Word of the Day – “streiten”

Hello everyone,

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

streiten

 
Just by the looks of it, we could think that streiten is the German counterpart for the English word to stride, which is about making long energetic steps. And indeed, the two verbs are closely related.
But looking at the following example, it doesn’t appear likely that they also mean the same.

  • Maria und Thomas streiten in der Küche.

Although, on second thought… I guess it could be their morning routine. Striding through the kitchen, saying affirmations… “I am very well rested. My spirit is high. My stride is long and determined. I will own this day, achieve my goals and be better than all those non-spiritual loosers. Namaste!”
Maria has some new ideas ever since she got back from that Yoga retreat in Bali.
But okay, of course the example is NOT about striding around in the kitchen. It’s about a different kind of morning routine, one that Thomas and Maria have been doing daily, ever since home-office season started…. arguing.

The origin of streiten and stride is most likely the aggravatingly ancient Indo-European root *(s)ter-. The core of this root was an idea of stiff, rigid and it’s the origin of a whole bunch of words like stark, stare or starch.
This root also evolved into a Germanic group of verbs that revolved around a theme of making an effort, resisting, stiffening the muscles and in many Germanic languages this soon took a turn toward fighting.
English stride is kind of the exception here, with the sense of making long energetic steps, but there is effort and flexed muscles in that, as well, and it can be a part of fighting.

But yeah, as society slowly got more and more civilized and placid , so did the word streiten and today, it is NOT about actual combat-style fighting anymore. The word for that is kämpfen. Which is a really weird twist of a meaning, by the way, because kämpfen is originally based on the Latin word campus. Like… the army camp. If you’re a gamer, you’ll appreciate the irony #nocamping.

But anyway, the original fighting sense of streiten is still visible in weapon names like die Streitaxt (the battle ax) or der Streitwagen (the war chariot), but the verb streiten itself is a mix of to argue and to fight.
And it’s quite handy, I think, because in English you always need context to gauge the intensities. Like… arguing with anger or without anger. Fighting with words or with fists.
Streiten is right in the middle… so it’s always somewhat heated and personal, but never physical. Maybe it’s a bit like the difference between fighting “with” someone, as opposed to fighting “against” someone.
Basically, just think of couples who are stuck in home office.

  • Nach dem Aufstehen trinken Thomas und Maria Kaffee. Dann streiten sie sich.
  • After getting up, Thomas and Maria have coffee. Then they get into a fight/argument.

Awesome.
Now, looking at the sich in the example you’re probably like “OMG, so streiten is reflexive?”
But the answer to that is actually.. up to you.
You CAN use it with a self reference, but it also works without it. I personally feel like it sounds a little more stiff and formal without it, so I’d prefer to use it, but it’s not a big deal if you forget it and you can take it out of the examples without changing them.

  • Ich habe keine Lust, (mich) jeden Tag über den Abwasch zu streiten.
  • I have no desire to argue/fight about doing the dishes every day.
  • Ich habe (mich) mit meiner Katze um den Fisch gestritten.
  • I argued, fought with my cat about/over the fish.

And while we’re at usage, let’s also mention the prepositions real quick. The person (or cat) you’re arguing with is connected with mit, so that’s like in English. And the topic of contention can be connected with über or um. I feel like people use them interchangeably to an extend, but um has a notion of ownership or some more direct involvement. So the second example with über would sound like we’re maybe arguing whether she gets to eat fish or not, while with um it can also mean that we both want the fish and we were arguing about who gets it.
An argument I won of course, with my superior human size. That’s right, dumb cat! I paid for that salmon. Get a job or shut up and eat your dry pellets.

Anyway, the noun for streiten is der Streit, which is basically right between an argument and a fight.

  • “Kann ich bei dir schlafen?”
    “Klar, warum denn?”
    “Maria und ich, wir hatten einen Streit.”
    “Nur einen? Das geht doch voll.”
  • “Can I crash at your place?”
    “Sure, why though?”
    “Maria and I, we had an argument.”
    “Just one? That’s pretty good, isn’t it.”
  • “Du, ich glaube Maria sucht heute Streit.
    “Ach, die ist bei Vollmond immer ein bisschen streitlustig.”
  • “Hey uhm, Maria is looking for trouble, a fight.”
    “Oh, she’s always a little confrontational, bellicose when there’s a full moon.

And there are several other related words, and phrasings that you’ll see sooner or later.

  • Maria hat im Streit einen Kühlschrank nach Thomas geworfen.
  • Maria hurled at fridge at Thomas in the heat of an argument.
  • Der Lehrer versucht, den Streit zwischen den Kindern zu schlichten.
  • The teacher tries to settle (mediate) the dispute/fight between the kids.
  • Beim Meeting kam es mal wieder zu Streitigkeiten zwischen den Programmierern und den Designern.
  • At the meeting, conflicts/quarrels/disagreements erupted again between the programmers and the designers.
  • Ob Einhörner Säugetiere sind oder Reptilien ist in der Wissenschaft umstritten. Unumstritten/unstrittig ist dagegen, dass sie Karnivoren mit Hang zum Alkoholismus sind.
  • It’s disputed, contested in science whether unicorns are mammals or reptilians. Undisputed is the fact that they’re carnivores with an inclination toward alcoholism.

But please don’t think you need to memorize all these. They’re not that important and you’ll definitely understand them from context.
Cool.
Now, the (un)umstritten in the last example might have struck some of you as a form of a prefix version. And indeed it originally is. And while umstreiten as a full verb doesn’t exist any more, other prefix versions do.

First up, we have sich zerstreiten and I’m sure you can already guess the meaning – it’s about arguing with the result of a real falling out or separation. Oh and yes, in this case we MUST use the self reference.

  • Mein Chef und ich, wir haben uns zerstritten.
  • My boss and I, we have fallen out with each other.

Next up, we have abstreiten which literally is like “argue off“. And that makes perfect sense as to deny in the sense of denying allegations.

  • “Hast du Thomas wegen der rasierten Katze konfrontiert?”
    “Ja, er hat alles abgestritten.”
  • “Did you confront Thomas about the shaved cat?”
    “Yes, he denied everything.”

And this is also the idea of bestreiten, which sounds maybe a tiny little bit less definite…

  • Thomas hat bestritten, die Katze rasiert zu haben.
  • Thomas gainsaid, denied shaving the cat.

… but bestreiten has a second meaning: prevailing in some sort of life struggle or challenge. It’s impossible to put one translation on it, and it’s actually also hard to use because it’s only idiomatic in a bunch of select contexts, the most common one being finances.

  • Wovon bestreitest du deinen Lebensunterhalt?
  • How do you pay for your living expenses?

Seriously… do not try to ever use bestreiten freely in a sentence. I can almost guarantee you that it won’t be idiomatic.
I just wanted to mention it as an example for the older meaning of streiten shining through.
And an even better one is the word Mitstreiter. Because that’s explicitly NOT a person you want to argue or fight with :)

  • Ich suche Mitstreiter, die mit mir am Wochenende meine Küche putzen.
  • I’m looking for comrades-in-arms who join me in cleaning my kitchen on the weekend.

Seriously… I need all the help I can get there. It’s crust-level dirty, so yeah… I visualize help. I made my move, Law of Attraction. It’s your turn now, Universe! Do your duty and manifest cleaning buddies.
“That’s not how the law of attraction works, Emanuel.”
Oh really. Well, Sir Madame Universe, FYI, The law of attraction works however I want it to work! I make reality the way I want it to be.
“Oh, we’ll see about that.”
Damn right, we’ll see about that. Just wait till tomorrow morning when I do my powerful kitchen stride affirmations. That’ll bend you into submission.
“Have fun striding in your filthy kitchen, Emanuel.”
Yeah, whatever… I don’t have time to streiten with you now. I have a show to wrap up.
And in fact, I’ll do that right now, because we’re done here for today :).
This was our little look at the meaning of streiten, and we actually got a live example for it just now :)
As always, if you want to check how much you remember, just take the little quiz I have prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

** vocab **

 

streiten = to argue, to fight (implies actual dispute and anger, but no physical component)
der Streit = the argument, the fight, the dispute (NOT physical fight)
der Kampf = the fight (physical or mental fight against someone or something)
kämpfen = to fight (not in a sense of arguing)
abstreiten = to deny (allegations)
der Mitstreiter = the compatriot, the companion (not too common)
bestreiten = to deny (allegations); to partake in some sort of competition (not too commonly used)
umstritten = disputed
strittig = disputed
unumstritten = undisputed
zerstreiten (sich) = to have a falling out (long lasting)
Streit suchen = to look for trouble
streitlustig = confrontational, looking for trouble
schlichten = to mediate (for heated arguments and disputes)

 

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jfmoran
jfmoran
1 year ago

v

Eric
Eric
1 year ago

Hello, i would like to thank Emanuel and the German learning community. I am glad to join you and i hope that learning german here would be more easy and more interesting. Merci pour les sponsors, grace à eux je pourrais apprendre la langue allemande sur ce magnifique site. Eric

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Strident

Alan
Alan
1 year ago

Das Einhorn-Baby stritt mit seiner Mutter darüber, ob es die Karotte essen könnte

Alan
Alan
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I thought that was the correct conditional form?

Judit Brandmair
Judit Brandmair
1 year ago

Hi, ich habe eine Frage: in Deutschland sind die Frauen oft streitsüchtig, und zwecks Integration, versuche ich manchmal das nahmachen. Daraus kommt aber niemals etwas Gutes, es stäht mir einfach nicht, da ich eher eine angenehme Person bin. Bin ich dann als schwachling, zu nett, unemanzipierte Frau bezeichnet, die nicht auf den Tisch hauen kann. Frage: soll ich mir deshalb werbal kämpferisch trainieren, oder darf ich eine Frau bleiben, die den Streit störend findet? Ist in Deutshland das Argumentieren eine gleichwertige Alternative wenn die Meinungen auseinandergeraten?
Liebe Grüße Judit

Basile
Basile
1 year ago

ster: Stereo (Στερεό-στέρεο), greek for Steady, Solid. Can’t get more rigid than a solid state^^

Desdra
Desdra
1 year ago

I immediately thought of the English word strife:
1. Heated, often violent conflict or disagreement.
2. A conflict or quarrel.
3. Contention or competition between rivals.

That seems the best analog for Streiten. What do you think?

Francesca Greenoak
Francesca Greenoak
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Strident means loud, a bit agressive – perhaps looking for a quarrel.

AnneS
AnneS
1 year ago
Reply to  Desdra

Interessant re “strife.”Etymonline.com zeigt folgendes:
c. 1200, “quarrel, fight, discord,” from Old French estrif “fight, battle, combat, conflict; torment, distress; dispute, quarrel,” variant of estrit “quarrel, dispute, impetuosity,” probably from Frankish *strid “strife, combat” or another Germanic source (compare Old High German strit “quarrel, dispute”), related to Old High German stritan “to fight;” see stride (v.).
Ich verstehe das Wort aber habe es eigentlich nie gebraucht, obwohl ich als englischsprachige Redakteurin arbeite. Für mich ist es fast ausschliesslich ein “newspaper headline” Wort.”

lisa
1 year ago

Really enjoying the “record yourself” option, comparing my (slaughtered) German to your (graceful) German. Nothing to fight about here!
Thanks!!!

Zuckerbaby
Zuckerbaby
1 year ago

streitlusting = looking for a fight. Americans also say: spoiling for a fight.
Gainsaid? wow. Have you been reading Marlowe? Donne? Shakespeare?

Crista
Crista
1 year ago

Witzig bist du. Ich würde gerne dir helfen, deine Küche zu putzen, aber ich wohne in Mexiko. Das nächstes Mal, dass ich in Berlin bin, nach der Pandemie, sag ich dir Bescheid, dann kann ich eine Mitstreiterin sein.

Cyndeyb1
Cyndeyb1
1 year ago

Really nice article – always appreciate the in depth look at the words//origins.

Nancy
Nancy
1 year ago

I think mediate is a better translation of schlichten that mitigate, but I could be wrong.

bosko
bosko
1 year ago

Ein paar Ergänzungen. Es gibt noch streiten für, aber ich weiß es nicht wie oft man es benutzt. 

Es gibt noch : Streithammel, Streitkraft, Streitmacht, Streitsache, streitsüchtig.
 

Eine Frage an dich. Ich brauche Hilfe. Welche Zeitform ist dieser Satz und wie bildet man es:

Die Kirchenuhr hätte schon geschlagen haben sollen.

Du hast gesagt Konjuktiv 2 Vergangenheit, aber wie bildet man diese Konstrukcion? 

Ist hätte + partizip+ haben+modal Verb? Vielen Dank

Ich gebe mit Mühe, aber bis jetzt habe ich noch nicht verstanden. Dankee

Elsa
Elsa
1 year ago

Hello,
Let’s not streiten over typos then:
“well take a look at the meaning of” (we’ll take a look at the meaning of”)

That’s it!

Danke wie immer für noch einen tollen Artikel und bis nächstes Mal!

Rian
Rian
1 year ago

Hey Emanuel, could you do a pronounce guide to the german “r”? As a romance language speaker is pretty hard to me. ( Unless you’re french)

Mihai
Mihai
1 year ago
Reply to  Rian

I just carry arround a sign with the letter „R” and raise it in the middle of conversations when using my native R.

Larry
Larry
1 year ago

Emanuel: Just a small point.” Bellicous” is not an English word. What you really want is “bellicose”.

Jane
Jane
1 year ago

If Thomas and Maria were married he’d be calling her his “trouble and strife”..

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhyming_slang

Quite a bit less well-known in the US.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Hmm, I replied, but the post seems to have disappeared…

Definitely any given person from the UK would be familiar with it, I’d think. Not sure about more broadly. Pretty sure I learned about it either via some reference in a Terry Pratchett book somewhere or through Don Cheadle’s character in Ocean’s Eleven. XD

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago

I don’t know if it’s the talk about affirmations or the fact that I’m in a fighting mood more often than I’d like to be these days, but I can’t help thinking SERENITY NOW!

This was a fun etymological rabbit hole to go down. It looks like “strife” and “strive” come from the same root, and also “sterben” and “stürzen.” At least as far as I could tell. The different sources didn’t line up quite as well as they do other times.

I also had an unrelated question – what does “nicht ganz grün” mean in this example?

Und manchmal sind sich auch die Einheimischen selber nicht ganz sicher oder nicht ganz grün, wie wird denn meinen Ort eigentlich ausgesprochen.

It’s from an interview with a guy who does train announcements. I looked it up, but came up empty.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I did have some unanswered questions, but not about etymology. I was mostly wondering what speaks for unicorns being reptilian.

Like, can they unhinge their jaw to swallow their prey? Do they have scales or venom (maybe on a recessive gene)? Can they lay eggs and hatch a bunch of tiny, precocious unicorns all at once?

But if I could only ask one question at the unicorn press conference: What happens when a cold-blooded creature drinks too much ice cold beer?

(Or am I snooping around in dangerous territory here? :))

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oh, so THAT’s what the horn is for! That could even explain why the dinosaurs died out….

RogerH
1 year ago

Why can I get 9 out of 10 right, but remember nothing a week later?

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago
Reply to  RogerH

That happens when you don’t pay tribute to the language learning fairies. They like pizza, the fresher the better.

Seriously though, this happens to me all the time. Every so often, I can learn a word on the first go round (usually if there’s a vivid image associated with it), but for the most part, I have to read/listen to stuff multiple times to get it to stick. I figure if I come across a word again, it’s important, otherwise it’s probably no big deal that I forgot.

RuthE
RuthE
1 year ago

I had to look up ‘gainsay,’ even though I’d seen it before. I like how it’s the English equivalent of Latin ‘contradict.’ No problem remembering that now. Just so you know, ‘gainsay’ is a literary, somewhat old-fashioned word that isn’t heard much in everyday modern speech.

I’ve also long been pleased with how you have been teaching vocabulary with semantics. Over the years I’ve often been amazed at how well your articles ‘stick.’ Maybe it’s the unicorns and squirrels, which have escalated well beyond ‘streiten’ recently. Or Thomas and Maria.

And thanks for pointing out Ouino!