Word of the Day – “wenden”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time with a look the meaning of


A man once said “If I had a Dime for every word that German has for to turn, I would be a rich man.”
Clearly, this man does not understand money very well.
But German does have quite a few possible translations for to turn and wenden is one of them and to understand what kind of turning wenden is about it helps to … ahem … turn to the related words. The most obvious one is of course winden (to wind). Wendenis what linguists call the causative version of winden, meaning “to make wind”. But there’s another related word that’s even more helpful, I think: die Wand.

Wandis the German word for wall, in sense of a wall of a room, and the name Wandcomes from the way Germanic tribes built their homes… by wattling (winding) branches. So Wandliterally kind of is “the wound one” ... here’s a picture if you need a better idea.
Now, the essence of this wattling, and also of winding and weaving is the constant changing from one side to the other. And that’s also what a Wand, a wall does… it creates two sides. And this idea is the key to wenden and to understanding the difference to drehen, the other main word for to turn. The focus of drehen is circular movement, the focus of wenden is turning from one side to the other… or in a more abstract sense, from one direction to another direction.

The distinction between the two is not super strict. Umdrehenfor instance means pretty much the same as wenden. So just take this turn from one side idea as a rough guide.
Now, wenden sounds a tiny bit technical and is not too common in daily life. But you can definitely find it in context of navigation and in a couple of idioms. Oh, and sich wenden an it means to turn to someone.

And there’s the noun die Wende, which would be just a boring, random, forgettable noun if it weren’t used as a name for that one big event in recent German history – the fall of the wall and the subsequent reunification. A big turnaround indeed.

And there’s actually another somewhat big and relevant turnaround going on in Germany which has the epic name: die Energiewende ; the shift away from nuclear and coal to renewable energy.

And last but not least, politics currently debate about a Grammatikwende, which is the shift away from 3 genders and endings to just adding e to everything.
Yeah… you wish :).
Now that we have an idea of wenden, let’s turn to the really useful stuff… the prefix versions. And we’ll start right away with the two ones that you’ll use most…

verwenden and anwenden

Verwenden means to use and the logic behind the meaning is actually quite simple. The ver- expresses the idea of for, toward and verwenden once simply meant “to turn something toward something”. And when you mix in a little abstract … and then some more abstract you’ll end up with to use. Think about it… you want to open your beer and you have a lighter. Then you’ll “turn” the lighter toward opening the beer”… you use it to open the beer. Tadah.. dunno… to me it makes sense :)

The other common verb for to use is benutzen and there’s not really a big difference between benutzen and verwenden. It’s more the tone. Benutzen sounds a bit more hands-on and “rough”. So for abstract items or if you it sound elegant, verwenden is the slightly better choice.

The logic of anwenden pretty much the same as that of verwenden… you “turn” an item toward a purpose. But anwenden is a bit more targeted and means to apply; in the sense of applying some sort of tool to a purpose. Anwenden, apply

And just to make sure… anwenden absolutely does not work in sense of applying for a job.
Cool, let’s move on.

zuwenden and abwenden

Zuwenden is yet another verb that is about turning toward. But zuwenden is not as abstract as verwenden or anwenden. Still, it is tricky because zuwenden always comes with a self reference. So it’s actually sich zuwenden and it’s used in sense of turning yourself to someone or something. And it’s more than just turning your head or your body. Zuwendenimplies that your focus is entirely on the person or the thing. The noun die Zuwendung actually even means something like affectionate/caring attention.

The opposite of sich zuwenden is sich abwenden which basically means to turn (yourself) away from something. You can use it in the very literal sense of turning away your face but in a more general sense of leaving alone

And speaking of some odd man being candidate for something, that’s a good context for the other meaning of abwenden: to avert.

Oh and by the way… guess where vert in avert comes from. Exactly, from Latin and it meant to turn.
Cool, next.


The idea is kind of along the lines of what we had so far… aufwenden is about coming up with some resources for a purpose. The verb itself is quite rare though. What’s really gonna be useful for you are the two related words. The noun der Aufwandmeans something like effort you have to invest for a certain goal and usually it’s used in contexts where the effort is significant. This notion is even more clear in the adjective aufwendig which means “requires lots of effort/work” and depending on context translates to complicated, lavish or elaborate.

All right.
Now there are quite a few other prefix versions but talking about all of them in detail would be a little too aufwendig. And boring. So instead let’s do what all good movies do… a montage!!!! Awesooooome.
And of course we need music so click here for some awesome montage music … yeeeeaaaah! Let’s do this.

Prefix “wenden” training montage

Auswendig… no logic… auswendig. Einwendeneinwenden… something about turning something into… used only for “turning in” an argument into a discussion.

Auswendig… no auswenden... der Vorwand... has no verb no more…. no vorwenden… JUST NOUN!! ” turning something forth”. Actual meaning —- > super narrow. Means … false pretense.

auswendig... by heart… can’t give up… I got this…. prefix verbs left and right.... entwenden…. NON-SEPARABLE…. ent means expresses removal. Entwenden means… to steal. To lift. Sounds “elegant”.

So tough… auswendig… just adjective NO VERB. Aus… wendig… ugh… no logic visible… can’t think anymore. Gotta learn it by heart. What does it mean… auswendig means by heart…. super important. Must remember that one… auswendig, auswendig, auswendig… examples.

Yeaaaaaaaah, hell yeaaaaaaaaaaaah… *pant *pant… *falls on the grass…

Surprising relatives

Phew, that was intense. Now let’s relax and drink a cold beer while we take a one of the many many words that are related to wenden – the word verwandt. because this is actually related. Like… literally.

Verwandt means related in sense of family and of course that begs the question… what does that have to do with wenden and verwenden? Well, it’s actually quite simple. Do you remember the original idea of verwenden? It was “turning toward”. And this was also used in sense of people and verwandt simply meant turned toward each other. This then slowly shifted toward liking each other and then it became even more close until it had the meaning it has today. Pretty cool, right?
And there are actually a LOT of cool related words to wenden and its brother winden and they all have some form of the core idea of winding, changing sides constantly in them… das Gewinde is the thread of a screw, die Winde is a winch, die Windel is a diaper because… you wrap it around your baby’s butt, die Wendeltreppe is a circular staircase, das Gewand is a garment, robe (a piece of fabric you wrap around yourself) and then there are wandern and wandeln…. but I think we’ve really learned enough for one day so let’s wrap this up here :).

This was our look at the meaning of wenden and its super useful prefix versions and verwandte words.
As usual, if you have any questions or suggestions about how to verwenden any of the words, or if you want to anwenden what you learned right away, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

** vocab **

wenden– turn around (car, pages)
sich wenden an – turn to a person (for help or something)
die Wende– the turn around
die Wendung – the turn ( for events)
die Redewendung – the figure of speech (lit.: turn/twist of talk)

anwenden – apply, use in practice
die Anwendung – the application, also: the use
der Anwender – user (in computer and app context)

etwas abwenden – avert
seinen Blick abwenden – turn away one’s gaze
sich abwenden – turn away

einwenden – argue, voice an objection
der Einwand – the (soft) objection

der Aufwand – the total of work, material, money and time put into a task
aufwendig /aufwändig– requiring lots of effort/work/time/… , also: sophisticated

sich jemandem zuwenden – turn to someone
jemandem etwas zuwenden – turn something to someone (mostly for body parts, especially the back)

entwenden – to steal (sneakily)

verwenden – use, apply for a task
die Verwendung– the use

verwandt – related (family)
der Verwandte – the relative

die Winde – winch
das Gewinde – the thread (of screws)
die Wand – the wall
das Gewand – dress, robe (old fashioned word)
die Wendelttreppe – the circular staircase
wandeln – to gradually change
verwandeln – to transform, to change something into something (often by magic)
wandern– to hike
die Wanderung – the hike
einwandern – to immigrate
auswandern – to emmigrate

überwinden – overcome
sich überwinden – bring oneself to doing something, overcome one’s fear or laziness

** Want to use the audio for your flashcards? Click here to download them all (zip archive)**


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