Word of the Day – “umständlich”

umstandlich-meaningHello everyone,

and welcome to a word that is part of the German language, and to which, although it is not connected to this very day, or any day in particular, we, if only for the sake of tradition, assign the predicate “of the day”.
And if you’re now like “What the hell was that?”  – wonder no more, for today we’ll look at the meaning of

umständlich

 

If you need an example for what umständlich is, German grammar has you covered.

When there’s a “dass” you have to move one part of the
verb to the very end of the sentence, even if it’s 10 miles
long.

Tadaah. Moving the verb is umständlich – inconvenient, laborious, cumbersome, awkward, heavy-handed, impractical, ponderous and most importantly:

not simple and straight forward. 

And that is the core of umständlich.
Umständlich is used to express that the way something is done more is complicated than it needs to be. And it can be used for all kinds of things – a sentence, a movement, a way to get to the city center or a way to prepare a tea. Like… heating the water in the oven. That’s umständlich. But hey, tea prepared this way will actually be 15% more gooder because the water is boiling more wholesomely. At least that’s what it said  in this Yoga blog I’m a subscrib… oh… yeah cat, you’re right. I should move on.

So, the core idea of umständlich is not simple. Simple as that. Now let’s look at it in action.

  • Das Kleid ist super schön, aber es ist umständlich anzuziehen.
  • The dress is super beautiful but it’s complicated/cumbersome to put on.
  • Das Anmelden ist ein bisschen umständlich.
  • The sign up process is a bit of a pain.
  • Weiß- und Buntwäsche getrennt waschen? Das ist mir zu umständlich.
  • Washing white and my colored laundry separately? That is too much work for me.
  • Umständlich setzt sich Thomas an den Tisch.
  • Clumsily/in an awkward manner Thomas takes a seat at the table.

The translation obviously depends on context but I hope you can see that the idea is always the same: More complicated than it needs to be and therefor possible annoying.

Cool. So now that we know what umständlich means. But I can imagine that the word might be a bit umständlich to remember. So let’s take a look at why it means what it means.
It is based on the noun der Umstand which literally means around-stand. Now,  do you know what other word literally means around-stand? It’s the English translation of Umstand… circumstance. Yup, that’s right. Circum is some Latin prefix for around and stance is the from the Latin branch of the stand-family.
Literally, Umstand and circumstance both once meant “the stuff that stands around something” but very early on people started using that in the more abstract sense of “the situation something is in”…not too much of stretch I think :).

  • Lieber Thomas. Meinem Bitten zum Trotz warst du wieder an meinem Fach und hast wieder meinen Jogurt gegessen. Unter diesen Umständen kann die Beziehung leider nicht fortgeführt werden. Mfg, Maria.
  • Dear Thomas. In defiance of my solicitation you have again been at my shelve and have, again, eaten my yogurt. Under these circumstances the relationship cannot be continued. Rgds, Maria.
  • “Wie geht’s dir?”
    Den Umständen entsprechend ganz gut.”
  • “How are you?”
    Considering the circumstances, I’d say I’m good.”
  • Wir haben unter Umständen ein Problem mit dem Netzwerk.
  • We might have a problem with the network.
    (Think of it as “under certain circumstances” )

All three phrasings, especially the last one, are super common, and there’s more because Umstände is actually also used of complications or problems.

  • Ich will dir keine Umstände machen.
  • I don’t want to create complications for you.
  • Wenn es keine Umstände macht…
  • If it’s not a problem

By creating “stuff that stands around the core” you’re making getting to the core more complicated.
And this brings us back to umständlich itself, which had a very similar shift in meaning.
Originally, it was used to express of considering more than just the core. For example in writing or when discussing a topic. A bit like comprehensive or extensive. Like… “Before we get to our main point we must first consider this, this and this and we must also not forget about this.”
Well, the line between thorough and overly thorough is thin and the writings of scholars and lawyers often crossed it and so the meaning of the word slowly changed and became more and more negative. Just think of legal writing, or of some philosophers. Smart and comprehensive, but maaaan that can be sooooo overly complicated, not simple  … umständlich.
Cool.

So now we know all about Umstand and umständlich, right? Well, almost. Do you have an idea what an Umstandshose is? Or an Umstandskleid? Or an Umstandsbikini?
Well, the solution is it’s clothes for pregnant women. Because in anderen Umständen sein is a (admittedly umständlich) way to say to be pregnant. And if you’re now like “Why, German, whyyyyyyyy?” then think about it. It makes sense on all levels. You’re certainly in very special circumstances when you’re pregnant, a lot of normal things like sitting down can become a little umständlich and your normal waist line has gotten some new “surroundings” :).

And I think that’s it for today. This was our look at the meaning of umständlich and Umstände and I’m sure you’ll hear one the phrasings sooner or later because they’re all pretty common. As always, if you have questions or suggestions just leave me a comment.
I hope you enjoyed it and see you next time.

 

** vocab **

umständlich – not simple, not in a simple way (many translations)
der Umstand, die Umstände – the circumstance(s), problems
umstandslos – without discussion, without making problems
Umstandsmode – fashion for pregnant women
unter Umständen – maybe, perhaps
Umstände machen – making thinks slightly complicated (usually used in context of asking for favors)

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Bosko
Bosko
3 years ago

das ist SUPER

Dean
Dean
6 years ago

!5% more gooder.
good, better, best

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

the most baddest

mpferrig
mpferrig
6 years ago

Hi – sorry if this is not on-topic to the WOTD, but in a recent update to your site one can no longer click on the prior or next entry in your blog. I was working my way chronologically through your blog as I’m trying to learn German, and now I find that I can no longer do so. ;o(
Is there any way to restore this feature? Seems pretty basic on most blog types.
Thanks, and of course I love your blog and your writing style!

berlingrabers
6 years ago

– Wir haben unter Umständen ein Problem mit dem Netzwerk.
– We might have a problem with the network.
(Think of it as “under certain circumstances” )

Not sure I get this one, since “under certain circumstances” wouldn’t really be a situation where you’d tend to use “might” with the same meaning. Does it mean something like “there’s a potential problem with the network”? Like, under the right circumstances a problem could emerge?

“Might” just sounds like “we don’t know whether there’s actually a problem or not.” (Or possibly, “there’s definitely a problem but I don’t want you to shoot the messenger”…)

berlingrabers
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ah, OK. So the “Umstände” are the things you still have to check out to verify what you suspect? Like, something “unter Umständen” is something you have reason to believe is the case but you haven’t yet ruled out other possibilities?

hannaundfreddy
6 years ago

Hiya,

I’ve just started following your blog and am enjoying it immensely, thank you.

If some reader feedback is useful, when I am learning a new word it helps me if I can hear it being said, so I wondered if there was some way you could add in a feature to your posts that allowed the reader to hear the word you are are writing about being said? For example a link to the word in an online dictionary with a sound file saying it, or making a sound file of your own and attaching it?

Just a thought :)

Many thanks

Ano Menschkind-Königin
Ano Menschkind-Königin
6 years ago

Schon wieder eine neue Artikel auf meinen Geburtstag veröffentlichen, herzlichen dank! :D

Ich habe aber viele Frage-:
1) Viele meiner Lehrerinnen mir erzählen habe, dass ‘geradeaus’ keine menschliche Eigenschaft ist; dass man nur ‘direkt’ verwendet. Wahr? Wieso?

2) Wie genau sind ‘Problem’ & ‘Umstand’ unterschiedlich dann?

3) kannst du bitte jeden 23. Januar 1 Artikel veröffentlichen? ^^

4) wie sind ‘aus’ & ‘von’ unterschiedlich?

Danke im voraus.

Mohamad
Mohamad
6 years ago

Hallooo, vielen dank für diese wichtigen themen, deine methode in erläuterung ist einfach unglaublich…du bist das beste..
Wenn es keine umstände macht,habe ich eine frage, die mich verwirrt, und die lautet…worin unterscheiden sich: wenn, falls, sofern…??

Mohamad
Mohamad
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ich habs gelesen, es war wesentlich hilfreich, vielen dank

yaribiskuvi
yaribiskuvi
6 years ago

Heute habe ich beim Selbstlernen vor allem mit dieser 4 Worte gekämpft: Zugang, Umgang, Zustand und Umstand. Ich habe mich für jeden Wort was vorgestellt. Vielen Dank für dieser nützliche Artikel!

Arraneo
Arraneo
6 years ago
Reply to  yaribiskuvi

(mit dieser 4 Worte)

diesen 4 Wörtern

(Ich habe mich)

mir

(für jeden Wort)

jedes

(für dieser nützliche Artikel)

diesen nützlichen

yaribiskuvi
yaribiskuvi
6 years ago
Reply to  Arraneo

Vielen Dank für die Korrekturen. Sie sind mir sehr nützlich.

yaribiskuvi
yaribiskuvi
6 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Vielen Dank für die Korrekturen.

Diese können sehr “persönlich” klingeln. Aber hier sind was ich mir für diese 4 Wörter vorgestellt habe:
-Ich habe “Zugang” mit “access” verbunden. Deshalb habe ich mir vorgestellt, dass man zu einer Tür geht, und durch dieser Tür läuft (und “access”!)
-Für “Umgang” habe ich “contact” oder “dealing” als zentrale Bedeutung gewählt. Es gibt einen Beispielsatz in Linguee, der mir gefällt: “Ich mochte seinen behutsamen Umgang mit dem Baby.” Man geht um ein Baby, um es zu beschützen oder zu hilfen, usw.
-Wenn es um “Zustand” geht, bedenke ich irgendwie an diesen Ausdruck: “lebensbedrohlichen Zustand”. Das erinnert mich an “state”, z.B. Zustand eines Patients.
-Für “Umstand”, bedenke ich an Dinge, die bestehen um ein zentrales Element. Zusammen erinnert mich dieses Bild an “circumstance”, wie Du oben genannt hast.

MacFeagle
MacFeagle
6 years ago

As ever thanks a lot. Down here in the deep south I don’t hear Umständliche u.s.w. so much but maybe I’m missing it. Will look out for it now.

One topic that is puzzling me is the use of ‘ja’ where it doesn’t mean ‘yes”. Or at least I don’t think it does. For example from the Krimi I’m reading “Und die Nudeln waren ja wirklich bilig gewesen.” So here it seems to be adding emphasis to ‘wirklich | really” but I don’t think it’s that simple, or is it?

Could you cover this one in your Short but Useful series?