Word of the Day – “Teil”

teil-meaning-germanHello everyone,

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



Teil is the German word for part and it is related to the English word deal. Wait, the business deal?  Yeah, that one. A few centuries ago deal was much closer to the original “not as ancient as Indo-European but still freaking ancient”-Proto Germanic root that was all about share, part, amount. And in fact, this notion is still visible today. Just take these phrases:

  • That helps a great deal.
  • A good deal of  movie’s success is due to the excellent cast.

These are not  not about trade. These are about large parts. The helps solved a substantial part of the problem and a substantial part of the success is thanks to the cast. The business-deal was … uhm… coined some 200 years ago, probably based on the meaning amount, which is not that far from part.
We’ll see even more connections between Teil and deal once  we get to the verbs. But the noun Teil is really really cool and useful and there’s a lot to say about it. Let’s start with the gender. Yeay. That annoying gender that all the nouns have . Well guess what.  Teil is an exception!
Now you’re like “Wow, really. A word without gender? AWESOME!!! That is the start of the revolution!!!” but then you see my face all serious and emphatic and you begin to realize… “It has two genders, doesn’t it?”
Yes, it does. There’s der Teil and das Teil because… reasons. And the two stand for different kinds of parts. Das Teil is a tangible part, more like a piece.

Oh and das Teil also used as a colloquial, slangy term for thing, either in context of something like a cool phone, a cool surf board or a cool zucchini or  in context of something that sucks, usually because it’s broken

All right. So das Teil is for actual, physical parts. And der Teil is for all the rest. All these abstract parts like a part of a book or a part of a country or a part of an idea.

  • “Krieg’ ich einen Teil von deiner Zeitung?”
    “Ja, aber nicht den Sportteil.”
  • “Can I have a part of your newspaper?”
    “Yeah but not sports.”

    (one thing that I REALLY REALLY love about German newspapers is that they consist of
    3 or 4 or 5  independent brochure-like parts whilst in other countries they
    are more like one magazine. The cool thing about the German system is that you can disassemble the paper by topic in literally a second and then you can share it. Perfect for breakfast. One person gets the sports the other the “Feuilleton” (cultural part). Or you could just take on part with you and leave the rest at home. Anyways,
    though this could be technically “das Teil” too, as it is a physical part, it
    is called “der Teil” because people think of it in sense of topic, not
    paper…but I feel like I digress :) 

Usually native speakers have a clear idea whether something is der or das. In fact , the only grey area I can think of are body parts. Der and das Körperteil – you ca find either. The version with das sounds like the body is a machine with different components,  while the version with der sounds more like the body is a one, a whole that only has abstract parts… but honestly… I don’t think people think it through all that much. They just use what they’re used to.
All right. So this is der Teil and das Teil. There is a clear distinction but you don’t need to worry too much. You’ll be understood even if you get it wrong. And if you really have no clue… then go with der. It’s more common and it’s the article for most of the fewzillion really useful Teil-words. That are out there. Which brings us to our next topic

A fewzillion useful Teil-words

We’ve already seen some random compounds like Ersatzteil or Sportteil and there are many many more of those but there are also a few that are really really really really important.
The first one is der Anteil and that is a Teil with a focus on that it belongs to someone, either in sense of possession (share) or in the more abstract sense of belonging to a group (percentage, proportion).

And if you’re now like “Aw, poor McDonald’s. I’m so sorry for you.” then what you’re doing is called Anteil nehmen which is used in sense of to sympathize with/ to feel for someone. You take a share of the burden… well not really, more just mentally. The noun die Anteilnahme (sympathy, commiseration) is the most common use probably.
Anyway, let’s move on to the next words: der Vorteil and der Nachteil. Literally it’s the “forepart” and the “after part and the real translations are….  advantage and disadvantage. Like…  just think of a pack of wolves that has just hunted down a soy deer. The boss wolf gets to eat first so he gets the best parts, the  and the nonathletic, nerdy wolf just gets the leftovers . And then the boss wolf has eaten better and will do better on the next hunt while the nerd wolf will have trouble keeping. Nature is so unfair. But anyway, Vorteil and Nachteil are used more broadly than (dis)advantage but the idea is always in there –  first part is the best, the after part sucks.

And, because they’re really super common here a few examples with related words

So… those were der Vorteil and der Nachteil and they are actually opposites. Why am I mentioning that? Well because our next word is  das Gegenteil, which is the opposite. “Counter part”, opposite… that makes perfect sense I think.

The last one with that fancy Genitive in there is actually quite high brow. You could use that as a joke if a friend suggests to not get another beer but gegenteilig itself isn’t really that common. And also Gegenteil is not as broad as opposite. It’s really about the direct opposite like cold – warm or small  – big.
All right.
Now there are of course many many more useful ones. Oberteil for instance is a generic word for a piece of clothing for the upper body.

Or take Elternteil. Eltern means parents and it only exists in plural. So if you need one without wanting to say mom or dad you could say Elternteil. It does sound a bit technical though

And how do they manage to both have jobs and still be there for their children? Exactly, they work part time which is a … you go ahead and say it.. Beschäftigungsverhältnis mit verringerter Wochenarbeitszeit. Exactly!
But you can also call it Teilzeit.

The Gegenteil of Teilzeit is Vollzeit by the way… or Freizeit.  Really depends on how you look at it.
All right. I think now we’ve seen the bigger part of the really useful one… or in German der Großteil.  

A variation of that is größtenteils which usually translates to mostly or for the most part.

So now that we’ve seen the most important Teil-nouns, it’s time to move to the verbs and man, they are just as useful. But then again… what would be more fitting for a post about Teile to have it… in parts. Hoooray… just like movies.
But seriously, I think we’ve had a lot of input already and there’s a lot more to come so let’s make a break and give all the words a chance to sink in.
To wrap this up here’s another Teil-word: das Teilchen.  Literally it means   particleTeilchen – cutest physics term ever! Like… it’s really the official word they use in books and stuff. Teilchen. So cu… wait a second. Particle? Let me look that up real quick… oh my god, it’s the exact same idea. Particle comes from Latin particula which was tiny cute version of partis (part). Wow, this is cool. Hey and actually, have you ever noticed just how big the part-family is… part,  participle, apart, apartment, department,  (political) party and also anything with portion in it AND here’s the best one…  partner. It’s soooo obvious once you know it but wow… I was really surprised.  Anyway… this wasn’t really about German but I kind of wanted to … ahem… share it :).
That’s it for today folks. As always if you have any questions or suggestions just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time with part 2.

Vocab (some weren’t in the post)

das Teil – tangible piece or part
der Teil – all other parts
der Vorteil – the advantage, the perk, the benefit, the pro, the plus
der Nachteil – the disadvantage, the con
benachteiligen – put at a disadvantage
der Großteil, größtenteils – the bigger part, the (vast) majority
das Ersatzteil – the spare/replacement part
das Scheißteil – the piece of crap 

der Scheißteil – The Hunger Games 3.1 – Mocking Jay
der Anteil – the share (also in finance)
die Abteilung – the department
das Abteil – the compartment (wasn’t in the post… don’t worry, you didn’t miss it)
das Teilchen – the particle

der Teilchenbeschleuniger – the particle accelerator
das Gegenteil – the opposite
im Gegenteil – on the contrary
das Urteil – the verdict, the judgement
das Vorurteil – the prejudice
verurteilen – to judge
vorverurteilen – to prejudge 
teilzeit – part time
vollzeit – full time
der Erdteil – the continent
der Stadtteil – the district/part of the city
der Einteiler – the one piece suit/onesie

for members :)

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Just an appreciation. I love your blog.


Wow, das war eine atemberaubende Post!
Ich warte sehnsüchtig für der nächsten Teil! (Teil ist männlich hier, oder?)

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

*eine atemberaubende Post

ein atemberaubender Post




Another cracker of a post. Danke.

I love the way in German origins of words like Teilchen are perfectly clear. No Latin required, though part-icle is not exactly complicated either. Abteilung and department involve parallel ideas, too. Opposite is also from Latin, meaning set against, so very similar to Gegenteil. There are lots more unrelated to Teil, but I’ll control myself.

Teil always reminds me of two text books in the house when I was young. Deutsches Leben, Erster Teil und Deutsches Leben, Zweiter Teil. My mother was surprised when she discovered that the two volumes were not written by two brothers Teil. Unfortunately we didn’t have Dritter’s contribution to the teaching of his language. …Maybe that will help me to remember Elternteil,….. which, incidentally, missed the vocab list.

That wondrous research tool, Google Images reveals another meaning for Teilchen, which leads to some entertaining interpretations of Teilchenbeschleuniger.


Eine kleine Bemerkung,”Großenteils” lässt sich auch als “for the most part” übersetzen, oder?

Nikolaus Wittenstein
Nikolaus Wittenstein

Are newspapers not normally like that? In the States all newspapers are that way (that is, they come in sections by topic).

Nikolaus Wittenstein
Nikolaus Wittenstein

“Manager sein hat so seine Vorteile.”
“Being the manager has its perks.”

Können sie sagen, was “so” hier bedeutet? Ich würde “Being the manager has its perks.” als “Manager sein hat seine Vorteile.” übersetzen.


Du has “Bestandteil” nicht erwähnt, ich sehe dieses Wort ziemlich oft.


Boah Sie sind ein krasser lehrer.
I loved German language but because you I love it much.

keep going
thanks alot


Do you have any insight into why it’s “das Urteil”? It seems really counterintuitive, since most of the more abstract “-teil” compounds are masculine.


Meine Anki Decke hat “teilnehmen” as “participate”. Besser als “partake”, ehh?


I missed Teilnahme, which I once confused with Anteilnahme. But thanks for another fun lesson!

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

One useful rule of thumb that I read somewhere: if you can replace the Teil-word with “[das] Stückchen”, it’s das. Not that applicable to the more abstract stuff, but hey.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

Die deutsche Sprache hat mich immer an eine Programmiersprache erinnert, mit ihrer Satzklammern und was auch immer. Das schießt aber den Vogel ab (und ja, ich kenne schon den Ausdruck):

“Eltern means parents and it only exists in plural. So if you need one without wanting to say mom or dad you could say Elternteil. It does sound a bit technical though”

Das wäre dann:

class Eltern {Teil_1, Teil_2, …};
Eltern.Teil_1 = …


Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

Und zu guter Letzt darf ein besonders wichtiges Teil nicht unerwähnt bleiben ;)


Das Teilen, die Teilung, die Division. Do they all mean the mathematical operation? If so, what determines which is used? Is there any difference in usage of der Teiler and der Faktor?


Wow. Ich habe gedacht, ich habe das Wort gelernt, und ich wusste nicht der Großteil. Sehr schön, wie immer, danke. (Und die Wortschatzliste gefällt mir sehr, super hilfreich)

Also, on the subject of der/das Körperteil: People can do a similar thing in English.
“Maria hurt her leg and it/she is bleeding now.” “She” sounds slightly more personal, like a worried friend more than a doctor, but that’s a tiny difference and not something most people think about. Maybe when I’m editing my bestselling novel :) Also, it only works because the pronoun could be either for the leg or for Maria, so not in most sentences.


I agree with the basic thrust of what you’re saying about the pronouns, but I think “she’s bleeding” sounds quite a bit more serious than “it’s bleeding” – just because, as you say, one’s referring to the part and one’s referring to the whole.

To me, it’s hard not to hear “das Körperteil” as a body part that is… well, unattached. :0

Biene Maya
Biene Maya

So funny….I JUST looked this word up the other day and now I know all about it! Much thanks, as usual!


“Manager sein hat so seine Vorteile.”
I have a question about the subject (“Manager sein”) in this sentence. “sein” looks live a verb so how can it be a subject?

“Mockingjay pt.1” was no so bad but it’s annoying that probably they’ve splitted the final part only to earn more money.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

It should be Manager-Sein, a noun.

Albeit it does look a bit like Manager-Sensei :D


Thanks for the great post. Very useful word in german. I only have one question, however. How does” Du warst baden? ” work in this case? I’m a little confused :)

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader

The main thing that you should know is that sein + infinitive is strictly for informal language (unlike gehen + infinitive), so don’t try to put it in your essays, tech reports or other official documents ;)


Thank you very much for the clarification, all of you. That really helps.

Jason Harrison
Jason Harrison

Great word of the day! I hear and see this a lot so it’s useful to be able to put a bit of background to it.
A word I come across a lot which I can’t see mentioned is ‘teilweise’. I get the fundamental ‘partly/partially’ to it, but I’ve seen it around a couple of times where I can’t quite put a translation on it. I guess it sort of has a ‘sometimes’ feel to it as well?

Keep up the good work!