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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2 years ago

Very informative

2 years ago

It’s worth mentioning “Obergeschoss (OG)” and “Untergeschoss (UG)” too, even though that’s not the normal way to talk about stories/-eys — in elevators and on official-type paperwork, you’ll definitely see “1. OG,” “2. OG,” “UG” etc. to refer to a building’s levels. It’s good to have those at least in your passive vocabulary.

2 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

No problem :)

Another one we’ve had to get used to in Munich is “Sperrengeschoss” – typically in a train station the floors will be marked as “U” (for U-Bahnsteig or Untergeschoss), “S” (for “Sperrengeschoss,” the first underground level you use to go to different platforms) and “O” for “Oberfläche” (the surface). Took a little while to get the hang of that…

2 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

Apparently neither has dict.cc or LEO — but it’s a thing: https://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/marienplatz-der-pendler-sieht-rot-1.2707290

2 years ago

In American English, rather than “he took the bun” (a Britishism), we’d say “he shot it out of the park”– the reference being to someone hitting a home run in baseball. If I’m not mistaken, “jumping the shark” is a negative, referring to a TV show episode which marked for a lot of people the beginning of the end of the show’s popularity. (Correct me if I’m wrong, someone, please.)

Two tiny typos I found (since you seem to want us to mention them): in the quiz, the Bloody Mary question reads “you says” instead of “you say”, and the example “Die Politiker will die Privatsphäre schützen”, the “h” is in the wrong place in “Privatsphäre”. Don’t mean to be a prig!

Your humor always makes this a totally delightful page, while also making me realize how much there is for me to learn. Thank you!

2 years ago

Thank you! Awesome as always :) love these etymology + practical lessons

2 years ago

Hi Emanuel! You have definitely *not* jumped the shark. Whew!

“Jumping the shark” is a piece of recently invented slang (within the last 20 years or less). It refers to that moment when it becomes painfully clear that something has gone on too long and is no longer any good.

It comes from a pop-culture reporter who wrote about how he knew the TV series “Happy Days” had gone bad when the cast moved from Milwaukee to California, and Fonzie was water-skiing instead of riding his motorcycle, and he actually jumped over a shark while doing so. It was at that moment, according to this writer, that he thought: yeah, this is total bullshit now. Thus “jumping the shark”.

2 years ago

Thank you for this entertaining lesson! I haven’t read an article in a while (oops!) and am impressed by the little quiz at the end – it helps with the learning.

Also, I’m interested in your holiday to Bulgaria – it would be nice to hear a little about it, if you don’t mind sharing a personal story.

2 years ago

“Hmmm… whats and wheres… is that even a thing in English?” We can say the “what are the whys and wherefores?”. Used to ask about the complexity of some situation or proposal. So very similar to your made up phrase. Might be a little archaic now and probably wouldn’t be used by younger folk.

Blimey, it’s like I’m writing a mini Emmanuel article for English learners!

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
2 years ago

Flirtet Maria auch mit dem Schutzengel ?

2 years ago

Hi Emmanuel,

Above you said: “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.” However I don’t see the link anywhere?


2 years ago

Hi everyone,
I am Mainak. I am starting to learn German. And luckily came in this site. Because of your generous help I am here today able to learn in this awesome site. The community members are awesome and as well as the admins of this interesting site. I am grateful to everyone who helped me get to this site with a proper subscription. Wish me luck in learning this great language with guidance from wonderful people like you.

2 years ago

Aber in der Karibik ist es nie kalt Emanuel!

Kathleen Comalli Dillon, RDMS
Kathleen Comalli Dillon, RDMS
2 years ago

You are doing a great job. I’m a professional violinist and pianist and have a huge German vocabulary for someone who doesn’t speak German! I’m fluent in French and almost so in Italian and Spanish. However, German seems truly impossible even though I understand much of what’s spoken and have a good grasp of its syntax and linguistics. I’ll try. I’m 60. Thanks for all you do!

2 years ago

Is der Schütze a generic term for a soldier/infantryman, or is that a different word?

2 years ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

OK, makes more sense now! Thank you!

Krzysztof Skladanowski
Krzysztof Skladanowski
2 years ago

Der Schutzengel – der Gel vor Sonnenbrand.

2 years ago

I get to learn german from this blog because of the kind people who sponsor those who can’t afford. I am very grateful to you guys. Thanks a lot. I promise to donate when i can.
Thank you, Emanuel

2 years ago

So… Where’s the article about the use of vor? I got really intrigued :0
I liked the article a lot :D
Vielen Dank!

2 years ago

Thank you & welcome back. This one is super helpful (and amusing), as usual. You’re awesome!

2 years ago

I remember being confused by Scharfschütze the first time I heard it.

“Im Schutz der Dunkelheit” could be “under the cover of darkness”.

2 years ago

I get to learn german through this blog because of the kind people who are sponsoring. Thanks a lot. I promise to spread the kindness when i can.
Thank you, Emanuel

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
2 years ago

Immer mit einem Schuß Humor ! Du hast mir heute zu lachen gebraucht. WIE könnte man an elften Stock( Etage) eines Hochhäuser geschossen werden ?
Vielen Dank Emmanuel und ebenso für deine Assistentin.