Word of the Day – “trauen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And if you’re a Sissy you should leave right now. Because the word we’ll talk about this is incredibly scary. Behold…



Hmm… actually, it kind of looks sad. Hey, but do you know what looks sad AND scary?
Ohhhhhhhh, Emanuel is an unromantic millennial.
But no, first of, I am a Prellenial. We’re just as woke, but more diligent and sexier.
And then, I am super romantic. Just check out what I made for my shorty this morning, before she went for her morning dump (click here if you dare) .
Anyway, let’s jump right into the article. That’ll explain a lot. Maybe even this intro :)…

So yeah… trauen certainly does look like it is related to traurig, which means sad. But that’s a coincidence.
Traurig probably comes from the ancient Indo-European root *dhreu which was about falling and which also the origin of drip and drop. Just think of dripping tears or the head dropping.
Trauen on the other is related to the English words true and truth and the German word treu
Now you might think that trauen is something about being right. But there’s actually quite some room for confusion.
The main idea of true nowadays is “not false”.  German uses the family of wahr for that. 

Treu is only true in the sense of being faithful, loyal and that is actually pretty much the meaning of original Germanic word *treuwaz. 

Wait, “a little faithful”? That sounds complicated. They will have to talk about trust, I guess.
And so will we. Because trust is also a member of this family… uh… hold on, I gotta do something…  *Emanuel, pats himself on the back for the transition… that makes perfect sense; we do trust people that are truthful and loyal.  And to trust is the meaning of the German verb vertrauen.
Wait, vertrauen? Why not just trauen?
Well, trauen used to mean to trust and vertrauen, with the for-idea of ver, was just a slightly more personal sounding version of it.
But there was a desire, a yearning in trauen and one day, around its birthday, it bought a van and a surf board and and was like “Bro, we need to talk. I need to move…”
And vertrauen was like “No need to say more, bro! Follow your dreams!! I got your back, trust me.”
And so vertrauen became the main word for to trust.

The verb itself is super useful already but there also some really cool related words.

And let’s not forget about das Vertrauen, which is trust and confidence.

By the way, for those of you who are interested in etymology…  the origin of confidence is the Latin fidere, which was also about trusting and being loyal and it’s actually where fealtyfederal and faith come from. I was pretty surprised when my interns told me about that.
Not as surprised as I was when they told me they think it’s unprofessional of me to the prep meetings hungover, unkempt, unprepared and late. What the f**p?!?!  If I want to come to the office without taking a shower, I’ll do just that.  How dare they?!?! Damn millenials and their damn confidence.
But hey, speaking of confidence and daring, that brings us right to our actual word of the day trauen.
By itself, it can still mean to trust, but that’s rare and I think you only ever see it in context of not trusting a stranger, being suspicious.

What’s useful is the trauen with a self reference – sich trauen. A few hundred years ago, this simply meant to trust yourself. But slowly the phrasing shifted more and more toward what you might do when you trust yourself… taking a risk. Or in one word… to dare.
THAT’S what sich trauen means today and it’s pretty common because Germans also use the negative version to express that they’re scared.

I was actually a bit confused while thinking of the examples whether it is mir trauen or mich trauen because both sound kind of okay to me. But I think that’s just a regional thing and the Accusative (mich, dich) is the proper choice, while the Dative (mir, dir) is the proper choice for the prefix version zutrauen. This is not about guts though, but about the feeling that someone is capable of something. And it works for both, yourself and another person.

And I think, that’s pretty much it for today. Well… except one thing. Trauen is also used in context of marriage.
Now some of you might be like “Wait, I though that was Hochzeit.”
And some other might be like “Wait, I thought that was Ehe.”
And again some other might be like “And I though it was Heirat.
And you’re all correct. But hey, why use three words when you can use four, right? Trauen itself is sometimes (very rarely) used for the act of getting married, die Trauung is the marriage ceremony and der Trauzeuge/die Trauzeugin  is the person walking the bride/groom to the altar.
Nothing you need to remember, but I wanted to mention it because it kind of brings all the ideas together. I mean, marriage is being treu (faithful) , it’s about vertrauen (trust)  and you need to trauen yourself (dare) and ask your partner :). Oh and by the way… we already mentioned the Latin fidere and that it’s the origin of confidence and faith. Well, it’s also the origin of fiancee and infidelity. All one happy family :)

And that’s it for today, this was our look at the family of trauen and vertrauen.
As always, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you want to try out some examples, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.


** vocab **

sich (acc) trauen – to dare, to have the guts
sich/jemandem etwas zutrauen – belief that someone is up to a challenge/has something in them
zutraulich – nice, friendly, not scared of humans (for animals)

treu – true, faithful, loyal
die Treue – the faithfulnes
die Untreue – infidelity (in relationships)

jemandem vertrauen – trust someone
das Vertrauen – the trust, confidence
das Selbstvertrauen – the self confidence
das Urvertrauen – the basic trust (psychological term)
vertraulich – confidential
vertrauenswürdig – trustworthy
vertrauenserweckend – trustworthy (“evoking trust”)

wahr – true
wahrscheinlich – probably (true-seeming)
die Wahrheit – the truth

heiraten – the action of getting married
hat geheiratet – has done the action of getting married, has married
ist verheiratet – is in the state of being married
die Hochzeit – the wedding 
die Ehe – the marriage

 die Trauung – the wedding ceremony
der Trauzeuge/die Trauzeugin – witness of marriage (person walking the bride/groom to the altar


Take the quiz on "trauen"

What does the word "treu" mean?

How would you translate:
“Maria doesn’t trust him.”

What is the common phrasing for “to betray trust”?

How do you sayI don’t dare/I’m scared …..” ?

How would you translate:
“Do you think you’re up to the challenge of waking up at 4 am for two weeks”?

Your score is

The average score is 71%

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Vertrauen ist gut, Kontrolle ist besser.
Lit.: “Trust is good, control is better.”

AE counterpart? Hmmm… I’d say, “Better safe than sorry.”

As for the loyalty points, dunno. I can hear cashiers asking if we are members of the bonus program, the loyalty program, if we have a bonus account or if we’re collecting Stamps, Points or whatever the particular program calls them – don’t really think there is a one-size-fits-all term for this. Every store, hotel chain, etc has their own, I think. Oder?

After faithfully listening to all the audios on this post, I am even more apt to say that your voice does NOT fit with your appearance! You’re this cute guy with a twinkle in his eye (I do NOT mean this in the creepy way it may come over in writing… too old for that and wasn’t that “kinda girl” even back in the day) and your voice sounds like some tall, pale, skinny, chain-smoking guy with really bad posture, who doesn’t get out often enough to get sun or his dark, slightly greasy hair cut. Both your voice-look and your IRL-look are charming but honestly, 2 different animals. I’ll get over it soon. Kinda like paving a path to “dick” meaning “thick” or “fat” instead of the AE meaning – work in progress…

Glad to finally have confirmation that the oft used AE exclamation, “Trust me” is, in fact, “Vertrau mir!”


That was very illuminating, thanks Emanuel. I hadn’t given this family of words much thought at all until now but I can see it definitely deserved it, so good choice! I would guess “vertraut” and “Vertrautheit” are noteworthy related words as probably the top choices to translate “familiar” and “familiarity”.

Another one for the marriage vocab: is it at all common to use “sich trauen lassen” for “to get married”?

Paul E Ramoni Jr
Paul E Ramoni Jr

concerning the German trauen for wedding vow, it does resemble “troth” the old form of wedding vow in the Book of Common Prayer, that recited as part of the vow, “plight thee my troth.”


Yep, and “plight” is a cognate of “Pflicht.”


“Jemandem etwas anvertrauen” can be either “entrust something to someone” (if it’s a thing or task) or “confide in someone” (if it’s information) – that’s the verb I’d definitely use for the example with Maria and her hairdresser. “Classified” is fine for “vertraulich,” but I’d say “confidential” is better etymologically. Does “vertraulich” always sound sort of official/bureaucratic/governmental? “Classified” definitely does.

Also, maybe you’ve addressed this elsewhere, but as I understand it (and maybe helpful to newer readers), “die Hochzeit” refers to all the festivities surrounding a wedding – the wedding (or anniversary celebration!) as a complete event – “die Trauung” is the actual ceremony that makes a couple married, “die Ehe” is the state of being married, and “die Heirat” is, I dunno, the practice of getting married? Something like that. Correct me if I’ve got the wrong idea about any of that…

lost in desert
lost in desert

“Vertrauen ist gut, Kontrolle ist besser.”

Perhaps the oft quoted Cold War idiom: “Trust, but verify” as an idiomatic translation?????

It kind misses the control part, but it ha s the underlying feeling of mistrust and questioning.


Nice entry! I enjoyed a lot reading your blog, it is a great way to learn new words. Thanks!


Vertrauen ist gut, Kontrolle ist besser.
Lit.: “Trust is good, control is better.”

In my profession we often say “Trust but verify” which carries a similar meaning.


Interesting that in Duden I only found “vertrauenerweckend,” – ohne s. I’m assuming you could say both, though?


So I wondered about “trout” (“Forelle” in German) and looked it up in the Online Etymology Dictionary. Not surprisingly, it’s derived from a different root, but then I found this little gem at the end of the article:

“In late 17c. slang, trusty trout was used in a sense of ‘confidential friend.'”

Coincidence? I THINK NOT


Is it as common in German to dare someone to do something as in English? For example, “I dare you to eat this ghost pepper.” Would you say “Ich traue dich….”?


I really liked the confidence mouse


Right, I don’t think English has a “control” saying like that.

I also thought of the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral” where the weddings include a vow of “I pledge thee my troth”. We might also say “I will be true to you”.

Great article, Emmanuel!! :) Danke shön!


Thanks, Emanuel. This is great. I’ve never been able to keep straight the differences between vertrauen, traunen, and zutrauen.


So, could I translate the signature quote from Col. Nathan R. Jessup (USMC) as…..

“Sie können sich nicht die Wahrheit verabeiten!!!

Sorry, when you started talking about “the truth”, I wasn’t sure that I could handle it. :)


Vielen Dank für die Hilfe :)


Thank you to everyone who donated a little bit more for making me able to read so much amazing lessons and to be a part of this amazing community!

Don Muench
Don Muench

Vertrauen ist gut, Kontrolle ist besser.
Lit.: “Trust is good, control is better.”
(is there a good English counterpart?)
This reminds me of President Reagan saying, “Trust, and verify!”

John Medway
John Medway

Bear in mind that “to control” and “kontrollieren” are close to being false friends. In Dict.cc, nearly all the English translations of “kontrollieren” imply checking, verifying etc rather than the process of governing, which “control” normally implies – eg “The temperature is controlled by a thermostat” – the thermostat doesn’t just check the temperature, it turns the heating on or off to adjust it. “Control” very occasionally appears in the “checking” sense. Computer printout of financial accounts would often include the term “control total”, meaning a total used for checking purposes. A “controlled experiment” or a “randomised controlled trial” imply the creation of two sets of circumstances to check that a phenomenon appears in one and not in the other. A typical example would be a drug trial where one set of patients is given the drug on trial and the “control group” is given an inert substance known as a “placebo”. Generally speaking, though, it looks as if “kontrollieren” should hardly ever be translated as “control”.


Ich VERTRAUE darauf, dass du die Feiertagsgeschenke erhalten hast, die ich dir geschickt habe.

Ich brauche keine Wertschätzung, nur das VERTRAUEN zu wissen, dass PayPal geliefert hat.

TRAUST du DICH (Hast du die Traut), uns zu sagen, wo du barkkeepst, damit mein Mann und ich im Juni in Berlin ein Bier trinken können?

Es braucht viel SELBSTVERTRAUEN, um das alles in einem öffentlichen Forum zu schreiben.


“Word of the Day” is great, Emmanuel! I always dreaded learning vocab, but this makes so much sense, especially with the etymology.
By the way, is “trauen” related to “trauern”?