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.

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.

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. 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.

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 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.

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.

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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Loved it! So many Anwendungen… now it’s time not get mixed up.


“Aufwand” is one of those really handy German words that tends to make its way into my Denglisch.

“Hey, should we [really cool idea] for the party on Friday?”
“Nah, too much Aufwand.”

Just a little correction or two…

– Weil der komische Mann Kandidat geworden ist, wenden sich viele Wähler von ihrer Partei ab.
– Since the odd man got candidate many voters turn away from their party.

This is one of those situations where only “become” works as a translation for “werden” – “Since the odd man became a/the candidate…”

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

I’m not sure how other English speakers here would perceive this, but “lifted” sounds kind of funny applied to a coffee machine. Like, it’s a heavy enough object that the literal sense of the word kind of takes over. I’d use “lifted” more with small things like watches or wallets. There might be a better “elegant” option for “entwendet,” but the first thing that comes to my mind would be “make off with”: “To the person who made off with the coffee machine…”

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren

get your point about the coffee machine, but they are pretty small these days (not like the big old Italian cafe models) and I’d use ‘lifted’ quite happily

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren

Thinking about it a bit more, it’s quite commonplace here (Australia) to talk about ‘lifting’ cars, for example, and anything else really – possibly with a slightly ironic twist if it’s a bulldozer or oil tanker!


Yeah, I thought that might be a peculiarly American feeling on my part. Like I say, I’d only really ever use “lifted” for pickpocket-style stealing.

I kind of think in an American office, that sign would probably just say “To the person who took…” Our English can be boring like that.


I’m English and I have to say I’m with your initial thinking. Using “lift” to refer to stealing anything other than lightweight objects would be confusing here too. People would genuinely think you were referring to a feat of strength rather than helping oneself to a 100% discount.


Gut gemacht. I notice your mental block on “auswendig” extended as far as the vocab list (it’s missing). May I suggest a possible logic? Once you have memorized something, it is easy to turn it “out” (i.e. recite) on demand.


“wenden”, huh? That are a helluvalot prefix verbs. Let me add some more ;)

“umwenden” = “to turn around”, hey wasn’t this already the meaning of “wenden” as a whole? Well this one just takes the “um-” from “umdrehen” a synonym to “wenden” and adds it to “wenden”. And you get a more direction based turning. If you want to say that you turn around to somebody/something, then you’ll say: “Ich wende mich nach … um.” well you could also say: “Ich wende mich … zu.” but “umwenden” implies that quite a bit of turning around is done for that and it is very literally the direction of view or the thing itself that is turned and not just your focus of intention.

“hinwenden” = “to turn to” this has less turning to do but is rather straight directing yourself to a target. “Er wendet seinen Blick zu dem Berg hin.” = “He directs his view to the mountain.” This again could work with “zuwenden”: “Er wendet dem Berg seinen Blick zu.” but, well, there are never enough synonyms.

“es bei etw. bewenden lassen” = “to let sth. rest/to leave it at sth.” I can’t really say how this “wenden” fits into the picture but if you ever want to let a matter alone this one way to go. The alternative would be: “es bei etw. belassen”.

Oh, and what about “die Wendung” or “die Redewendung”? The figure of speech? Is that connected? I see you have it in your vocab-list (without translation by the way). Let me think how that could fit. “die Rede” is your talking the words you produce and the meaning they have and suddenly they make a sharp turn, first you think they mean something and suddenly you see they are meant in another more methaphorical way and you have a “Redewendung” and “Wendung” is just short for that.


Another classic, thanks a million Emanuel. “auswending lernen” was on my 5,000 word flashcard pack on Memrise so it’s seared across my memory already, much as you advocate. BTW, you must mean “party convention”. A convent is like a residence or cloister for nuns. I do like the sound of a party convent though. I work next door to a convent but I never hear them partying. They are all at least 70 years old though so it’s not too surprising.

W. Freudenfeuer
W. Freudenfeuer

Another dig at Donald Trump – it’s getting boring now.

How about using some other topical events for your language examples? Let’s see, what could be happening in Germany right now that’s worth commenting on? I’m sure if you look hard enough you will find something – if you know what I mean…


I love this blog!! I found German hard and really worked at A Level. This makes it dead interesting and fun. You are really someone who understands how to explain the abstract. And the thing about dropping genders, etc. is new to me! Would make it easier, I guess, but the richness and the challenge would be lost.


‘Wenden’ does sounds technical. As it brings up the English term – vending machines – those ones distributing snacks and drinks by turning/spinning/winding around the inside spirals. Great post btw :)


Noch ein sehr interesantes Post! and I even thought I had a lightbulb moment figuring out that English “gown” was related to German Gewand. Alas, according to my google search gown has a totally different origin. There are a lot of wendy windy words in English too—nun denke ich immer an alten Deutschen Haueser wenn ich eines hoeren. Hof ich das halb recht ausgedruekt habe!

Hugh Warren
Hugh Warren

Partietag would translate as ‘Party Convention’ not ‘convent’ – convent is a place where nuns are found.

Ano Menschkind Königin
Ano Menschkind Königin

Hallo, Emanuel; ich möchte mich für meine direkte Fragen entschuldigen. Ich wollte dich nicht beschämen & ich sollte sowas nicht (nicht mein Willen). Ich bin ja ganz sozial ungeschickt, aber ich möchte trotzdem mich dafür entschuldigen. Es tut mir Leid


Oh, some other comments reminded me of a weird little bit of English-language trivia – we do have the verb “to wend,” which is very rare. Mostly you see it describing a stream, river, or something analogous: “The Mississippi wends its way through the American heartland” or something like that.

The interesting thing is that apparently back in the day, this was a much more common verb, basically a synonym for “go,” and it actually got partially melded with “to go” (a process called “suppletion”), which is why the simple past form of “go” is “went” (meanwhile “wend” was given the regular past form “wended”).



Wend is also used in english as a polite way of taking your leave from someone at night, as in “Well, I must wend my way home now”, rather than “I’m off now” or “I have to go”.

Charles Gleaves
Charles Gleaves

The verb wend survives in English with the same meaning as wenden and with the same reference to the word wind (as in the blowing of the wind). In the form wend it comes from Middle English, but survives only barely. The only use in English I know of is in a very very old expression “I will wend my way through the crowd”. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly turn wend to wind (as to wind a thread) because they are unfamiliar with the word wend.

Around here we pronounce the Yiddish word dreidel like drehdel. Of course a dreidel is something you spin. I wonder if Dreidel comes from drehen?

Charles Gleaves
Charles Gleaves

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.


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).


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


Entschuldigung meine ich brauchen nicht benutzen hier.


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


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


Ich habe diese Lektion gelesen. Jetzt wende es an.


Jetzt wende ich es an.


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