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.

  • Auf meiner Fitness-DVD ist eine dicke Staubschicht.
  • There’s a thick layer of dust on my fitness-DVD.
  • Maria hat eine Hausstauballergie.
  • Maria is allergic to house dust.
  • “Was ist das?”
    “Das ist ein Traumfänger.”
    “Wohl eher ein Staubfänger.”
    “Haha, sehr komisch.”
  • “What is that?”
    “It’s a dream catcher.”
    “Probably more like a dust catcher.”
    “Haha, very funny.”
  • Marias Kuchen ist staubtrocken.
  • Maria’s cake is dry as dust.
  • Um die Feinstaubbelastung in Berlin zu reduzieren, gibt es die sogenannte Umweltplakette.
  • In order to limit the fine dust pollution in Berlin, the so called Umweltplakette has been introduced.
    (Only “clean” cars get it and without it you are not
    allowed to drive into the inner city… or you will be heavily fined).

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.

  • Ich muss wirklich mal wieder staubsaugen.
  • I really have to/should vacuum again.
  • Warum muss es eigentlich eine Million verschiedene Staubsaugerbeutel geben??
  • Why must there be one million different vacuum cleaner bags??

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.

  • Ich koche zur Zeit so selten – mein Herd ist total eingestaubt.
  • I’m cooking so seldom these days – my stove is all dusty.
  • Ich habe heute meine Bücher abgestaubt (entstaubt).
  •  I dusted my books today.

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.

  • Ich hab auf der Messe ordentlich Give-Aways abgestaubt.
  • I snatched a lot of giveaways at the trade fair.
  • Der Ball prallte vom Torwart direkt vor Thomas’ Füße. Der brauchte nur noch abstauben.
  • The ball bounced right in front of Thomas’ feet; he just needed to snatch, pluck it.

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.

  • Maria liebt es in Buchläden zu stöbern.
  • Maria loves thrifting/rummaging through book stores.

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)

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