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). Wenden is 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.

Wand is the German word for wall, in sense of a wall of a room, and the name Wand comes from the way Germanic tribes built their homes… by wattling (winding) branches. So Wand literally 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.

  • Ich wende mein Steak.
  • I turn  my steak from one side on the other.
  • Ich drehe mein Steak.
  • I spin my steak.

The distinction between the two is not super strict. Umdrehen for 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.

  • Bitte wenden.
  • Please turn around
    (in navigation and for pages, NOT for a person turning around… that would be umdrehen).
  • Wenn Maria eine Rezeptidee braucht, wendet sie sich an ihre Cousine.
  • Whenever Maria needs an idea for a dish, she turns to her cousin.
    Lit.: she turns herself to her she-cousin.
  • Egal wie man es dreht und wendet… diese Wohnung ist einfach überteuert.
  • No matter how you look at it... this flat is simply too expensive.
  • Das Blatt hat sich gewendet. (figure of speech)
  • The tide has turned.
    Lit.: The page has turned itself around.
  • Maria findet Wendebettwäsche super.
  • Maria really likes/is a fan of reversible bedding.

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.

  • Nach der Wende waren viele Menschen zuerst euphorisch.
  • After the fall of the wall (“the turn”) many people were euphoric.
  • Berlin in der Nachwendezeit war sehr aufregend.
  • Berlin was very exciting  in the years after the reunification.

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.

  • Die Energiewende ist eins der großen Projekte Deutschlands.
  • The energy turnaround is one of the big projects of  Germany.

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 :)

  • Bitte nur im Freien verwenden.
  • Please only use outside.
  • Forscher der BS University haben wiederverwendbares Toilettenpapier entwickelt.
  • Scientists of the BS University have developed reusable toilet paper.
  • Ich habe das Partyselfie für meine Bewerbung verwendet.
  • I used that party selfie for my application.

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

  • Thomas geht nach dem Sprachkurs immer in eine Bar, um das, was er gelernt hat,  anzuwenden.
  • After the language course Thomas always goes to a bar to put into practice/apply what he has learned.
  • Bitte schließen Sie die Anwendung. (also: das Programm).
  • Please close the application.
  • Was ist der eigentlich Unterschied zwischen Design und angewandtem Design?
  • What’s the difference between Design and applied design?

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. Zuwenden implies that your focus is entirely on the person or the thing. The noun die Zuwendung actually even means something like affectionate/caring attention.

  • Ich wende mich dir zu.
  • I turn (my attention) to you.
  • Nach einem kurzen Chat mit der neuen wendet sich Thomas wieder seiner Arbeit zu.
  • After a short chat with the new lady Thomas turns back (his attention) to his work.
  • Kranke Kätzchen brauchen viel Zuwendung.
  • Sick kittens need lots of affection/love/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

  • Thomas wendet sich von Maria ab.
  • Thomas turns away from Maria.
    (can be physical as well as abstract)
  • Weil der komische Mann Kandidat geworden ist, wenden sich viele Wähler von ihrer Partei ab.
  • Since the odd man became candidate many voters turn away from their party.

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

  • Beim Parteitag haben einige versucht, die Wahl des komischen Mannes abzuwenden.
  • At the party convention, some tried to avert/prevent the election of the odd man.
  • Das Unternehmen hat die Pleite gerade noch abgewendet.
  • Just barely the company managed to avert bankruptcy.

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 Aufwand means 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.

  • Nudeln selber zu machen, ist mir zu aufwendig.
  • Making pasta myself is too much work for me.
  • Der Aufwand für diese eine kurze Szene war obszön.
  • The effort/amount of work and material for that one short scene was obscene.

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.  Einwenden …  ein … wenden… something about turning something into… used only for “turning in” an  argument into a discussion.

  • Im Anhang mein Entwurf für einen Putzplan… wenn einer Einwände hat, einfach aufschreiben. Wir diskutieren das dann beim nächsten WG-Meeting.
  • Attached is my draft for a cleaning roster… if you have objections, just note ’em down. We’ll discuss all this at the next flat mate meeting.

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

  • Thomas lädt die neue Kollegin unter einem Vorwand zum Dinner ein.
  • Thomas invites the new colleague for dinner under a 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”.

  • An den, der die Kaffeemaschine entwendet hat: du tust uns allen weh, nicht nur dem Boss!
  • To the person who took (“lifted”) the coffee machine: you’re hurting all of us, not just the boss!

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.

  • In der Grundschule mussten wir  Gedichte auswendig lernen.
  • In elementary school we had to learn poems by heart.


  • Irgendwie ist es scheiße, wenn man seine Telefonnummer nicht auswendig kann.
  • Somehow it sucks, if you don’t know your own phone number by heart.

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.

  • Klingt verrückt aber: die Wörter “Scheiße” und “Science” sind verwandt.
  • Sounds crazy but: the words “shit” and “science” are related/family.
  • Weihnachten könnte ein schönes Fest sein … ohne die Verwandtschaft/ die Verwandten.
  • Christmas would be a nice holiday … if not for kin/the relatives.

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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11 months ago

Grüße Emanuel –

Danke, dass du viele der Nuancen hervorgehoben hat. Ich habe eine Frage in Bezug auf “geben”. Ich habe seine Verwendung in diesem Satz bemerkt:

Ich gebe Olivenöl ins Wasser, wenn ich Pasta koche.

Ist “geben” eine Alternative zu “verwenden”? Oder ist das ein sehr spezifischer Gebrauch von “geben”, mit der Idee, etwas hinzuzufügen?

2 years ago

Great article, as always. It was quite a long read because right at the beginning I had to google „causative version” and, boy, was that a three-hour rabbit hole. Btw, is “heißen-nennnen” also an example of causative alternation?
I think you missed a word in this example: “Nach einem kurzen Chat mit der neuen wendet sich Thomas wieder seiner Arbeit zu”. Or is this a “Mach die Frau ausfindig” case?
Fun fact, in Romanian one way to say “(to know) by heart” can be literally translated as “(to know) from/on the outside”, which is (according to wiktionary) pretty close to the old German meaning of “auswendig” as in “towards the outside/ antonym of inwendig”.

2 years ago

A) Kann man “Verwenden” figurativ verwendt?

B) Manche Satz

1) Sie sollten diese Fähigkeiten Verwenden, um erfolgreich zu sein und Sie können nicht einfach Ihre Logik anwenden

2) Wenn du Hilfe brauchst,wendest du dich an mir, denn ich bin hier bei dir, und ich bin mir sicher, dass du dich wendest mir zu.

3) Zu Schlafen, das ist aufwendig. Kein Endwände? Endwenden Sie?

4) Wende du dich zu, was du sagst. Das ist nicht hofflich

5) Wer entwendt meinen Apfel? Das is nicht wichtig mehr. Du soll dich meinen Name auswendig erinnern

C) Beitrag

ein taubes Ohr für jdn. haben (turn a deaf ear to sb)

Zeit auf etw. Akk verwenden (you can use für instead of auf. Although you would propably say “Ich verbinge meine Zeit mit ….”

D) Endung

I was gonne use Wandeln and so,but you gotta relax and 5 sentence is already a handful

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

A) Like employing sth that isn’t really employed?

If you employ what you learned here, You will notice a difference in results

I suppose that one is more anwenden as well

3) Nothing is aufwendig really. Perphbs a sarcastic comment. I thought the verb can be used like this “Do you object”

4) turn your attention to what you say (lit)

2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

4) Could you give a bit more details. When is zuwenden used and how would you write that Satz?

2 years ago

Do winding and wenden have a common etymology ?

3 years ago

Searched for the difference between benutzen and verwenden, and there it is :)
So the sentence “Sollte ich Microsoft-Konto verwenden?” would sound absolutely normal with both words (in terms of logging in to some website)?

George Sgouros
George Sgouros
3 years ago

auswendig: aus (outside) + wendig (turn). While I was learning my vocabulary as a young boy, I used to cover the translation with my hands and turn my head towards the window (looking outside). This helped me remember the meaning of each word (and most importantly prevented me from accidentally looking for any hints inside the textbook). Could this be an explanation for auswendig?

5 years ago

Very interesting — thank you!

5 years ago

der Wendehals – a type of bird and people :)

Osama T.
Osama T.
5 years ago

Could you please explain the difference between these words (Verwenden, Anwenden, Nutzen, Benutzen, Gebrauchen), I’ve read some articles about them but I found a lot of contradictions and I thought who could explain it better than the guy who explained the infamous “Mal” and “Doch”, anyway you dont have to write a long explanation just a few hints and examples, and I’ll figure it out :) I just need to get a feel for when to use which.

5 years ago

Noch eine Frage. Man “wendete/hat gewendet” oder “wandte/hat gewandt”? Gibt es einen Unterschied im Gebrauch, oder hängt es von der Region ab, oder ist es völlig egal?

5 years ago

wand (n.)
c. 1200, from Old Norse vondr “rod, switch” (cognate with Gothic wandus “rod,” Middle Swedish vander), from Proto-Germanic *wend- “to turn,” see wind (v.1)). The notion is of a bending, flexible stick. Compare cognate Old Norse veggr, Old English wag “wall,” Old Saxon, Dutch wand, Old High German want, German Wand “wall,” originally “wickerwork for making walls,” or “wall made of wattle-work” (an insight into early Germanic domestic architecture). Magic wand is attested from c. 1400 and shows the etymological sense of “suppleness” already had been lost.

5 years ago

Toller Blogpost! Eine kleine Frage/Korrektur. “Auswendig” ist ein Adverb (kein Adjektiv), oder?

5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Emanuel.muss man nicht die verbe auswenden mit “lernen” oder erinneren” benutzen? As un learn or remember by heart?

5 years ago

Hi all! To anyone who donated extra money to help others create an account… THANK YOU!!! I am a student at the University of Rochester in upstate New York. This will be my 3rd year studying German, and this blog is a huge help. As a broke college student, I am so appreciative of you all who gave some extra money to help others (like me) become a member of this blog!
Vielen dank :)

5 years ago

I knew Deutsch was going to be trouble when I discovered that “unverwandt” is not the opposite of “verwandt”.

5 years ago

Jetzt wende ich es an.

5 years ago

Ich habe diese Lektion gelesen. Jetzt wende es an.

5 years ago

Wenn brauche ich die Hilfe, dann ich meine Freunde wende sich an.

5 years ago

Wenn benutze ich die Hilfe, dann ich meine Freunde wende sich an.

5 years ago
Reply to  alanmarsee

Entschuldigung meine ich brauchen nicht benutzen hier.

5 years ago
Reply to  alanmarsee

Wenn ich Hilfe brauche, (dann) wende ich mich an meine Freunde.

5 years ago

When I came to Upper Austria some years ago I learnt a very interesting word: Wendnerin! A person/woman who turns illness to wellbeing (with prayer and strange rituals).

Charles Gleaves
Charles Gleaves
5 years ago

Sorry about not reading the very similar comment I made about the English word wend. I had forgotten about how a river wends its way. You don’t hear that much.