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 dealof 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 Teiland dealonce 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. Teilis 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 Teiland 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 Teilis 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 einenTeil von deiner Zeitung?”
    “Ja, aber nicht den Sportteil.”
  • “Can I have a partof 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. Derand 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 Teiland 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 Teilwith 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 Gegenteilis 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. Oberteilfor 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 Vollzeitby the way… or Freizeit. Really depends on how you look at it.
All right. I think now we’ve seen the bigger partof the really useful one… or in German der Großteil.

A variation of that is größtenteilswhich 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 particle. Teilchen – 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

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