Word of the Day – “verschwinden”

Hello everyone,

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

verschwinden

 

And to give you a real life example… imagine you’re finally having the first date with your crush, you’re having really good conversations and it is going really well and then you suddenly let go a really noisy fart.
The urge you feel in that moment, the thing you want to do… that’s verschwinden.
“Erase my date’s short term memory?”
Uh… no… the other thing.
“Turn back time and prevent myself from eating that onion-bean-salad?”
NO… I mean to disappear. That’s what I want to do.
“But Emanuel, that’s the least productive option. Because if you disappear, the date will be over and you’ll be all alone in your bed.”
Hmmmmmmm… good point. Maybe that’s why I was single for so long #singletear
But hey, let’s not waste time with dating tips and jump into our topic instead…

So, yeah verschwinden means to disappear and we’ll start right with a few examples…

  • Thomas installiert eine Webcam im Kühlschrank, weil sein Bier immer verschwindet.
  • Thomas is installing a webcam in the fridge of the shared apartment because his beer keeps disappearing (lit.: “always disappears”).
  • “Bis bald, Süßer.” sagte das Einhorn und verschwand zwischen den Bäumen.
  • “Till soon, sweety.” said the unicorn and disappeared between the trees.
  • … und dann hat mein Date etwas auf den Boden geworfen, es gab einen Knall und Rauch, und dann war sie einfach verschwunden.
  • … and then my date threw something on the ground, there was a bang and smoke and then she was just gone/had just disappeared.

As you can see, verschwinden is a classic example for this super power of Germanic verbs of making a vowel disappear and another one pop up. In present tense, it’s verschwinden, in written past (preterit) it’s verschwand and the ge-form is verschwunden. Schwi-schwa-schwu, basically. So that’s something to watch out for. But apart from that, verschwinden is pretty straightforward and also the related words are easy.

  • Das Verschwinden des Biers führt zu Problemen in der WG.
  • The disappearance of the beer leads to problems in the shared apartment.
  • Die Chancen, im Lotto zu gewinnen, sind verschwindend gering.
  • The chances to win the lottery are vanishingly low.

And since we’re at related words, we have to mention verschwinden‘s cousin verschwenden, which is the German word for… to waste. Makes sense, I think. Wasting something (resources of some kind) is basically making it disappear.

  • “Ich habe keine Lust, meine Zeit in diesem Meeting zu verschwenden. Ich verschwinde.”
    “Aber… du bist der Team-Leiter!!!”
  • “I don’t want to waste my time anymore in this meeting. I’m gonna bounce.”
    “But… you’re the team manager!!!”
  • Ich habe viel Zeit auf Youtube verschwendet.
  • I wasted a lot of time on Youtube.
  • Dieses Meeting war eine reine Zeitverschwendung.
  • This meeting was a pure waste of time.

So verschwinden and verschwenden are both pretty cool words to know.
But there’s more to discover about that family and it’s not Zeitverschwendung to dig a little.

You might have noticed that verschwinden and verschwenden look an awful lot like a verb with a ver-prefix.
Well, it is. It’s the ver-version of schwinden. And the meaning of schwinden is to dwindle, to slowly disappear. It’s not common at all nowadays, but you can find it in books and you might see the noun der Schwund in compounds (if you work in the food and beverage field … Schwund is the official term for wastage)

  • Mein Interesse an dieser Präsentation schwindet. (sounds very high brow and theatrical)
  • My interest in this presentation is dwindling.
  • Zuviel Kaffee verursacht Gedächtnisschwund.
  • Too much coffee causes memory loss.

So, verschwinden (with the away-idea that ver carries) is basically an intensified or completed version of schwinden. But where does that come from? Some of you might have noticed that there’s wind in there. And that would make a lot of sense. Like… verschwindengoing away the wind, disappearing.
But as intuitive as that might be, wind and schwinden do not belong to the same family. In fact, it is not known where schwinden comes from.
But there is a relative in English…. the word swindle.
Now you might be like “Wait, what does that have to do with disappearing.”
Well, we could say that disappearing is something you do after you swindled someone, but that’s actually not the connection.
You see, German has schwindeln as well. In German it is more common than in English and it’s used for small scale, harmless lies. Like… schwindeln is the small brother of lügen, if you will.

  • Maria hat beim Alter ihrem Profil ein bisschen geschwindelt.
  • Maria lied a bit about her age in her profile.
  • Sind Einhörner wirklich Vegetarier, oder ist das ein großer Schwindel?
  • Are unicorns really vegetarians, or is that a giant fraud/scam/swindle?
  • Zuviel Kaffee verursacht Gedächtnisschwund.
  • Too much coffee causes memory loss.

Wait… where were we… oh, oh, swindle. Right. Sorry.
So, the schwindel-branch does carry the notion of lying, but unlike in English, there’s another idea… and that’s actually the main one. The idea of lightheaded, dizzy. You know… when your head spins a little.
Like… der Schwindel can be used for a scam, but it also means lightheadedness and vertigo. And if you feel dizzy you use the same weird phrasing you’d use to say you’re cold or hot….

  • Der Adler hat einen Schwindelanfall.
  • The eagle has an attack of vertigo.
  • Mir ist schwindelig.
  • Lit.: “To me, it is dizzy.”
  • I feel dizzy/lightheaded.
  • Wenn Thomas von einem Turm nach unten guckt, wird ihm schwindelig.
  • If Thomas looks down from a tower, he’ll get dizzy/vertigo.

And this idea actually ties in perfectly with the idea of dwindling, that we had for schwinden. Why? Because feeling lightheaded or dizzy comes right before losing consciousness . Which is a kind of disappearing.

And what about the idea of lying? Where does that come from? Well, a while back people would use the noun der Schwindel in a more metaphorical way of feeling enthusiastic. Like… “Oh my God, this Mozart Sonata is so amazing, I feel like I’m gonna pass out.”
And from that, it’s not far to enthusiasm based on false promises. Like… “My policies as a president will be so amazing, they’ll make you pass out.”
Hmmm… okay, maybe that’s not the best slogan. But yeah, I think you get the idea.

Now… we’re almost done for today, but there’s one more word that we absolutely have to mention, because it looks like it belongs to the family, as well. It starts with Ge and while the German autobahn doesn’t have a limit for it, the word itself is certainly a limit for itself.
Yeah… that was a pretty confusing hint, but you still might have guessed it. I am talking about die Geschwindigkeit, the German word for speed, and one of the least fitting words of all time.
I mean, come on… Geschwindigkeit... that sounds like peeing on dry leaves, not like a fast car.
Anyway, the noun is based on the adjective geschwind, which is an old, bookish sounding word for quickly, swiftly.

  • “Harry, Ron, seid ihr da drin?”
    “Oh, einen Moment, Hermine.”
    Geschwind packte Harry seinen Stab und rief: “Verschwindibus Spurus.”
    Als Hermine den Raum betrat, saß Harry alleine an seinem Schreibtisch…
  • “Harry, Ron, are you in there?”
    “Oh… just a moment Hermione.”
    Swiftly,
    Harry Potter grabbed his wand and proclaimed: “Vanishus Tracus.”
    When Hermione entered, he was sitting at his desk, alone…

And in a perfect world, this is absolutely related to schwinden. I mean… disappearing and speed are not far apart.
But… the real world is not a Disney movie. It’s not always perfect.
Princesses poop and geschwind is NOT related to schwinden. Actually, it’s related to gesund (healthy) and they come from an old Germanic root that was about strength.
But hey…. I’m just mentioning this to not present wrong information. It doesn’t really matter from a practical perspective and if you want to think of Geschwindigkeit as connected to verschwinden or even the wind, go ahead. Whatever helps you remember it best.
So yeah, while geschwind is kind of out of fashion, die Geschwindigkeit is THE word for speed and there are plenty of beautiful compounds with it, one more slowing down than the next… Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung (speed limit), Ermüdungsrisswachstumsgeschwindigkeit (fatigue crack growth rate)

  • Die Höchstgeschwindigkeit auf vielen Teilen der deutschen Autobahn ist 130 km/h.
  • The maximum speed on many parts of the German autobahn is 130 km/h.
  • Zuviel Kaffee verursacht Gedächtnisschwund.
  • Too much coffee causes memory loss.

Yeah… uh… and I think that’s it for today.
This was our look at verschwinden and its relatives. And its non-relatives :).
As always, you can check how much you remember by taking the awesome quiz my underpaid assistant has prepared for you.
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

 

** vocab **

verschwinden = to disappear;
das Verschwinden = the disappearance
verschwindend = vanishing(ly)
gering = low

verschwenden = to waste
die Zeitverschwendung = a waste of time

schwinden = to dwindle to slowly disappear
der Schwund = the official term for wastage
der Gedächtnisschwund = the memory loss

schwindeln = a swindle a lie it’s used for small scale harmless lies
der Schwindel = fraud/scam/swindle; lightheadedness and vertigo;
schwindelig = dizzy/lightheaded
Mir ist schwindelig. = I feel dizzy/lightheaded.
der Schwindelanfall = an attack of vertigo

die Geschwindigkeit = speed, velocity
die Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung = the speed limit
die Höchstgeschwindigkeit = the maximum speed

 

 

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Tarun Tanwar
Tarun Tanwar
5 months ago

What are you talking about?!
Geschwindigkeit is totally a badass word for speed

Tarun Tanwar
Tarun Tanwar
5 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

yep,
I first heard this word (Teilchen-Beschleuniger) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99hVAu1k6G8

and I also read Geschwindigkeit for the first time when a lovely person sent me his biking progress screenshots from an app with display language set to German. He also sent me some really beautiful pictures. I live in a really polluted city and haven’t really experienced tourism much, so it was astonished to see that such places exist outside of windows xp wallpapers.

I was like A2 and A1 level back then, respectively, so I think both words were aggressive sounding (as usual for german words), which suited their meanings well, but now that i speak a bit more german, they sound softer. I think that’s what you don’t like about them(?)

Also I used to think that Geschwindigkeit referred to ‘dizziness’ (you’re going to so fast it makes you dizzy) and not ‘disappearing’ (rookie mistake that only non-reads of YDG will make, schwinden/schwindeln).

Thank you for replying, and btw is (civil) engineering the thing you studied but don’t care about? Because it looks like Ermüdungsrisswachstumsgeschwindigkeit
is a word that you already knew and didn’t just look up.
Anyway, I can really relate to the abstract way you write/think and I get carried away or digress a lot, given the length of my message, which I think you also do, given the length of your articles.

Tarun Tanwar
Tarun Tanwar
5 months ago
Reply to  Tarun Tanwar

Um, the main thing i wanted to say but forgot is that the source you learn the word from probably has effect on whether you like the word itself or not, since words are probably connected to their semantic meaning/the emotion that was triggered at time of learning, in our brains in some neurological way. I wonder how much of our ‘personality’ or thought pattern is just comprised of/dependent upon this fact, since (most of) our thoughts and speech are made of words.

Tarun Tanwar
Tarun Tanwar
5 months ago
Reply to  Tarun Tanwar

Sorry if I wasted your time, I will be more concise with queries the next time.

Tarun Tanwar
Tarun Tanwar
5 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Dankeschön<3, Ich kann schon fast alles im Easy German podcast verstehen(dank der DW-online-kurse und damit den Steuerzahlern, und natürlich dir auch für einen kostenlosen account), und ich hoffe, dass die Internetzugriff in die Berliner U-Bahn jetzt nicht mehr so nervig ist denn als die Zeit wann du der erste Gast des Podcasts warst.
(i really wanted to use ‘..denn als..’ in a sentence)
I really hope to be there some day, stay cool/hip/sympathisch, Emanuel :)

jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjohn
jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjohn
3 years ago

Hey man(u), amazing stuff as always, many thanks and much respect!

Out of interest, as another example, might one say:

Zuviel Kaffee verursacht Gedächtnisschwund?

Oder…?

Haha. Seriously though, I just wanted to say that with Maria’s example, maybe ‘fib’ would work better than ‘lied a bit’?

My dictionary also gives ‘flunkern’ for ‘fib’, so maybe you intended not to say that, but I think it’s apt in the above context.

Word!

Abgasstufe Es-Zett
Abgasstufe Es-Zett
3 years ago

Weird “F”hrasing Frage??/

And if you feel dizzy you use the same weird phrasing you’d use to say you’re cold or hot….

Hmm, usually in English when hot and cold are used in a sentence “paired” together, hot always precedes cold.
ex. This room is usually too hot or too cold.
A thermostat regulates hot and cold
Would you like your roast beef sandwich served hot or cold?
An unstable person is often emotionally excessively hot or cold.

Ist sowas beim Deutsch auch der Fall? Wie beim “Kopf oder Zahl” Heads or tails.
???
Gibt es eine tyoische Reihenfolge?
Ich bin sehr neugierig was Du darüber zu sagen hast.
MfG,
Abgaz
24.5.19

berlingrabers
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Oh yeah, the order of vowel sounds is pretty firmly fixed in the Anglophone subconscious. Tic-tac-toe, fee-fie-fo-fum, e-i-e-i-o… saying “cold or hot” isn’t wrong or anything, but it sounds marked.

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Hmm… I think “old and new” might fit into that phenomenon, although to some extent it just feels like, well “old” was there before “new,” so it comes first, right? To me, “nice and ___” is a pretty fixed expression, regardless of what goes in the blank.

Adjective-order preferences probably trump sound preferences, too. So “tall and thin” sounds right/normal, not “thin and tall.” “Short or tall” sounds more neutral to me than “tall or short,” but that might be more about the sound of the ending of the word than anything.

Are there really any rules? WHO KNOWS

Mona
Mona
3 years ago

Hallo!

This lesson has been so entertaining, I really liked the sentences I don’t think I will forget that unicorns are maybe Schwindel – gasp –

After reading this my mind put pieces together and figured out this anime name “das verschwinden der haruhi suzumiya”

thank you so much , also I would like to thank the amazing members who donates to German is easy! because of you guys I was able to get a free year membership and learn as much as I can! thank you so much everyone ~ I will make sure to treasure this and learn a lot .

ale
ale
3 years ago

great website!
could you please offer a feed reader, sodass wir deine Webseite abbonieren können und keinen Beitrag verpassen? Danke!

ngen31
ngen31
3 years ago

HEAR ME OUT
Maybe German blacksmiths back in the day figured out when they hit metal it makes the sound “schwinnnnnnn” (it was German metal so of course it makes a sound with sch) and then it slowly quiets down or ‘dwindles’, so they started using the verb schwinden to convey that idea!

Alan
Alan
3 years ago

Gibt es Einhörner in Bulgarien? Gute Photos

Tiger
Tiger
3 years ago

Hi, this is my first artical of the week. Why it is telling me that I reached the limit I can read for free already? I was able to read your atricals before but now I can’t get to read into the main part. Do I have to re-subscribe?

Silvia
Silvia
3 years ago

Vielen Dank aus Spanien!

Ruth
Ruth
3 years ago

A couple of remarks on the English versions.
Although probabilities are low and high, not small and big/large, “vanishingly small” is a standard expression in other areas of maths. Oxford English Dictionary gives “an event of vanishingly small probability” as an example, apparently confirming my feeling that the expression would prevail even in statistical use.
From maths to magic. While many wizards do carry staffs the implement used for casting spells is generally a much smaller “wand” (with the “a” sounding like a short “o” as in “wash”). “Der Stab” seems to cover both in German, with “wand” possibly distinguished as “der Zauberstab”.

Special thanks for the instagram link in your email alert.

berlingrabers
3 years ago
Reply to  Ruth

I’m not sure I’d generalize about what implement wizards use for their spells, but at any rate, wizards in Harry-Potter-World use wands for sure. (I’m partial to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books myself, and there, staffs/staves are definitely standard.)

berlingrabers
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

No, a wand figures importantly in one book. If it’s hand-held, it’s way too small to be called a “staff.” Even something in-between – like a cane or walking stick – is too small for “staff” to me.

Ahmad Mazaheri
Ahmad Mazaheri
3 years ago

Dass geschwind mit schwinden nichts zu tun, macht mich schwindelig! Wer konnte es denken , es hat lieber
mit gesud ? Wannsinig. Deutsche Sprache ,schwere Sprache .
Vielen Dank lieber Emmanuel , ebenso für deiner Assistentin .
Ahmad

Elsa
Elsa
3 years ago

Hello,

Here are today’s typos so you can make them verschwinden:
“yup, the’re all connected” (they’re all connected)
“straight forward” (straightforward)
“a resources” (either a resource or resources (better IMO))
“like a verbs with a ver-prefix” (like verbs)
In quiz question 7 (which word does not exists – extra s in exist)

I have a question about the coffee example, although not directly related to today’s topic:
Is there any difference between “zuviel” and “zu viel”?

No more questions for today, I’m studying for a mock exam on Saturday, wish me luck; I hope I don’t suffer from Gedächtnisschwund!
Bis bald!