Word of the Day – “übrigens”

Hello everyone,

I hope you are doing great. I am a little tired today and all I did so far was doing groceries and go for a walk. Spring is finally here, and I have to say that Berlin is really a nice place to be right now because maaan… the city is sooooooo green. There are trees and bushes and high grass and just “in between green” everywhere. And right now everything is blooming. Cherry-trees and lilac and chestnut  which is Kastanie in German. Those are one of my favorites… anyway … so all I did today was buy things, eat things and go for a walk enjoying the green by the way… or is it along the way? Hey, speaking of by the way… do you know the German word for that? That’s what we’ll look at today :).
Wow, longest intro ever.


Übrigens is the German word for by the way.  Now, it’s kind of clear why by the way means what it means while übrigens looks like a a real German word put in a blender. But übrigens is not as random as it seems.
Let’s take it apart.
The very core of it is the word über which is the German version for over, in sense of above.
Anyway, to get from über to übrig we just have to add the common German ending –ig and then drop the e. The -ig (or -ich at times) is an ending that transforms a word into an adjective… just like the English –y

  • der Hunger – hungrig
  • the hunger – hungry (here, English dropped and e too)

Based on that logic übrig should something like “overy”  or “kind of over”. And if we think of over in sense of “above the amount that was needed then we kind of have what übrig means: remaining and left over.

Übrig itself is not used that much in daily speech. The 2 most common combinations are übrig lassen (leave over) and übrig bleiben (remain, be left over)  and there are  2 quite common expressions… the first one is with haben and für.

The second one has tricky grammar.

At the very bottom, the grammar is nothing other then this weird “Mir ist kalt”-thing but I don’t want to get into that too much right now because that would take a while. The phrase is nothing you need to speak fluent German and it is enough if you understand it.
So…. this is the plain übrig. Über transformed into and adjective by adding -ig. And as with any adjective in German or you can make it into a noun super-easily… all you have to do is add an article and an e.

Of course we can do this with übrig too. The meaning is then something like the remaining or simply the others… here is one example from summer camp and one from creative camp.

Now, again I have to say that this is not used that much… mainly because there are other options like das Andere, der Rest or das Weitere but I think there are region in which das Übrige is quite common.
There is one fixed phrase that you should know which brings us even closer to übrigens… im Übrigen. Literally this means within what’s remaining.

Other possible translation are apart from that or as for the rest.. so basically everything that has this idea of remainder/left over/other in it. Now,  im Übrigen is not used that much in spoken German… hehe… I keep feeding you useless vocabulary today :)… but it is all just to get to übrigens … so… with im Übrigen we are only an s away. And this s is not just a random s… it is the same s as in frühestens or spätestens.

This s is a Genitive s. Spätestens super literally means of the latest and  frühestens is of the earliest. Back a few hundred years ago, Germans loved their Genitive and they used it for all kinds of things. This has changed and Genitive often sounds old fashioned today but the few words with this s-structure are here to stay… mindestens (at least), höchstens (at most), wenigstens (at least), schnellstens (the fastest possible) … I think there might be some more and they are all part of every day German.
And so there we are … übrigens… it literally means of what’s left or of the rest/remainder… and that makes total sense as by the way.
Now, how do you use it? Well, just the same idea of by the way… you talk about something and then you change topics and mention something that is a bit unrelated… and übrigens introduces this change of topics.

Übrigens can be placed at the beginning of a sentence but you can also put it in the middle. At the beginning, you need to pause after it … it is not part of the sentence then

Here are the other versions:

The only place that does work for by the way that is NOT possible is the very end. That would be strange because.. after all übrigens indicates a change of topic… so why indicate it after you are done changing it :)
All right… there is not much more to say actually so we’ll just call it a day here…
Yep, that pun certainly was of the lamest.
This was our German Word of the Day übrigens. It looks weird but it comes from über and  it literally means of what other there is… and just to make sure… unlike all the other words we’ve seen today, übrigens IS used … a lot.
If you have any questions or suggestion just leave me a comment. I hope you liked it and see you next time.