Word of the Day – “der Staub”

staub-meaningHello everyone,

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

der Staub


and we don’t have to look very far to find it. Actually, I’m looking at it right now because it’s on my screen. But we can find it anywhere… on our books, on our shelves, under our beds, on our plants, even on our pizza. At least I had some on mine. I’m a slow eater, I guess. Or maybe it’s just time to vacuum again. Anyway, Staub is all around us and no, it’s not love.It’s dust. And Staub is a really good word for dust. I don’t know… this sudden ending on b just kind of mirrors the “suffocating-ness” that a lot of Staub can have. I don’t know how to explain it but at least to me Staub sounds the part and that’s why I never had trouble remembering it.
What? Because I’m a native speaker? Oh, I guess that helps, too.
Anyway, let’s look at some examples.

And of course we have to mention the super common word for to vacuum or to hoover, which is as descriptive as it can get: staubsaugen to suck dust.

Seriously!! Why isn’t there a norm for freakin’ Staubsaugerbeutel? Germany has a DIN-norm for everything. Even for stool… What? There isn’t one for stool?!?! What the hell am I making an effort for every morni… anyway, I digest… uh… I mean digress.

We’ve seen a lot of compounds but there’s also a bunch of verbs based on Staub.
and verstauben are about the process of collecting dust and abstauben (and entstauben) about the removal.

Abstauben also has a colloquial side meaning. It expresses the idea of making a great deal with little effort… usually in a quick manner. It’s especially common in sports.

Cool, so that’s Staub and it’s definitely a good word to remember. For me, it’s the sound that helps… what? Native … oh whatever.  So if the sound alone doesn’t cut it, maybe the history helps. And there’s actually a few surprise connections waiting for us.

Staub comes from the verb stieben, and stieben is pretty much what dust does when you blow on it:

fly up and around suddenly and quickly in a crazy fashion.

It’s not completely clear where this verb comes from but one theory traces it back to the dusty Indo-European root *dheu, which brought us English words like dumb, damp, typhoon and … drumroll… dust, in German the German words Dunst (a light fog, a haze, a mist),  Dampf (steam), Duft (scent) or taub (deaf, numb).
Wow, what a crazy range. But all these words actually share one common idea – the idea of a cloud. Let’s see: clouds are often made of water and can make you wet. That gives us damp, Dunst, Duft and Dampf, A cloud can also darken your vision and senses, so there we got dumb, taub and deaf. And clouds can consist of little particles that fly around like crazy, which is the connection to typhoon. Of course the Indo-Europeans didn’t know a thing about particles. But think of a flock of birds. Or of the spark of a camp fire when you throw a new log into it.
As I said, it’s not 100% certain that stieben comes from this root, but it would make a lot of sense. Anyway, the core of stieben is to fly up and around like crazy and so Staub is “the one that flies up like crazy.”
And there are actually a few more words in that family.

Bestäuben is the German word for to pollinate – the bees inflict “dust” on the flower. A Zerstäuber is an atomizer or vaporizer, the thing that turns the perfume from a liquid into a cloud of little drips, a Schneegestöber is a combination of a lot of snow coming down with a lot of wind. And last but not least, there’s the verb stöbern which is about aimlessly foraging through stuff.

Especially in old book stores stöbern definitely involves a lot of Staub.

And that’s it for today. This was our look at Staub. It means dust, it might actually be related to dust and in either case it comes from the idea of particles flying up in a crazy fashion.
Take a look at the vocab section to review all the words of today and get some extras. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you enjoyed it and see you next time.

** vocab **

der Staub – the dust
staubig – dusty

einstauben, verstauben – to collect dust (“verstauben” is also used for mind sets)
verstaubt – dusty (also in the abstract sense of “reactionary”)

entstauben – thoroughly remove the dust off of something
abstauben – to dust off, also: to snatch in the sense of to get

der Feinstaub – fine dust
staubsaugen – to vacuum clean, to hoover
der Staubsauger – the vacuum cleaner, the hoover
der Staubsaugerbeutel – the vacuum bag
der Blütenstaub – pollen, dust (botany)

stieben (gestoben) – fly up and around in a crazy fashion, to spray
das Schneegestöber – snow flurry, snowsquall
stöbern – thrift, dig (through archives and stores)

zerstäuben (zerstäubt)  – sputter, spray, nebulize
der Zerstäuber – atomizer, vaporizer, spray bottle (common for perfume)
bestäuben – to pollinate, to (be-)dust, to sprinkle, (primarily used for what bees do)

der Dampf – the steam, vapor
der Dunst – light fog, haze
der Duft – the scent
die Dunstabzugshaube – the cooker hood, kitchen hood
taub – deaf, numb (for joints)

for members :)

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I thought you said Komisch meant weird and not funny?


Der Ball prallte vom Torwart direkt for Thomas’ Füße gefaustet. Der brauchte nur noch abstauben.
The ball bounced right in front of Thomas’ feet; he just needed to nick it.
(the dictionary dict.cc suggested that “to sponge” would also work in this context. Is that true?? Natives speakers, assemble)

“Sponge” klingt comisch. Aber “clean up” geht. Und Strichpunkte sind fast nie im umgangssprachliche Englisch genutzt, Komma würde besser sein.


But that’s like, the perfect use of a semicolon. For a native english speaker, that kinda semicolonin’ would be good. But, for a non-native speaker, it’s fantastic.


“Sponge” hat mehr eine negative Bedeutung auf Englisch, und fordert auch, dass was der “Sponger” bekommt, wird von jemandem andere weggenommen. Ein gutes Beispiel:

Thomas ist 35 Jahre alt und wohnt noch bei seinen Eltern, ohne Miete zu bezahlen -> Thomas sponges off his parents.

In diesem Sinne, wie einer Schwamm, nimmt er Raum, Essen und vielleicht Geld von seinen Eltern auf. (Ist “aufnehmen” ein gutes Wort hier? Auf Englisch: “absorb”).


Ein paar mehr Notizen:
“Particulate Matter” (oder “PM”) ist nutzt für “Feinstaub”, oft mit Stückchen Große (z.B. PM2.5). Particulate matter bedeutet, die kleine Stückchen, die von Autos u.a. gemacht werden und die Asthma und andere Atemprobleme verursachen. Fine dust ist wenig specifisch, weil dust normalerweise fine ist.
“Mind set” sollte ein Wort sein.
Ich denke, ich höre “range hood” oftener als “cooker hood” or “kitchen hood”.

Warum ist das Wort gleich für “deaf” und “numb”?? Es gibt individuelle Wörter für andere Sinnstörungen (z.B. blind)… Es war sehr virwirrend (oder irritierend? das Wort irritiert mich noch), als ich dacte, dass mein Arzt wissen wollte, ob mein Beine deaf war.

Gibt es eine Beziehung zwischen “Staub” und “Stau”? (Als Englischmutterspracher, beide klingen mir stuffy und stagnant.)

George Painter
George Painter

In you vocab list, the spelling should be der Zerstäuber


der Ball prallte vom Torwart direkt for Thomas’ Füße gefaustet. Der brauchte nur noch abstauben.
The ball bounced right in front of Thomas’ feet; he just needed to nick it.

Both nick and sponge seem a bit off to be here, although nick is better. Nick has the connotation of stealing something by grabbing it.Sponge means literally ‘clean with a sponge’ and metaphorically sponge off means ‘take money or goods from someone else without an intention to return’. So you sponge the dust off a table, or a friend might keep sponging beers off you at the bar.

I would suggest the word ‘snatch’ or ‘pluck’ here, as they imply a quick and easy motion.

he just needed to snatch it.
he just needed to pluck it up.

Ansonstens, sehr interessanter und lustiger Artikel! Bin immer spannend darauf einen neuen Pfost im Feed zu sehen.


Re. Feinstaub, “fine dust” does not sound idiomatic to me. I’d go for “particulate matter”, but that might confuse some people?

Die Feinstaubbelastung in Berlin zu reduzieren, gibt es die sogenannte Umweltplakette.
In order to reduce pollution from particulate matter in Berlin, the so-called Umweltplakette has been introduced.


Thomas und sein Fußball: He just needed to tap/knock/nudge it in. Er ist Stürmer, nicht Verteidiger, ja?


… the dusty Indo-European root *dheu, which brought us English words like … typhoon

Was? Nein, das glaube ich nicht. “Literaturangabe benötigt.”


I have to say that your blog is heaps cool. In fact the more that I learn about German the more I think about how cool the language actually is. English just seems to be too sophisticated to have a word like Staubsauger,

Lorna O'Donoghue

What is the best word to express that you get something without doing much of the work, just by chance. “abstauben” works in sports but also for example for shopping on a flee market or something. or in a sale…..

How about to snap it up …for the shopping context?

I came across your blog through a German Adjectives for Dummies search on google … one happy dummy here ;-)

Lorna O'Donoghue

As in … to snap up an opportunity …

Ken Palmer
Ken Palmer

I would translate it as “the ball rebounded from the goalkeeper straight to Thomas’ feet. He just had to tap it in” “Nick “doesn’t really work here, its more usually used in sports like golf or snooker.Nick as a verb is used though as in ” he nicked the ball from the keeper”. Sponge doesn’t work at all


It should be “direkt vor Thomas’ Füße”, shouldn’t it? Not “direkt for Thomas’ Füße”.
I agree that “tap it in” is the usual English expression. “Tap in” is also used as a noun – a goal scored so easily. “Poke it in” might be heard occasionally, especially if it was a “toe poke”.
There’s an interesting website – languagecaster.com – “Learning English through football”. Any chance of a “Deutsch lernen durch Fußball” corner here?


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