Word of the Day – “wenden”

Written By: Emanuel Updated: June 28, 2021

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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