready for that technology yet.
Anyway…  I think that’s it for today.
This was our look at
schützen, beschützen and their family.
As usual, you can check how much you remember of this article by taking the little quiz my amazing assistant has prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time. 



** Vocab **

schützen = to protect (general, abstract)
sich vor etwas schützen = to protect oneself from something
Alter schützt vor Torheit nicht. (proverb) = Age doesn’t protect from folly.(proverb)

der Beschützerinstinkt = protective instinct
beschützen = to protect (“intense”and implies caring)
der Schutz = protection
im Schutz = protected by, in the protection of
der Schutzengel = a guardian angel
der Tierschützer = animal rights activist (lit.: animal protector)
der Schütze = Sagittarius
der Schoß = lap

schießen = to shoot
erschießen = to shoot to death
den Vogel abschießen (Idiom) = to take the bun
der Schuss, die Schüsse = the shot, the shots
der Schuss = an unspecified small amount of liquid, a bit/splash of alcohol
weitab vom Schuss sein = far away from the action/busy parts/city center

das Geschoss = story or level or floor in sense of buildings
das Erdgeschoss = the ground floor
das Dachgeschoss = the attic floor
die Dachgeschosswohnung = an attic floor apartment
der Stock/ die Etage = the floor



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