Word of the Day – “der Lohn”

lohn-sich-lohnen-meaningHello everyone,

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

der Lohn


A great word to know, though we’ll also talk about something really incredibly boring. But we’ll also look at the meaning of the verb lohnen, and that’s totally worth it. Like… for real. Like… literally.

Lohn sounds a lot like the English word loan and the main use of both of them is money that you get. But that’s just a coincidence because the two are not related. And Lohn is muuuuuuch cooler because… you don’t have to pay it back. 
The origin of Lohn is the super ancient Indo-European root lau. Lau was about the idea of winning or gaining something and naturally, first this was focused on raiding and hunting, a meaning that has largely been preserved in the Slavic branch where the descendants of lau mean prey, loot. In Latin on the other hand, the root shifted to a more general sense of gain, benefit, profit. That’s where lucrative comes from, by the way.
The German Lohn evolved in a similar way but already 1000 years ago it had shifted its focus toward the idea of reward, gratification for some work or effort. And with the rise of regular paid labor came the main meaning Lohn has today: wage.

Now, those of you who have worked in Germany most certainly know the other common word  for wage, salary: das Gehalt. On official documents like the tax return blue print or an application for a Wohnberechtigungsschein (yeah… I know it’s looong), the two are treated as two distinct things – a fact that causes a lot of confusion because very few people actually know the difference. Neither did I, so I had Daniel, my intern, prepare a little write up…  I’ll read it to you now.

 Das Gehalt is a monthly fixed total that does not really depend on the
amount of hours you’re working. Like… if your contract says “1800 brutto”
(1800 before tax) , then that’s a Gehalt. Lohn on the other hand is paid
based on hours and even when you’re working as a regular employee you
can get a different payout every month. That’s why it’s  Stundenlohn
(hourly wage)  and Mindestlohn (minimum wage) and
NOT  Stundengehalt or Mindestgehalt. The general term for both
and Gehalt is das Entgelt and the proper term for sick pay, which

people usually call Lohnfortzahlung im Krankheitsfall (“lit.: forth-
payment of wage in case of illness
“), is actually Entgeldfortzahlu

yaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwnnnnnn… my god, this is soooo boring. And there are still 10 pages. Daniel, dude, why did you make that so boring…..  what?…… boring topic? No man, there’s no such thing as a boring topic. There’s just boring presentation… yeah… look, we’re live so I can’t explain that now but we’ll talk later, okay… … … cool… oh, can you fetch me a coffee?Thanks.
All right.
So der Lohn is about the idea of compensation, gratification for some sort of work you did and the most common meaning is wage. Definitely a good word to know but what makes it REALLY useful are the related verbs


There are two prefix verbs based on Lohn: entlohnen and belohnen. Entlohnen is some fancy version for  to (financially) compensate  but it’s pretty rare and I don’t think it’s worth learning.

Belohnen  on the other hand is super useful. Taken our standard be-idea we get “to inflict compensation” or “to put compensation upon someone” and it doesn’t take too much mind bending to get from that to the real meaning: to reward.

Now you might be wondering if there’s also a stand-alone verb lohnen. Well, a few hundred years back, it did exist and it  simply meant “to compensate someone”. Today, only one version is still in use…  sich lohnen.
Yeah… German really does love itself some self reference.
Literally, sich lohnen  means something like “to pay, compensate for itself” and that’s really not too far from the actual meaning… to be worth it.

German also has es wert sein, which is the more literal equivalent to to be worth it.

but es wert sein sounds a bit grander, more epic. Sich lohnen is for every day stuff and it has some vibe of  “great deal” in it, though you wouldn’t use it in context of actual shopping.

I know it might be a little bit tricky to use this,  with the weird sich but it’s worth trying… es lohnt sich, es zu versuchen.

And I think that’s it for today. This was our look at the meaning of der Lohn. As always, if you have any question or suggestions or if you want to try out some examples with lohnen and get them corrected, just leave me a comment.
I hope you enjoyed it and see you next time.
Oh and to really hammer the structure of sich lohnen  into your head, here’s a link to a famous old Schlager called “Liebeskummer lohnt sich nicht”… viel Spaß :)

(dear copyright lawyers, I posted a link here. In case it gets transformed into a video window let me know)

** vocab **

der Lohn – the gratification,  wage, reward (for work done)
der Mindestlohn – the minimum wage
der Stundenlohn – hourly wage
die Lohnerhöhung – wage increase

das Gehalt – the salary
die Gehaltserhöhung – the pay raise
das Einstiegsgehalt – the entry wage/starting salary
die Gehaltsvorstellungen – the salary expectation (often asked in job offers)

sich lohnen – to be worth it, to be a good deal
lohnend – lucrative

belohnen – reward 
die Belohnung – the reward (a bit like a price)

entlohnen – compensate (financially, rare and formal)

** click here to download all the audio files as a zip-archive ***

for members :)

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Es lohnt sich wirklich diese Post zu lesen. Geil als immer, danke!

David Rogers
David Rogers

Does “Maximal 1000 Euro warm” really translate to “No more than 900 Euro all included”?


Thank you for the post!!! Keep the good work :)


Wow! I had no idea there was so much more to Your Daily German! And I was already impressed! I immediately subscribed, once I realized there was more. Thank you for this incredibly useful – and fun! – resource. Es lohnt sich! (Where would you put an adverb?)

Oh, and in the sentence “The hourly wage in Maria’s new job..”, I would use FOR, or even AT, rather than IN. Pesky prepositions.


I want to thank everyone who donates to Emanuel and to this website, it has given me the opportunity to study on my own.

Thank you so much for your kindness!

Keep up the good work Emanuel, you really put a lot of effort on this site and responding to every single email and message. Amazing work, thanks for actually caring.


Ich finde, dass es sich wirklich lohnt, alle Bemerkungen der Leute immer zu lesen, nicht nur Emanuels Blog!
Habe ich das richtig gesagt? Vielen Dank!


Toller Blog-Post, wie immer :) Früher hast du eine Datei mit all den Audioclips vom Blog-Post beigefügt, aber findest du jetzt, dass es sich vielleicht nicht mehr lohnt? (Wenn es braucht mehr als zwei Klicken zu tun, dann bitte mach dir keine Sorgen darüber)


Ich habe diesen Blogeintrag zu Ende gelesen, und was war die Belohnung? Ich habe gelernt, wie das Verb ‘sich lohnen’ funktioniert. Es war es auf jeden Fall wert. Es lohnt sich immer sehr, hier zu kommen.


Hi, cool article as always. And I did not think that the rundown on the difference between “Gehalt” and “Lohn” was boring. You should cut your intern some slack. They appear to be changing names quite quickly.
As you write about the phrase “es wert sein” in the context of “lohnen”, that reminded me of the beautiful adjective: “lohnenswert”, which somehow combines these two so similar words. It does not mean anything else than “lohnend”, it mght be a touch stronger, but I think the reason why it is ‘worthwhile’ to use is the sound.
Anyway, thanks for the enjoyment of the week in language related topics.


Haha agree..i thought u had still the intern from the biergartens..also sind die sommer urlabe nein??


ZB: Der Lohn ist schlecht. Es ist nicht wert.


Mein Job gebe mir einen guten Lohn.

Adriano de Almeida Marcato
Adriano de Almeida Marcato

So, you already know the link transformed into a video window… right?


Ja..kein bock (do u use it a lot un daily gesprach, cuz it seems pretty useful,..danke viel …you dudes are very gracious for taking the time to answer..jetz alles ist klar..


“Kein bock” und “bar geld” For some reason these stayed on my mind..as a freudian slip…you should do a post on “geil werbung”,cool publicity ads.. Like super geil” super leute

Ano Menschkind Königin
Ano Menschkind Königin

Und noch wie immer, lohnt es sich deine Blogpost zu lesen :)

Ne, echt; du hast keine Ahnung wie hilfreich du für mich bist; wegen dir habe ich ungefähr 70% meines Deutsches gelernt (wahrscheinlich soll ich auch meine ABF dafür Kredit geben ^^) Danke für alles & vor allem die Geschichte die du uns vorliest… ich muss sagen, du hast eine beruhigende Stimme

Das ist wohl nicht… erlaubt, aber… wie beeindruckt man einen deutschen Mann? Ich möchte es für die Zukunft gern wissen =••=


Es lohnt sich auf die Hochschule zu gehen.

Wir haben in Norwegen ungefähr eine gleich worte; lønn.

I’m very courious, does the singer in the video sound German in her accent? I googled her and found out she is swedsh. To my ears she might had a bit of a nordic tone to her language.

Jessica Cz
Jessica Cz


Do you have anything on Nominalisierung/ Verbalisierung?


Jessica Cz
Jessica Cz

Oh, that’s too bad :(

Problem is I do not know what exactly i mean either- that’s the problem.

I am currently doing a German class in Germany and lucky me we have reached the following topic : Nominalisierung/Verbalisierung … that i just don’t get! Google must no longer be my friend because Google wouldn’t give me anything about it either.
So, because of this (and the fact that i have a test on it next week), I went back to school and asked the teacher if she could go over it again. She smiled and told me that she would photocopy a few things for me about it that might help. It didn’t. It wasn’t an explanation -> she gave me extra homework/exercises on it. What was the point? I don’t know what I am meant to do…so after a few hours I gave up and started looking for the answers at the bottom of the bottle of wine I had started. Again, no answers.

So at this stage all i can do is give you a few of the examples she gave me and maybe you send me in the right direction (maybe google isn’t the place to go to for this):

Example 1: Noch vor dem Ende des Studiums bewarb sie sich bei verschiedenen Firmen um eine Stelle.

Answer : Noch bevor sie das Studium abgeschlossen hatte bewarb sie sich bei verschiedenen Firmen um eine Stelle.

Example 2: Nach Beendigung der Schule begann er seine Ausbildung zum Koch.

Answer: Nachdem er die Schule beendet hatte begann er seine Ausbildung zum Koch.

Example 3 ; Das Publikum klatschte aus Freute über den geglückten Sprung der Eiskunstläuferin.

Answer: Das Publikum klatschte, weil es sich über den geglückten Sprung der Eiskunstlärin freute.

Example 4 : Mn kann die Tür nur mit einem Sicherheitsschlüssel öffnen.

Answer : Mn kann die Tür nur öffnen, indem man einen Sicherheitsschlüssel benutzt. (where did indemn and benutzt come from?)

Example 5 : Zur Erweiterung seines Wortschatzes liest er viele deutsche Bücher.

Answer : Damit er seinen Wortschatz erweitert, liest er viele deutcher Bücher.

That’s all I have on it.
Thanks for your help.



Thank you, that helps a lot! I guess the reason i find it difficult is because my inner dictionary is still very limited. I’ll have to work on it. :)