Word of the Day – “weise”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: July 5, 2024

 

Hello everyone,

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

weise

 

It’s probably not a surprise that weise is the German brother of wise.
But there is a LOT more to discover about and around this word.
Like… check out this little list of words:

  • Ausweis – ID,
  • wasserabweisend – water repellent
  • beweisen – to prove
  • glücklicherweise – luckily
  • überweisen – to wire transfer
  • Hinweis – the hint

Quite a crazy list, right?
All these and many more are connected to weise and after today’s article you’ll not only have a lot more vocabulary, it’ll also actually make sense.

So let’s jump right into the surpring world of weise.

Now, we already said that weise and wise are related, and considering the meaning of wise, it’s probably not too big of a surprise that both are actually related to the German verb wissen (to know).
I mean, knowing a lot doesn’t necessarily make you wise of course, but there is a connection for sure. 

Now, German actually also has the verb weisen and originally, that was the “causing” brother of wissen. So it was about “making someone know“.
And one of the best ways of making someone know something
, the most primal way in fact, is by showing, pointing. Or more abstractly put, giving them visual.
Like… if I wanted to tell you what a Kastanie is, I just go like “Here!”

And you’d be like “Oh, I see. Now I know.”
And you know what’s really cool?
Wissen, wise and weise are more connected to the notion of seeing than you might think.
Because they all come from the profoundly ancient Indo-European root *weid which was literally about seeing. A meaning that’s still alive in words vision, evident or visible. 
It’s kind of funny to look at visible for example and then think of the German wissen. “wissable”…. if you can see it you can know it.

Now you might be like “Okay, this is interesting, but why are we talking about it?”

Well, because being aware of the connection between showing, seeing and knowing is a really great help with the whole family of weise.

And let’s actually start with the verb weisen.

“weisen” and its prefix versions

The original meaning of weisen was “to make someone know” and today, its core is somewhere along the lines of showing, guiding.

  • Ich weise dir den Weg.
  • I show/guide you the way.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Die Wanderer warten am Wegweiser auf einen Wetterwandel
  • The hikers are waiting under the signpost for a change of weather.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

This connection, this blend of showing and guiding, is the core of weisen. Which isn’t very common by itself, but its prefix versions … man, that’s basically a trip to Must-Have City.

Let’s take ausweisen and der Ausweis for instance. And I’ll give you an example first and you can try to make sense of the translations based on a notion of showing, pointing.

  • Ihren Ausweis bitte.
  • Your (personal) ID, please.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Können Sie sich ausweisen?
  • Can you identify yourself (with papers)?
  • Spanien hat den Nordkoreanischen Botschafter ausgewiesen.
  • Spain has expelled the ambassador of North Korea.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Can you see how the meanings make sense? The first two examples are essentially about  “informing, showing the outside (world)” who you are. And the last one, with ausweisen as to expell is pretty much showing someone out. Just in a rather formal and forceful tone.
Makes sense?
Cool.
Another really useful one is hinweisen and der Hinweise.

  • Wir möchten Sie auch auf unseren Speisewagen hinweisen, wo sie Kaffee, Bier und manschiges Essen zu lächerlich hohen Preisen bekommen können.
  • We’d also like to point you to/direct your attention to our dining cart where you can get coffee, beer and mushy food to ridiculously high prices.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Kannst du mir einen Hinweis geben?
  • Can you give me a hint?
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

But I think these are pretty in line with the whole showing thing, so let’s move right on to abweisen.

  • Meine neue Jacke ist wasserabweisend.
  • My new jacket is water repellent.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Das Wasser ist sehr traurig, weil meine Jacke es abgewiesen hat.
  • The water is very sad, because my jacket rejected it.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

Can you see how it’s in essence just a notion of “showing, guiding” combined with the away-notion of ab? The rain comes to your jacket and is like “Can I enter here?” and the jacket is just like “Nah bro, not this way. Go that way.” making the rain feel like a tourist trying to get into a Berlin club.
All right.
Another really good one is überweisen, and again, I’ll give you the examples and you can see if they kind of make sense.

  • Bitte überweisen Sie den Betrag innerhalb von 2 Wochen auf das unten genannte Konto.
  • Please wire-transfer the amount within two weeks to the account stated below.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Mein Hausarzt gibt mir eine Überweisung zum Chiropraktiker.
  • My physician gives me a referral for the chiropractor.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

The common theme here is essentially the notion of directing from A to B. Only that it’s limited to two specific contexts: sending money and a doctor sending a patient to another doctor.
All right, ready for a speed round?
Then here you go:

  • “Mein Bier… du hast es getrunken. Ich weiß es!”
    “Du hast keinen Beweis.”
  • “My beer… you drank it. I know it.”
    “You have no proof.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Einhörner existieren solange bis das Gegenteil bewiesen ist.
  • Unicorns exist until the opposite is proven.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Der Regenschirm hat sich als sehr nützlich erwiesen.
  • The umbrella turned out very useful.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Anjelika hat die Katze des Bettes verwiesen.
  • Anjelika banned the cat from the bed.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

As usual, these non-separable prefixes are a bit elusive, so don’t worry if you couldn’t really make sense of those.
Beweisen (to prove) is basically a mix of making known and pointing. It’s like saying “Look here! That’s reality.”
sich erweisen (to turn out) is based on er- in its very old sense of outward, so something “shows itself outward” .
And verweisen… well that one is based on the classic away-ver-idea. You’re showing, guiding someone elsewhere.
Cool.
Now, there are still more versions, like anweisen and die Anweisung which are about ordering, instructing what to do. Or einweisen or aufweisen or unterweisen.

But I actually think you can pretty much get these when you see them in context, as long as you keep a notion of showing, guiding in mind, so I’d say we move on.
You’re more than welcome to ask in the comments if you want more details about these.
But now, let’s talk about weise. And there’s way more than just wisdom there.

The Meanings of weise, -weise and Weise

weise as a normal adjective is pretty much the same as in English, so it means wise.

  • “Ich glaub’ ich nehm noch ein Bier.”
    “Sehr weise von dir.”
  • “I think I’ll have another beer.”
    “Very wise of you.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Der neue Praktikant hat die Weisheit nicht gerade mit Löffeln gefressen. (idiom)
  • The new intern is not exactly the smartest kid on the block.
    Lit.: “didn’t exactly eat the wisdom with spoons.”
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

But as most of you are probably aware,  wise is also used as an ending. Like food-wise, for example.  You can add it to nouns to create a word that means something along the lines of

“in terms of [noun]”

Relationship-wise, beer-wise, food-wise … it works with virtually all nouns in English.
Now, -weise is ALSO an ending in German, but the problem is: it does NOT mean the same as in English.
It would confuse the hell out of a German speaker if you were to translate food-wise as essensweise.
Because Essensweise would be understood as way of eating.
You see, German also has the noun die Weise which means way, manner. It’s less common than the other German word for that idea, die Art, but we can find Weise in a few phrasings and especially in compounds like Arbeitsweise (way of working) or Bauweise (style of building)

  • “Alter… was geht hier ab?!?! Warum ist ein Scheiß-Zebra in unserer Küche?”
    “Wenn ich den Abwasch mache, dann mach ich das auf meine Weise. “
  • “Dude… what the hell is going on?!?! Why is there a friggin’ zebra in our kitchen?”
    “If I do the dishes I do it my way.”
    (You can swap in “meine Art” here)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Die Arbeitsweise der Yoga-Lehrerin ist sehr… flexibel.
  • The way of working/method of the yoga teacher is very…  flexible.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

And actually, English does have this type of -wise that’s about manner as well, though only in a few words like stepwise (“in a step manner”) , likewise (“in a manner of the likeness”) or clockwise (“in the manner of the clock”).
The notion of the more common -wise, as in foodwise or relationship-wise is actually just a shift from “in a manner of relationships” to “in terms of relationship”. 
That shift never happened in German though, and that’s why the ending -weise has kept the older sense of “in a manner of”. 

  • In dem Wald waren haufenweise Einhörner.
  • In the forest, there were loads of unicorns.
    (lit: “in a manner of heaps”)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • “Wie war das Stück von der Kartoffel mit Petersilienschaum und Gedanken von der Butter.”
    “War lecker, aber nicht ansatzweise genug.”
  • “How was the piece of the potato with parsley foam and thoughts of butter?”
    “It was tasty, but nowhere near enough.”
    (Literally: “not even in a manner of onset”)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • “Mama, darf ich Basketball gucken?”
    “Ok, aber nur ausnahmsweise.
  • “Mum, can I watch basketball?”
    “Okay, but as/it’s an exception.
    (“in a manner of exception”)
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

It’s way more commonly added to adjectives though, to create essentially an adverb with the sense of “in an adjective way”.

  • Mein Wecker hat gestern versagt. Glücklicherweise musste ich auf Klo, sonst wäre ich voll zu spät gekommen.
  • Yesterday, my alarm failed. Luckily I had to go to the toilet, otherwise I would have been late big time.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

  • Bedauerlicherweise müssen wir Ihnen mitteilen, dass sich die Lieferung verzögern kann.
  • Unfortunately (lit: in a regretting manner) we have to inform you that the delivery might be delayed.
  • Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop

 

  • Ich habe dummerweise meine Wäsche auf dem Balkon gelassen. Jetzt hat der Sturm sie weggeweht.
  • Silly me/I foolishly left my laundry on the balcony. Now the storm has blown it away.

Those are really but a few examples and it was really hard to pick some because there are so many common ones.
As you can see English wise-words don’t really show up as a translation. So.. weise and wise are not really false friends, but when it comes to the endings, it’s better not to try direct translation because they will rarely work.

And I think that’s where we’ll wrap it up!
Hooray!
This was our look at the weis-words and we’ve covered absolutely everything there is to say abou th… oh, hold on, see we have a call here, Kate from Dublin, welcome to the show.
“Hey Emanuel… so what about the elephant in the room?”
Uh… what elephant. I don’t know what you mean?
“Haha, very funny. Come on man, you know very well what I’m talking about. What about beziehungsweise?!”
“Yeah man, what about it.”
Wait, what….  Why are there two callers now… who are you?
“I’m Cassey from London and we’re not just two, Emanuel. ”
“Yeah, we’re many. We’re the 99%!”
“And we want beziehungsweise.
“Yeah man, you can’t like … just just pretend this word doesn’t exist.”
Crap… there must be something wrong with my phone system…. 
” Exlain it or we’ll cry. Or riot. BE-ZIEH-UNGS-W….. ”
Hello… hello… a phew, It stopped. That never happened before How did so many people end up in my hea… I mean the phone system at the same time.
But seriously, I know many of you are confused by beziehungsweise is a -weise word but I just feel like cramming it in here would be too much. We’ll talk about it some other time.
Big unicorn promise :).

So yeah, that’s it for today. This was our look at weise and the verb weisen and even though they don’t usually come to mind as part of the most important words, you will be surprised how frequent you’ll come across weisen-versions or words with weise as an ending.
If you have questions about any of this or if you want to talk about a particular word that we didn’t mention, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** vocab **

weise – wise (sense of knowledge)
die Weisheit – the wisdom

der Wegweiser – the sign post
wegweisend – groundbreaking

beweisen – prove
der Beweis – the proof

erweisen – render (rare, only for favors)
sich erweisen als – turn out as
verweisen – refer, ban

abweisen – reject
anweisen – instruct (giving orders in a work context), also: place an order to wire money
sich ausweisen – identify oneself
der Ausweis – the ID card
ausweisen – expel

ausweisen als – declare (in sense of label)
vorweisen – to show (as in present a result)
überweisen – to wire transfer money, also: to refer in sense of doctors
die Überweisung 

unterweisen (die Unterweisung) – instruct (in a teaching sense)
aufweisen – to show, to have (in context of characteristics or short comings) 

ansatzweise – to some extent
nicht mal ansatzweise – nowhere near enough

vorzugsweise – preferably 
glücklicherweise – luckily
dummerweise – unfortunately
blöderweise – being the idiot that I am

 

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