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.

  • Ich habe das Bad gewischt.
  • I wiped/mopped the bathroom floor.
  • Das Einhorn wischt sich mit seinem Adidas-Schweißband den Schweiß von der Stirn.
  • The unicorn wipes the sweat off its forehead with its Adidas- Sweatband.
  • Wenn jemand auf Tinder ein Foto mit Hund hat, wischt Maria grundsätzlich nach links.
  • If someone has a picture with a dog on Tinder, Maria always swipes left as a matter of principle.

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.

  • Mir reicht’s! Ich werde heute den Kühlschrank auswischen.
  • I’m fed up! I am going to wipe out the fridge today.
    (note that wipe out does NOT mean the wiping out in the terminator sense)
  • Maria hat Angst, dass sie bei der Party wieder Thomas’ Kotze aufwischen muss.
  • Maria is scared that she’ll have to wipe up Thomas’ vomit again at the party.
  • “Der Tisch ist klebrig. Könntest du da kurz rüberwischen?”
    “Ich bin dein Mitbewohner, nicht dein Kellner.”
  • “The table is sticky. Could you wipe (over) it real quick?”
    “I’m your roommate, not your waiter.”
  • Maurice Ravel hat sich mit der Partitur vom Boléro den Po abgewischt.
  • Maurice Ravel has wiped (off) his butt with the score of the Boléro.

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.

  • Das Einhorn verwischt seine Spuren.
  • The unicorn erases its traces/hoof-prints.
  • Die Grenzen zwischen Sinn und Unsinn verwischen immer mehr.
  • The border between sense and insanity blurs more and more.

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.

  • Der Hase ist dem hungrigen Einhorn knapp entwischt.
  • The rabbit barely escaped the hungry unicorn.

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.

  • Maria wurde beim Schwarzfahren erwischt.
  • Maria was caught fare-dodging.
  • ERWISCHT!! Ich hab’s gewusst!”
    “Äh… das… das ist nicht, wie es aussieht. Ist Recherche”
  • Busted/gotcha!! I knew it!!”
    “Erm.. it.. it’s not what it looks like. It’s research.”
  • “Was ist den mit dem Chef los? Der hat so gute Laune…”
    “Sein Date von neulich… den hat es voll erwischt.
  • “What’s up with the boss? He’s in such a good mood.. ”
    “His date from recently… he’s totally lovestruck.”
    Lit.: “It totally caught him…”

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.

  • Maria flirtet auf der Party mit Steve, weil sie Thomas eins auswischen will.
  • Maria is flirting with Steve, because she wants to score off/put one over on Thomas.

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.

  • Maria braucht irgendeinen Wisch von der Krankenkasse.
  • Maria needs some stupid piece of paper from her health insurance company.

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.

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

 

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Pramod
Pramod
2 years ago

Thank you :) for making part of learning community

Ann
Ann
3 years ago

Ich habe meine Nase mit Blatten abgewischt.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
3 years ago

Bolero is the musical orgasm. Performed well (live) by a skillful orchestra, it is very exciting (the music, not the orgasm), but recordings have become somewhat worn-out in my opinion – pro’lly because we all know that everyone listening to it is thinking of one thing, and one thing only.
Ok, I’m not sure I’d want a steady diet of Bolero – prefer other classical music and most jazz much more, but like I wrote, preformed well by a skillful orchestra, it (Bolero, not the orgasm) can be very entertaining.

cambusken
cambusken
3 years ago

= da-zwischen?

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
3 years ago

If you spill overpriced ice cream, you might have to do some Häagen-Dazswischen

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Yeah, inspired by the “daz-wischen” bit. :)

Krishnan
Krishnan
3 years ago

Do you use wischen or auswischen when you want to say, it is a chip card and you don’t swipe it, but insert it.. another point, is it da-zwischen?

berlingrabers
berlingrabers
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I think you’re thinking of the right thing: https://tenor.com/view/credit-card-swipe-gif-10863986

Kayla-P
Kayla-P
3 years ago

I would never have guessed this was Ravel. It sounds very much like Debussy. It’s lovely! Thank you for sharing. I have nothing to say about the article that hasn’t already been said. ;-)

Marie
Marie
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Und habt ihr schon von Lili Boulanger gehört?
https://youtu.be/gYj3nP6l6DA
Gleiche Epoche (sie ist etwa 20 Jahren jüngerer als Ravel), auch “impressionistische” Musik und unglaublich schön, finde ich.
Und wie immer: Vielen vielen Dank für den Artikel.

coleussanctus
coleussanctus
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It’s been a long time since I listened to this and I wasn’t really able to appreciate it properly at the time. I don’t like baroque much either, but this is beautiful and somehow just what I needed today.

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

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

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

Was a great laugh! Cheers

Vince Aitro
Vince Aitro
3 years ago

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
3 years ago

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

naga
3 years ago

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?)

naga
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Vielen Dank, mein Lehrer !

roberto tornello
roberto tornello
3 years ago

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

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

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?

Matthew James Taylor
Matthew James Taylor
3 years ago

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
3 years ago

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.)

Revati
Revati
3 years ago

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

Karen
Karen
3 years ago

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

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago
Reply to  Karen

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
3 years ago
Reply to  Karen

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

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago
Reply to  Karen

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

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

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

Richard Rotella
Richard Rotella
3 years ago

“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) ?

Elsa
Elsa
3 years ago

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
3 years ago
Reply to  Elsa

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.”