Word of the Day – ” steigen”

steigen-meaning-germanHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day.
This time, with a look at the meaning of

steigen

 

Steigen is one of these verbs that kind of flies below the radar of many students even thoug it is a super useful word that you can hear or see every day. And not only steigen itself. There are several cool prefix versions, some funky differences between these versions, some annoying things about translating them to English and there are also one or two or three or four or five surprising family members. So we definitely have enough to talk about, and I’d say let’s get on board of the Steigen-Express… “Einsteigen bitte”,  doors are closing, and off we go :).

Steigen comes from the kind of very super old Indo-European root *steigh. The original idea of that root was something along the lines of striding, walking with the added notion going upward. Like hiking up a mountain. Or walking up stairs. And guess where the word stair comes from. (yes, the same root.)
Now, walking up stairs or hiking up a mountain are not only good visual images, they’re also actual meanings of steigen because the verb really hasn’t changed much over the years.

  • Treppensteigen hält fit.
  • Walking up stairs keeps you fit.
    (only used as a noun!! If you need the verb you’d say “die Treppe hochgehen“)
  • Gibt es Müsli extra für Bergsteiger?
  • Is there a muesli specifically for climbers/mountaineers?
    (The answer is yes. Here.  Oh and the website explicitly labels lactose free because… cereals. )

Now, the fact that the original idea of the verb is still alive doesn’t mean that there has been some evolution of course.  First of, there are a couple of related words that are focused on the walking: der Steig and der Steg.  Steig is ultra-uber-don’t-even-use-it rare … except in the combination with Bürger. And no, I’m not gonna do that bun.. oh… too late. Anyway,  Bürger, which comes from Burg by the way, means citizen. Bürgersteig is where the citizens walk… the side walk.
The other word, der Steg, which is pronounced with a loooong “eh”,  is that wooden thing at a lake or shore where you tie up your boat at or just sit on watching the sunset…  the dock/pier. And combined with Lauf it’s a very particular path, one that is MADE for striding ;)

  • Ich sitze gerne auf dem Steg und gucke auf den See.
  • I like sitting on the dock looking at the lake.
  • Viele junge Mädchen träumen von einer Karriere auf dem Laufsteg.
  • Many young girls dream of a career on the catwalk/runway.
  • Auf dem Bürgersteig bitte absteigen.
  • Please get off the bike on the sidewalk.

Now, the last example has absteigen in it and that brings us right to a very important group of prefix versions of steigen that are all about getting on or off or in or out of means of transportation.

Prefix Versions of steigen

Back in the day people used horses and horse carriages and ox carriage and there you had to “climb up” the Steigbügel (stirrup….  and this is also related to steigen)  or some stairs. Same for old trains, buses and the first cars.
And even today you have to make a somewhat stride-y  step to get on certain trains.
So people kept the verb even though today’s buses with their awesome tilt technology are like “I’m gonna bend down for you so you can get in”… wait… I think that’s what she s… anyways. There are five verbs in total. Einsteigen and aussteigen are getting in/on and off and they work for cars, trams, buses, heck even planes.  Aufsteigen and absteigen are for bikes and motorcycles (because you’re really on top) and leaving one transportation thingy to enter another is  umsteigen. And then there is zusteigen which means to enter a bus or a train in which there are already some people… so it just shifts the focus a bit on the idea of joining the others. But I only ever hear it in trains when they welcome new travelers.
Oh,  and if you need a noun… that’ll be der [blah]-stieg.

  • Thomas steigt aus dem Porsche aus.
  • Thomas gets out of the Porsche.
  • “How was the journey?”
    “Boah the connection sucks balls. I had to switch/change trains 4 times to get here.”
  • “Wie war die Fahrt?”
    “Boah, die Verbindung ist voll scheiße. Ich musste 4 mal umsteigen, um hierherzukommen.”
  • Erst aussteigen lassen, dann einsteigen. 
  • Let people get out before you enter.
  • Nächster Halt Ostbahnhof. Ausstieg links.
  • Next stop Ostbahnhof. Exit on the left.

Now, this traffic context is super important but the verbs are not limited to it. Especially einsteigen and aussteigen are used in a broader, more abstract sense of getting in/out of things… mostly for projects or deals or bets or stuff like that.

  • The Lumix 60E camera is the perfect model for beginners/novices.
  • Die Lumix 60E Kamera ist das perfekte Einsteigermodel.
  • Legalisierungsgegner bezeichnen Marijuana als Einstiegsdroge.
  • Those opposed to legalization call Marijuana a starter drug.
  • Der Regisseur ist aus dem Projekt ausgestiegen.
  • The director (film) left the project.
  • Der Atomaustieg ist nicht unumstritten, und der Umstieg auf erneuerbare Energien geht nicht von heute auf morgen.
  • The exit from nuclear power is controversial and the  a transition/switch to renewable energies can’t be done overnight.
    (umsteigen sounds a bit more like work that transition or switch… like… get your luggage off the train, search for the new track, get all your luggage on the new train find your seat blah blah blah)

All right.
Now, let’s get to the other part of steigen. And that is all about the upward notion.

steigen – going up

This is actually the main meaning of the stand alone steigen – to go up. Not in sense of walking stairs but in sense of rising and increasing  in context of all kinds of numbers or measures but also for things

  • Die Spannung steigt.
  • Excitement is building.
    Lit.: The tension is increasing.
    (The German phrase is super common  in positive contexts… like some
    cool event coming closer… what would be idiomatic in that situation?)
  • Im Herbst lassen Kinder gerne Drachen steigen.
  • In fall kids like to fly a kite.
    Lit.: In fall kids like to let dragons soar/rise.
  • Die Chancen auf ein Date sind nach der Sache auf der Party nicht gerade gestiegen.
  • Chances for a date didn’t exactly increase after that thing at the party.
  • Heute haben in Berlin 10.000 Menschen gegen steigende Mieten demonstriert.
  • Today 10.000 rallied against rising rent.

Of course there are also prefix versions here…. mainly two. The first one is ansteigen and this one is really super similar to steigen. In fact, I don’t really know how to tell them apart. Sometimes steigen is more idiomatic, sometimes ansteigen is. Sometimes it’s just a rhythm thing …. like… maybe having a prefix at the end of the sentence makes it flow better. But the meanings are essentially the same. What’s really important is the noun der Anstieg because that’s the noun for both, steigen AND ansteigen

  • Die Nachfrage nach glutenfreien Produkten steigt seit Jahren kontinuierlich an.
  • The demand for gluten free products has been increasing continuously for years.
    (here, having the an there really gives it a better flow than ending
    with kontinuierlich… an brings closure, if that makes sesen)
  • Die Politik will einen Anstieg der Arbeitslosigkeit verhindern.
  • Politics wants to prevent an increase in unemployment.

All right.
The second important prefix-steigen is aufsteigen and aufsteigen is definitely different from the other two because while it does mean to rise, it does NOT mean to increase. Aufsteigen is never about numbers… it’s always about something or someone moving upward. The difference to steigen alone is that steigen just by itself is more of a technical description of an upward movement. What does the balloon do? It steigen. Combined with auf it gets this vibe of “from the bottom to the top”… like…

  • Thomas steigt in der Firma auf.
  • Thomas makes a career in the company/rises through the ranks.
  • Vom Teich steigt Nebel auf.
  • Fog is rising from the pond.
  • Der steile Aufstieg der Partei ist schwer zu erklären.
  • The rapid rise of the party is hard to explain.

Cool.
So these were the most important steigen-words, I think. There are a few more out there and you might find the ones we’ve talked about in some new situations too but I think with the help of context you’ll get the meanings just fine. Here are a few examples where you can train.

  • Die Straße ist super steil. Die Steigung ist fast 40°. (btw. steil is actually also related to steigen)
  • Popcorn übersteigt leider mein Budget.
  • Wenn das Team nicht absteigen will, müssen sich die Spieler sehr steigern.
  • The road is super steep. The incline is almost 40°.
  • Too bad, popcorn exceeds my budget.
  • If the team doesn’t want to be relegated/go to a lower division, the players will have to step it up/play better.
    (opposite is “aufsteigen”)

Now, before we wrap up there’s one more thing we need to talk about… the verb steigern. With an extra “r”

(sich) steigern

We’ve seen that steigen can mean to increase. But if you want to increase something, then it’s the wrong word. Because grammatically it is 100% like  to rise, to go up. You cannot “steigen something” just like you can’t “rise something”. If you want to MAKE something go up, become morer or betterer,  you need steigern. And if it’s you you want to “increase” then you need a self reference

  • Supermärkte versuchen mit allerlei Tricks die Umsätze zu steigern.
  • Super markets are trying all kinds of tricks to increase the sales/turnover.
  • Der Student hat sich sehr gesteigert.
  • The student has improved/(stepped up his game) a lot.
    (mind the sich… it’s there because you must steigern ALWAYS needs an object)
  • Eine Stunde für 10 Kilometer… ist noch nicht wirklich schnell, aber definitiv eine Steigerung gegenüber letztem Jahr.
  • One hour for 10 kilometers… not really fast yet but definitely an improvement over last year.

Steigern has prefix verbs of it’s own. The most common one is probably versteigern which combines the “make higher” of steigern with the away-idea of ver to …. to auction off. A bit random but hey… why not.

  • Ich habe auf E-Bay mein benutztes Jogging T-Shirt versteigert…. chi ching, sag ich nur, chi ching.
  • I auctioned off my used jogging shirt… chi ching, that’s all I’m sayin’!

The brother of that is ersteigern which is the same, just from the perspective of the buyer.

  • Ich habe mir eine Couch ersteigert.
  • I bought a couch at an auction.

And last but not least we have sich hineinsteigern or colloquially sich reinsteigern which means to get deeper and deeper into something to the point of getting lost. Not in sense of caves of course. It’s for abstract things like weird thoughts and stuff like that. The verb is only used in that one particular sense but still it’s fairly common because we’re all human

  • Sorry, dass ich so eifersüchtig war. Ich hab’ dich mit dem Kollegen gesehen und dann hab ich mich in was reingesteigert.
  • Sorry that I was so jealous. I saw you with the colleague and then I just imagined more and more things.
    (no idea if this is a good translation)
  • “Oh Gott oh Gott, morgen hab ich meine Prüfung. Ich mach mir echt Sorgen, dass ich ein Black Out kriege. Ist mir schon öfter passiert.”
    “Naja, du darfst dich da nicht so reinsteigern. Sonst kriegst du nämlich wirklich eins.”
  • “Oh god, oh god, tomorrow I have my exam. I’m so worried that I could get a black out. It happened to me quite a few times already.”
    “Well you shouldn’t obsess over it. Because otherwise you WILL get one.”

Now, it would be good to come up with a really smooth transition but then again, hey… it’s not good to reinsteigern oneself into things too much so…  we’re done ;).
This was our German Word of the Day steigen. It’s related to the English word stair (and the old sty) The core is to make strides upward, and the two main fields of meaning are getting on and off means of transportation and rising.
As always, if you have any questions about any of this just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** vocab **

steigen – to rise, increase, go up (rare also: to climb)

einsteigen – get on/in (for traffic, but also projects and stuff)
der Einstieg – the getting started, the first steps (also: entrance/entering in subway)
aussteigen – get out/off (same notes as einsteigen)
der Auststieg – the getting out, the exit (for trains and stuff)
umsteigen – switch from one to the other (for means of transportation but also abstract things)
der Umstieg – the switch from one to the other
zusteigen – enter a train or bus in which there are already people .. only in formal context
absteigen – get off the bike, descend (climbing), to be relegated (sports)
der Abstieg – the descend, the relegation
aufsteigen – rise (rare), be promoted, “go up” one series (sports)
der Aufstieg – the rise (for people and things climbing the ladder, not prices)
aufsteigende Reihenfolge – ascending order
ansteigen – have an incline, rise, increase (very similar to steigen alone)
der Anstieg – the increase (for all kinds of numbers…prices, values etc)
der Bahnsteig – the train track (at the station, the part where people wait)
der Bürgersteig – the sidewalk

übersteigen – exceed, surpass (usually for negative things)
besteigen – climb on top of (rare, sometimes used for sex)

die Steigung – the incline
steil – steep

steigern – increase (something)
sich steigern
– improve one’s performance
die Steigerung – the increase, also: improvement
versteigern – to auction off
die Versteigerung – the auction
ersteigern – to buy at an auction

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Marlon
Marlon
3 months ago

Hallo Emanuel –

Ich lese gerade diese Geschichte und der Autor scheint zwischen der Verwendung von „steigen“ mit und ohne Präfix zu wechseln. Zwei Beispiele aus der Geschichte:

Die beiden Männer steigen in den Lastwagen

Ich steige hinten in den Lastwagen ein

Gibt es dafür einen stilistischen Grund oder ändert sich die Bedeutung? Gibt es einen grammatikalischen Grund für die Verwendung des einen oder des anderen?

Danke

unmensch
unmensch
5 months ago

Hello, I’m just curious about

  • “Der Regisseur ist aus dem Projekt ausgestiegen.
  • The director (film) left the project.”

Are two “aus” necessary? Could you say “Der Regisseur ist dem Projekt ausgestiegen.”? Thank you

Jocylin
Jocylin
1 year ago

Hi –

Are wechseln and umsteigen similar in the context of changing transportation methods? I saw in another post that wechseln was not similar to umziehen.

Thanks

lokiuucx
lokiuucx
1 year ago

Hey Emanuel,

In diesen Sätzen, welches Verb würde am besten passen (welches Verb würde idiomatischer klingen):
– Ich soll mal auf das Dach steigen/klettern um es sauber zu machen.
– Wann bist du Kilimandscharo gestiegen/geklettert?

Bei dem zweiten Satz sollte man “bist” oder “hast” benutzen? Wenn man die Regel folgt, sollte “bist” sein, aber in diesem Satz gibt es ein direkt Objekt (Kilimandscharo) sollte dann nicht “haben” sein? (ich habe den Kilimandscharo gestiegen/geklettert?).

Vielen dank,

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

Gloria Tirado

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

Super! Meine deutsche worter sind allen weg. Ich danke sie.

Max
5 years ago

Hello, I understand that absteigen is to get off the bike or motorcycle, but what is it to get on it? Is it also einsteigen?

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

I guess there’s no clear difference then between “zunehmen” and “steigen”: Die Spannung steigt – Die Spannung nimmt zu?

Joshua
Joshua
6 years ago

Another great post! :)

I have doubt about the word “erhöhen”. Should it be used like “steigen” (without mentioning who increases sth) or like “steigern” (mentioning who increases sth)?

Joshua
Joshua
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks a lot! :)

Javier
Javier
6 years ago

Why is it that “aus” appears twice in “Thomas steigt aus dem Porsche aus.”?

Thanks for the post by the way..

Javier
Javier
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yes, it helps. It justs feels very weird (for now) to see the same word twice. Thanks!

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

“sich reinsteigern” sounds/feels like “to get oneself all worked up”

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yes, in English the “over/about X” can be omitted.

eknehr
6 years ago

Eine kurze Frage.

Ich glaube, mindestens drei Verben werden üblicherweise verwendet, die ähnliche Bedeutungen haben. Steigen, erhöhen und steigern.
Du hast klar erklärt wie die Verben steigen und steigern unterschiedlich sind. Wann würde man erhöhen anstelle von steigern verwenden? Oder habe ich was ganz misverstanden?

Vielen Dank für einen anderen interessanten Beitrag. Es gibt so viele Information, dass ich alles auf einmal nicht aufnehmen kann! Das ist aber gut und ich bin dankbar, dass ich irgendetwas mit ausführlichen Daten zu lesen habe, wenn ich bereit werde, weitere Dinge zu lernen. Wenn ich Probleme mit anderen Programmen haben, kann ich normalerweise diese Webseite nutzen, um alles aufzuklaren. Sehr gut gemacht!

Ich freue mich auch auf dein Buch. Sag uns bitte Bescheid, wann und wie wir es kaufen kann.

Eric

Manuel
Manuel
6 years ago

Hi! Thanks for the post!

I knew another verb to describe the notion of increase: “mehren”. For example: “Rufe nach Rücktritt von VW-Chef Winterkorn mehren sich”. What would you say is the difference? And what is your book about? Ich bin gespannt, dass du ein Buch schreibst!

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“Multiply,” maybe?

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yeah, that’s generally translated “be fruitful and multiply” (the New International Version has “increase in number,” though).

Germans just love puns, huh?

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ha, yeah… a lot of the issue is that the shadow of the King James translation really hangs heavily over any newer translation effort (like Luther here). Many of the popular translations these days are actually self-consciously in the KJV tradition (like the ESV that I usually use), so they tend to hold on to a lot of those familiar formulations unless they’ve gotten really archaic. The NIV, though, was a deliberate effort back in the ’70s to make a fresh start direct from the original texts, without reliance on older translations (hence “New” International Version), and while I don’t know that they would admit it, I think they somewhat self-consciously avoided a lot of those formulations in many places.

It’s actually been really interesting to try to figure out what German Bible translation to use for myself. It doesn’t seem like there really is one that’s all that great – Luther ’84 is OK but still tends to read pretty archaic; Schlachter and Elberfelder are very accurate but are basically ugly or at least non-idiomatic German; Einheitsübersetzung is solid but can be kind of technical for general use. The more modern and idiomatic versions (Neue Genfer, Gute Nachricht, Neues Leben, Hoffnung für Alle) run increasingly toward paraphrase rather than translation.

It’s just kind of weird, because in English there are really a lot of translations that are both idiomatic and accurate (to varying degrees, sure, but all usable).

Nikolaus Wittenstein
Nikolaus Wittenstein
6 years ago

“Boah the connection sucks balls. I had to switch/change trains 4 times to get here.”
You can also say “I had to transfer 4 times to get here.”

“Boah, die Verbindung ist voll scheiße. Ich musste 4 mal umsteigen um hierherzu kommen.”
hierher zu should be two words, right? I’m having a crisis of faith here.

“Those opposed to legalization call Marijuana a starter drug.”
AKA a “gateway drug”.

Thanks again for a great article!

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Should be “um hier herzukommen”, because the verb in question is “herkommen”?

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

treiben?

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Suchen Sie nach “treiben” auf dieser Seite.

Swag the Swag
6 years ago

Ich versuche, auf Deutsch zu schreiben.

Ich danke Ihnen für die Anki Flashcards und den Artikel. Die Anki Flashcards sind sehr hilfreich. Deine Posts hat mir sehr viel gehelfen, aber in diesem Artikel gibt es nicht so viel Witze. :( Ich glaube, dass ich mehr bei lustigen Artikelen lerne.

Niemals habe ich das Wort “jetty” gehört. Ich sage “dock” oder “pier.”

Ich hoffe, dass meine erste Kommentar nicht so schlecht ist. :D

eknehr
6 years ago
Reply to  Swag the Swag

As a professional mariner, I would say there is a big difference between a jetty and a dock/pier. Ships moor at docks and piers. A jetty is often piled up rocks and stuff used for a lot of other purposes, like breaking up wave patterns that lead to beach erosion.

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  eknehr

Would a line of thick wooden posts used for that purpose (breaking up currents/wave patterns at a beach) be a jetty as well? We were just up on the Ostsee/Baltic coast a couple of weeks ago, and the beach nearest us had a whole series of them – and I had no idea what they’d even be called in English.

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I thought they were pretty. :) We were in Zempin (on Usedom), where there are only about 6-8 of them over a stretch of maybe a kilometer.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

The term that comes to mind is “breakwater”, but funnily enough, I saw this just the other day: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-dorset-34254958 . So maybe they were “groynes”?

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

I’m gonna go with “groynes.” Glorious word.

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

It’s like “groins” but more olde-timey and British.

rob
rob
6 years ago

Thanks for the flashcards, they are really useful!

Danilo
Danilo
6 years ago

Hey Emanuel,

Great work as always.
I was watching Jurassic Park with a friend and she said: “If that happened I would be the first to be eaten”
I realized these conditional constructions are a little complicated for me. Sometimes I see stuff with wäre, other times I see wär, worden. hahaha
Don’t you wanna make another entry into your online course and teach us how to make them?
Have no idea how much work that would be, but if you do it I make a nice donation!

Thanks

Danilo
Danilo
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks a lot, it sure helps.
What is your book about?

dif1754
dif1754
6 years ago

Great article as usual!
One question:
Auf dem Bürgersteig bitte absteigen.
Please get off the bike on the sidewalk.

In the German sentence I don’t see any reference to a bike.

Am I missing something?
:-)

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“On the sidewalk, please dismount.” That similarly covers everything. :-)

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I don’t think it is un-idiomatic, but I suppose it is somewhat more “erhoben” than “get off”. You definitely see “dismount” on signs – do a google image search for “please dismount”.

Daniel
Daniel
6 years ago

Total unheimlich. Ich habe heute morgen den Artikel gelesen, und kurz danach hat ein deutscher Freund von mir das Wort benutzt. Zweimal in einem Tag, aber nie vorher gehört!

Toller Artikel wie immer. Aber sicherlich fehlt da “Bahnsteig” yu den Abstammungen von “Steig”. Das hörte ich sehr oft in Deutschland.

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

“Beachten Sie bitte die Lücke zwischen Zug und Bahnsteigkante”

Daniel
Daniel
6 years ago
Reply to  Daniel

Hab vergessen das Wort zu erwähnen! Ich meinte /reinsteigern/. Steigen kenne ich ja natürlich ;).