Word of the Day – “wischen”

Hello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And this time, we’ll take a look at a word that connects windshields, busting and our butts.
You might have guessed it… I am talking about

wischen

 

Wischen is the German word for to swipe, to wipe and it sure looks an awful lot like waschen. That would make sense, since they’re both about cleaning. But they’re not related.
Waschen comes from the same root as water. Wischen on the other hand is the German brother of to whisk, and the original idea was  moving swiftly. Which also makes sense, at least if you’re as swift a cleaner as I am. Like a fairy, I whisk through the bathroom, whoosh, the floor. Whoosh, the mirror. Whoooooooosh the toilet. And I am done.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking that I’m not doing a lazy job cleaning.
I’m actually pretty thorough, though. I oddly enjoy das Bad wischen.
But hey, we’re not here to talk about my cleaning preferences. We’re here to talk about wischen. And while the verb itself is useful, it’s the prefix versions that really make it a word of the day.
Because there are quite a few cool colloquial ones, and some of them are impossible to guess.

But let’s start with a few examples for wischen itself. It can be used in the sense of wet cleaning, but the core idea is wiping/swiping.

As you can see, wischen is not ALWAYS used in the context of cleaning. But it is definitely the main focus, also for many of the prefix versions. Those basically specify what kind of wiping we’re doing, and it’s often more idiomatic to use one of those because German likes to be painfully specific :). So if we’re wiping the inside of something, we’d use auswischen, if we wipe up something, we’d say aufwischen and so on.

That’s why he called it the “Boléro”, by the way. Po leer o. Get it? Get it?
Yup… that was one of the worst puns ever. But hey, the guy really didn’t like the composition that much. And I kind of agree. He has written much more beautiful pieces, where the lines between classical music and jazz start to blur. Actually, I’ll link one up at the end of the article.
But first, let’s get talk about the less obvious versions of wischen.
And blurring lines is actually one of the ideas of the first one… verwischen.

the weird wischen verbs

Taken literally, verwischen is about removing through wiping. However, the verb for actually wiping away is wegwischen. Verwischen is more about making disappear by making it less discernible (or indiscernible). And from that it’s not really far  to the meaning to blur.

But here we still have somewhat of a notion of wiping in it. That’s different for the next verb, entwischen.
Entwischen is a slightly colloquial, “cute” verb for escaping, fleeing and there seems to be hardly any connection to wiping. But if you’re now like “Ugh, that sounds like some crazy mind yoga.” then I have good news for you. We don’t need it.
Do you remember the word wischen was related to? Exactly… to whisk. With the idea of moving swiftly. Once we have that in mind, entwischen makes perfect sense… it’s pretty much to whisk away.

And this connection to whisking also helps us with erwischen. Which means to catch, in the sense of catching someone or something that was trying to get away.

Technically, last phrasing also works for getting caught by the flu. It’s the context that makes it clear.
Anyway, so erwischen is a colloquial version for to catch and if you’re wondering about the connection to to whisk… just think of making a fast arm motion to catch an insect or something combined with the notion of “getting” that er- carries. You get something by whisking your arm.
Not super obvious, but not super crazy either.

But there’s one version of wischen, that REALLY doesn’t seem to make sense… auswischen. Or actually eins auswischen.
We already learned that auswischen means to wipe the insides of something. So literally, eins auswischen would mean “to wipe one out” . The actual meaning of the phrasing is to take a jab at someone, in a metaphorical way. Kind of like a small revenge, only that it’s actually the initial deed without anything to take revenge for…. like… prevenge, maybe. Dictionaries said “to score off/to put one over” but I have never heard of those. I hope you got the idea, though.

She basically wants to score a point against Thomas. Maybe as a payback, maybe because she just wants to tease. But yeah… jemandem eins auswischen is the phrase for that kind of stuff, and I think we should just think of that as a fixed idiom.

Cool, now I guess we can also mention the noun der Wisch, which is a colloquial, disrespectful term for a document.

And then, last but not least, there’s the one that I REALLY couldn’t make sense of: dazwischen. Like… dictionaries say it means in between there.  And I really can’t see any connection to wiping or whisking, whatsoever. And the prefix daz- … I honestly have NO idea. I’ve never seen that before…hmmm…  daz-wischen. I feel like I’m missing something really obvious here, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Anyway, I think that’s for today :).

This was our look at wischen and it’s prefix versions.
As usual, you can (should (must)) take the little quiz, my assistant who is pissed at me because I didn’t go to the government office with her even though it’s really stressful for her… uhm… I lost the sentence. So try out her quiz. And sorry, honey!
And of course, if you have any questions or suggestions, just leave me a comment.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

0%
449

Test yourself on "wischen"

How much do you remember from the article?

1 / 6

What does wischen mean?

2 / 6

What's the most idiomatic verb if we want to wipe off something (like a table or our butt)?

3 / 6

Wischen doesn't really combine with which of the following nouns?

4 / 6

What is the verb-noun combo for the of “to cover up one’s track”:

5 / 6

What can we say, if we catch our roommate secretly eating our stuff?

6 / 6

"Ich habe meinen Mitbewohner eins ausgewischt." What have I done?

Your score is

The average score is 78%

Oh and as promised, here’s a link to one of the amazing pieces of the Boléro guy.

 

 

** Vocab **

wischen = to swipe, to wipe
auswischen = to wipe the inside of something
aufwischen = to wipe up something
abwischen = to wipe off something
verwischen = to remove something through wiping, to blur, to erase;
wegwischen = to wipe away
entwischen = a slightly colloquial, “cute” verb for escaping, fleeing; to whisk away
erwischen = to catch, in the sense of catching someone or something that was trying to get away.
jemandem eins auswischen = to take a jab at someone, in a metaphorical way; to score off/to put one over
der Wisch = a colloquial, disrespectful term for a document/paper

 

for members :)

70
Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
aoind
aoind

“To put one over on someone” (note the “on” is necessary; without it it would sound literal) is a well known expression. It’s a bit like “to do the dirty on someone” but more justified – not as craven or evil.

Anonymous
Anonymous

dazwischen= da + zwischen :-)

Andy Mack
Andy Mack

I would remain anonymous too, if I fell for that one!

Annasc
Annasc

dazwischen… I got it, I got it!

Aformanek
Aformanek

Denn ich nicht sicher war ob du uns eins ausgewischt hast, habe ich tatsächlich einen Googlesearch gemacht um aufzuprüfen ob Ravel wirklich sich mit Bolero sein Arsch abgewischt hat. (…und nicht)

Ralph
Ralph

re “der Wisch” and “Maria’s stupid piece of paper” you might like the English word “bumpf” or “bumf”, abbreviated from “bum fodder”.

NN __
NN __

Interestingly, Russian has analogue of entwischen which comes also from word related to washing.
And of course it is colloquial word.:)

https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D1%81%D0%BC%D1%8B%D1%82%D1%8C%D1%81%D1%8F

NN __
NN __

Vielen Dank für einen weiteren großartigen Artikel !

Goce Dokoski
Goce Dokoski

“Zwischen” soll das originale Wort in “dazwischen” sein,und nicht wischen. Also keinerlei Zusammenhang mit wischen :)

Elsa
Elsa

Hellooo,
I might be completely wrong on this one, because the typo I think I have found might not be a typo at all, but a total failure on my part to understand the German sentence:
“The unicorn wipes the sweat off my forehead” (does it wipe the sweat off your forehead or its forehead?!?!?, i.e. your typo or my crappy German?)
“The border between sense and insanity blur more and more” (blurs)
“Maria needs some stupid piece of paper of her health insurance company” (from her health insurance company)
“I really can’t see any connecting to” (connection)
“didn’t go to the government office with here” (with her – and how ungentlemanly of you, Emanuel!)

I like prevenge, what a cool word (people now tend to use the expression preemptive strike, which carries a similar meaning, but prevenge is waaaaay cooler).

Thanks for another great article and for teaching us to wipe our butts in German ;)

Suvajit Basu Roy
Suvajit Basu Roy

Hello Elsa,

I also was going to write about the same typo (I think so), it must be: “The unicorn wipes the sweat off its forehead”
and also the next example, “Maria always swipes ‘left’ as a matter of principle.”

Richard Rotella
Richard Rotella

“jemandem eins auswischen”___any relation to the verb “vormachen”….as in: ” du kannst mir doch nichts vormachen”…”you can’t put anything over on me” (fool me) ?

Anonymous
Anonymous

Nicht daz-wischen, aber da-zwischen, von zwischen, between und da, there

Karen
Karen

Is Maria swiping left or right on Tinder when she sees a dog?

Anonymous
Anonymous

Genauso! Mein Punkt. Kann ich nicht glaube das ich ein TYPO gefunden hat. I’m sure there are some mistakes in that previous sentence! LINKS is LEFT — Am I rechts?

Rémi
Rémi

“Links” in German, is “left” actually. Like many other Errors in this however interesting article.

Anonymous
Anonymous

dazwischen has nothing to do with “wischen” . It is the the prefix “da” + the preposition “zwischen”.

Revati
Revati

Dazwischen hat nichts mit wischen zu tun
Da-zwischen!!!

Matthew James Taylor
Matthew James Taylor

Hey I got a correction too!
“And from that it’s not really for the meaning to blur.”
It looks like you a word.
Also: ” getting caught by the flue.” Flue is part of a fireplace. What you catch is the flu – “catching the flu” would be the correct phrase.

Matthew James Taylor
Matthew James Taylor

Is Der Wisch from back before toilet paper when people would use a cloth (in English: a bum clothe or arse wipe or bum rag.)

Anonymous
Anonymous

Clearly you wanted to goad us into correcting your obvious errors–like Maria wischt nach links auf Deutsch but in English she swipes right. But please–why is there a little portrait of Wagner on the Ravel piece at the end? Is that intentional?

roberto tornello
roberto tornello

danke,so eine gute Erklärung habe ich noch nicht erfahren!

naga
naga

My God. There is so much to learn in a(ny) language that one can spend a whole lifetime learning it but will still have something left over for tomorrow. (Just curious….how will the above sentence look in Duetsch?)

Anonymous
Anonymous

But isn’t dazwischen all about zwischen and not wischen? Like darin, darauf there’s dazwischen

Vince Aitro
Vince Aitro

Looking at Sinn and Unsinn, I think a better translation into English would be “Sense and Nonsense”. Sanity vs Insanity, to me, suggests Vernünftig vs Wahnsinnig ! Aber Sie haben Recht die Linien verwischen immer mehr.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Was a great laugh! Cheers

Anonymous
Anonymous

Dazwischen has no connection with wischen. It’s da+ zwischen.