Word of the Day – “streichen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And today, we’ll have a look at the meaning of

life

 

And the meaning of life is… uh…  wait… it’s …  uhm… damn it!  It was something with being or something… but I can’t find it right now.
So I guess our look at meaning of life is canceled.
Let’s instead look at the meaning of

streichen

 

Streichen is related to the English word to strike, and by looks and sound, the resemblance is striking (*cue crickets). By meaning not so much though. There, it is much closer to the verb to stroke.
Because the core idea of streichen is to move something somewhat gently across a surface. And there’s a quite a bit that you can do with that idea.

One possible translation is of course to stroke but streichen has somewhat of a direction to it. The word for the caressing-stroking is streicheln.

  • Thomas streicht Maria über den Rücken, während sie schläft.
  • Thomas strokes Maria across the back, while she is sleeping
  • Thomas streichelt Maria den Rücken, während sie schläft.
  • Thomas is stroking Maria’s back, while she is sleeping.
  • Im Streichelzoo darf man die Tiere streicheln.
  • In the petting zoo you’re allowed to pet the animals.

Now, you’ve probably have noticed the blue preposition in the first example and maybe you’re wondering why I highlighted them. Well… we need it 

  • Thomas hat Maria den Rücken gestrichen, während sie geschlafen hat.

That wasn’t loving. That was actually a pretty bad party prank and Maria was really really pissed when she went to the bathroom. Why? Because Thomas painted her back.
Streichen is THE word for to paint (in functional contexts,  so not for art-sy painting).  You move a brush across a surface.

  • Ich muss die Küche streichen, oder ich kriege meine Kaution nicht wieder.
  • I have to paint the kitchen or I won’t get back my deposit.
  • Achtung frisch gestrichen.
  • Caution, wet paint. (lit.: freshly painted)

Now, just like you move a brush across a surface, you also move a pen across the surface. And that’s the key to the next meaning of streichen. Take a looks at this example:

  • Wegen dem Rücken-Streich hat Maria Thomas für zwei Wochen Sex gestrichen.

That doesn’t mean that she made sex more colorful. She basically did this: sex.  She canceled it. Oh and by the way, der Streich is the German word for prank. But it had (and still has to some extend) the same general meaning that strike has… a (very) quick, hard stroke. Sounds like the old Germanic tribes had a very hands-on approach to pranking.
Anyways, so yeah… streichen is also used in the sense of canceling or cutting. It’s a bit formal sounding though, so you’ll most likely see it in the news.

  • Der Chef will den freien Kaffee streichen.
  • The boss wants to cut/scrapes free coffee.
  • Wegen der Finanzkrise hat die Firma 100 Stellen gestrichen.
  • Because of the crisis the company cut 100 positions.

Cool.
Now, of course streichen also has prefix versions but there are really only a few that matter and they’re super intuitive, so let’s just look at some examples

  • Das Wort das Zebra ist durchgestrichen.
  • The word zebra is crossed out.
  • Ich unterstreiche das wichtige Wort verbal.
  • I underline the important word verbally.
  • Die Musik unterstreicht die Stimmung sehr gut.
  • The music underlines the mood very well.
  • Der Lehrer streicht den Fehler an.
  • The teacher marks the mistake by putting a little line there.

And this whole notion of lines brings us right over to the noun der Strich.

By itself is Strich is basically the result of moving a pen over a surface in a somewhat straight line.

  • In der Mitte von diesem Beispiel – gibt es einen Bindestrich.
  • In the middle of this example – the is a hyphen (lit.: binding-stroke/line)
  • Thomas malt ein Strichmännchen auf Marias Rücken.
  • Thomas is painting a stick man on Maria’s back.
  • Maria macht eine Strichliste, wie oft Thomas auf ihren Rücken malt.
  • Maria is making a tally (chart) of how often Thomas paints on her back.
    (is tally the proper word here? A Strichliste is this typical ||||  thing you do with a pen)

As you can see, the uses are pretty literal. For more abstract lines, like a bus line, walking in a  line or the red line, you’d use the word die Linie, but there are a few REALLY common idiomatic phrasings that use Strich.

  • Das Wetter macht uns einen Strich durch die Rechnung. 
  • The weather ruins our plans.
    (Lit.: “makes a line through our calculation”)
  • Unterm Strich ist wichtig, dass Lernen Spaß macht.
  • The bottom line is, it is important that learning is fun.
    (lit.: “below the line”)
  • Die Art, wie Lehrbücher Sprache unterrichten, geht mir gegen den Strich.
  • The way textbooks teach German rubs me the wrong way/goes against what I like.
    (is there a better, more idiomatic way to say this? “rub the wrong way” is a bit strong, I think)

Of course there are also a few nice compounds, but with what we’ve learned so far

  • “Deine Achseln riechen wie vegetarischer Brotaufstrich.”
    “Deine Vergleiche klingen wie Schlagsahne.”
  • “Your arm pits smell like vegetarian bread spread.”
    “Your comparisons sound like whipped cream.”
  • Der Frauenarzt macht einen Abstrich.
  • The gynecologist is taking a smear test.
  • Für den Preis muss man bei der Qualität Abstriche machen. (very common phrasing)
  • For that price you have to make concessions/ lower ones sights with regards to quality.

And then there’s the Strich in context of hookers. Yes, you read that right. Auf den Strich gehen is a very common phrasing for to prostitute oneself and the (Strassen)strich is the area where people do it.
The origin of that phrasing is actually an older meaning of streichen that we haven’t mentioned yet: the idea of walking around, traveling.
The verb itself isn’t used anymore, but the idea still lives on in the noun der Landstreicher (hobo, homeless person traveling) and the verb verstreichen, which is a rare alternative for vergehen in context of time passing.
And if you’re now wondering how that ties in with the rest… well, one way to make a connection is to think of traveling as a moving across the surface of the earth.
But there’s more. You see, the origin of the whole family is the super mega ancient Indo-European root *ster(e)- and the core idea of that root was something like stretching, spreading out, expanding. The stroking streichen has focused on the movement you’re making to spread something. But the noun Strich for instance does carry a notion of a line extending. Just like der Strand (beach) or der Strahl (the ray) and … drum roll please… street. Yes, street is actually a distant cousin to streichen and Strich as are lots of other words like structure or strategy. And I wanted to talk about all those connections in detail but … I think we have to streichen that. Like… cancel it.
“Boooooooooohhhhhhhhh… no meaning of life and now no etymology. Shame on you, Emanuel.”
I know, I know, but in this case, it’s better if we do that in the comments because it’s just too much. If you’re nerd enough, here’s the link to the root *stere on Etymonline … the part that’s unterstrichen is the link :).
And that’s it for today. This was our look at streichen. It’s about moving something about a surface and it can mean to paint as well as to cancel and it’s used in context of making lines with a pen.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to try , just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

** vocab **

streichen – to stroke (directed), cancel, paint (not art)
streicheln – stroke, caress
die Streicheleinheit – the unit of stroking (colloquial phrase for “a little active affection”)

unterstreichen (non-separable) – underline, emphasize
durchstreichen (separable) – to cross out
anstreichen – mark with a line, also: to paint
überstreichen (non-separable) – paint over

verstreichen – to pass (rare, used mostly for time)

der Strich (die Striche) – the line(s) (made by pen)
das Strichmännchen – the stick figure
die Strichliste – the tally list
die Strichzeichnung – the line drawing
der Bindestrich – the dash/hyphen
der Aufstrich – the bread spread
der Abstrich – the smear sample (medical)
Abstriche machen – make concessions

der Streich – the prank (sounds a bit more childish than prank)
der Staatsstreich – the state coup

der Landstreicher – the hobo

5 2 votes
Article Rating

Newsletter for free?!

Sign up to my epic newsletter and get notified whenever I post something new :)
(roughly once per week)

No Spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Your Thoughts and Questions

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
53 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Trautner
Michael Trautner
3 years ago

The English words score and tally go together. Score is a mark in a stick to keep count by „twenties“, thus Abe Lincoln’s recognized words, „Four score and seven years ago“. Also research term „tally stick“, an old method of accounting.

Also:
Rubs me the wrong way, against the grain, counter-intuitive.

Duaa
Duaa
4 years ago

Nice article! and it made me realize how I really needed to add “Unterm Strich” to my vocabulary :D

But I have a question: is there a difference between “streichen” and “anstreichen” when it comes to painting?

Duaa
Duaa
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

haha XDD Thank you!

Duaa
Duaa
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Got it! Thanks! haha XDD

Manes
Manes
4 years ago

For the strichliste, I would say, in American English: “Maria is keeping track of“ howmany times…. We have no word, that I know of, for this way of counting in sets if five, with four vertical lines and the fifth linestruck tvrough horizontally.

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

The way textbooks teach German “strikes me as odd”. Would be less abrasive than “rubs me the wrong way”

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago

TimM – I’m so glad I dated “vor das Internet”, (hope that shouldn’t be dative) – I can’t keep track of abbreviations other than etc, ps., Mr and Ms.

Diese Information an sich wird dir einen Hinweis darauf geben, wie oft ich 29 geworden bin. Mein ältester Sohn wird nächstes Jahr älter als ich sein. Schönes Wochenende!

TimM
TimM
4 years ago

“D&D free” lmeans “drug and disease free”. And, I hasten to add, I had to Google “dating site acronyms” to find one other than “GSOH”.

I’m also Dungeons and Dragons free though, for what it’s worth.

Yoko K
Yoko K
4 years ago

Agreed about stick figure and wet paint!!! (American here).

YuvalW
YuvalW
4 years ago

Can you expand on the difference between painting and stroking?

streichen sie über den Rücken
streichen sie den Rücken

How does the preposition change the meaning? Would

streichen sie

mean “painted on her”, and

streichen über sie

mean “stroked her”?

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Nope, not really clear on the difference. Streicheln is the petting, like, at the petting zoo, or caressing, but the streichen/streichen über is still not clear. HELP! The “Plane” and “Wind” example really got me more confused

J Napier
J Napier
4 years ago

“…rubs me the wrong way .” Is not bad, but carrying tha commas from the german construction is. Same words, no commas and you are okay.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
4 years ago

Also: ”Thomas STREICHT Maria über den Rücken,”
bedeutet, ”Thomas STROKED Maria on the back.”

”Thomas STREICHELT Maria den Rücken”
bedeutet, ”Thomas caressed (like petted an animal) Maria’s back,”

and, ”Thomas hat Maria den Rücken GESTRICHEN”
beduetet that he PAINTED her back.

Have I understood correctly?

Ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob ich den Unterschied zwischen streichen und streicheln verstehe. I don’t know if I understand the diff bewtween ”streichen” and ”streicheln”.

AE speaker, living in Sweden (so my AE has become Swenglish), (For TimM: 162, 47 kg, alte Hexe, BTDT – (stands for, ”Been There, Done That”). Is D&D, Dungeons and Dragons?)

The translation should be: ”Thomas STROKES/CARESSES Maria’s back.” The thing is, I hope you don’t change the translation because it helps me learn to to Denke wie eine Deutshe. The missing tenses in German (or the extra ones in English) are difficult to install on my brain’s harddisk. Seeing these translations really hammers the way Germans build a sentence into my brain.

Everyone else already covered ”stickmen”, ”goes against my grain,” and ”doesn’t do it for me.” However, no one has mentioned the opposite of ”jdm gegen den Strich” must be ”mit dem Strich”? – Same in Swedish (medhårs) – you ”pet someone in the direction that their fur grows – mit dem Strich” if you are being nice to them or flattering them. Usually in the context of doing it unwillingly to get them to do something for you. Same auf Deutsch?

Tim
Tim
4 years ago

Wenn eine Firma Stellen streicht, bedeutet das dass sie niemand mehr einstellen wird, oder dass die aktuellen Arbeitnehmer(innen) entlassen werden?

“To cancel xxx positions” klingt mir mehr wie das erste Beispiel. Wenn es um Entlassungen geht, wuerde ich “the company is laying off xxx staff” sagen.

Peter
Peter
4 years ago

Achtung frisch gestrichen Caution wet paint
…geht mir gegen den Strich Goes against the grain.

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren
4 years ago

Better might be “doesn’t appeal to me”, or “doesn’t do it for me”, “doesn’t work for me”, or “doesn’t grab me” – younger readers probably have some more hip suggestions!

Jake
Jake
4 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Warren

Agreed, as ~30-y.o. AE speaker, I would say “doesn’t work for me” or “doesn’t do it for me” in that context.

I think I primarily use “rubs me the wrong way” to describe a person, or possibly to describe a particular behavior of a person. For example, my brother-in-law just rubs me the wrong way. Or, the way he treated her rubbed me the wrong way.

TimM
TimM
4 years ago
Reply to  Jake

Chiming in as a ~30 yo NZE speaker (170 cm, GSOH, D&D free, in case you were wondering). ‘Rubs me the wrong way’ didn’t seem out of place in that example (though a little old fashioned). It does definitely imply that something really aggravates you, though. I’d see it as a slightly less intense version of ”pisses me off’ (though that’s possibly thrown around more casually in Aus/NZ than other parts of the Anglosphere).

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I’d probably be most likely to say that it “bugs me.”

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren
4 years ago

You can say “… goes against the grain” – pretty much the same as “rubs me up the wrong way”, but doesn’t really quite fit in this context. More used about a person, or about an action/activity that you are required to do, somewhat against your will.

John Medway
John Medway
4 years ago

The normal equivalent of “frisch gestrichen” is “WET PAINT”.

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren
4 years ago

Thomas is painting his matchstick man ON Maria’s back – IN would be painful!

graberstogermany
4 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Warren

“Streichen” as euphemism for “tätowieren”?

Related to this, I think “stick figure” would be more idiomatic or at least more common for American speakers than “matchstick man.”

John Medway
John Medway
4 years ago

My first encounter with the word “Streich” was when I bought the parts, in a German edition, for the Beethoven string trios – Streich-Trios. The way we played them, they were not so much “stroke-trios” as “scrape-trios”.

Ruth
Ruth
4 years ago
Reply to  John Medway

Similarly “streichen” immediately has me thinking of die Streicher or die Streichinstrumente, words absorbed from German language titles and sleeve notes on vinyl records. CD’s, too, later. Thanks to Telefunken and others.

Sean
Sean
4 years ago

Just found this blog and loving it so far. You seem to be interested in corrections or clarifications from native English speakers, so I hope you don’t mind a few notes. Our fresh paint signs simply say “WET PAINT”.I would say the boss “scraps” free coffee. I don’t think “scrubs” really works there at all. You get your deposit back (the word “back” goes to the end of the sentence). The company “cut” 100 positions. ‘Cancelled’ is more like if they were planning to increase by 100 positions but then decided not to. Match stick man is just “stick man”, unless you make a stick man out of matches I suppose. The weather “ruins” our plans – “faults” is more like “criticises”. A tally is fine but it’s commonly used as a verb instead – “Maria tallies …”

Anyway, hope that wasn’t too much. Thank you for the article, it was very interesting!

cara
cara
4 years ago

“Rubs me the wrong way” does not rub me the wrong way at all. Also, I think “Maria tallies (up)” would be more common than “María is making a tally,” but I suspect most people would just use the verb “to count”. Also this article was amazing as always.

graberstogermany
4 years ago
Reply to  cara

I’d say “Maria is keeping a tally” – to me, “tallies up” is more about getting a final number at the end of keeping the tally. You can also say “keeps count.”

aoind
aoind
4 years ago

And it is just “tally”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “tally list”. In the words of the late great Harry Belafonte “Come mister tally man, tally me banana”.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tou8-Cz8is

aoind
aoind
4 years ago
Reply to  aoind

Do you know what? He’s not even dead. The great Harry Belafonte.

graberstogermany
4 years ago
Reply to  aoind

I went to high school with his grandson.

aoind
aoind
4 years ago
Reply to  aoind

I think he had a daughter called Shari. Was the grandson…

wait for it…

it’s coming…

Shari’s boy child?

Get in.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago
Reply to  aoind

Nice :D

(But no, it was Adrienne’s.)

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

You’d probably have to say where she’s keeping the tally (in a notebook, on a sheet of paper, black-/whiteboard, whatever) to make that totally clear, although it would feel a little weird to me to call anything you’d create in Excel a “tally.” Making or keeping a tally is really just counting using some kind of simple system to help you keep count. Metaphorically, you can keep a tally in your head, which might be what I’d assume Maria is doing just from the one-sentence example, but I think “eine Strichliste machen” is about the most normal/literal meaning.

Rob
Rob
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I don’t think English has a word for “Strichliste” specifically, so we have to say “keep count” or “tally” etc and explain it was on a paper with little lines. That’s the problem. We need a word for it, you guys.

Sophpos0000
Sophpos0000
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

What about check list? Wouldn’t it be a Strichliste?

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years ago

Caution: Wet Paint