Boyish language

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The boys' language or student language was a class language interspersed with numerous Latin, French and Latinized words, which was spoken among German-speaking students and had its heyday from the 18th to the middle of the 19th century. The concept of the boy is therefore related to the student, not to the youth in general. It had supra-regional validity, even if the caste language of the boozy and rowdy students at the universities of Giessen , Göttingen , Halle (Saale) and Jena was considered decisive.

Members of German student associations still use individual terms in this language today. However, since the 20th century it has no longer been possible to speak of a pronounced student language as a special language.


Student language taken literally and implemented figuratively (1903)

The universities of the 18th and 19th centuries were in a constant exchange of information, so everyone had to talk to each other in a uniformly understandable language. Since the student language had not grown locally but extended to the whole of Germany, it was also generally understandable. The boys' language connected all German students with one another.

On the other hand, Friedrich Christian Laukhard (1757–1822) established as early as 1800 “that the Giessen boys' language is a German that a German understands as little as Arabic” . This shows how difficult it was for outsiders to understand the “ boyish ” language used by the students.

Johannes Meiner spoke about the phenomenon of student language as follows: “Your own student language, which belongs only to you and is used by you, a kind of secret language, comes from various sources from the beginning, and the general cultural development then also left its clear and indelible mark on the language . "

The student language encompasses all student life in all its forms and expressions. Their varied and extensive vocabulary has never been fully recorded in the large general German dictionaries, because the number of “boyish” word formations is too large for that.

The first student-language dictionaries emerged at an early stage, such as the Salamasius hand dictionary around the middle of the 18th century, a dictionary by Christian Wilhelm Kindleben in 1781 and another by Christian Friedrich Augustin in 1795. The Burschicose dictionary by the Swiss Johann Grässli - it appeared under the pseudonym J. Vollmann - differed from these lexicons in its lively and vivid description of student life. In 1813 the Lüneburg lawyer Daniel Ludwig Wallis found the form of a university guide for the Göttingen University, describes the processes and costs and adds a chapter as a lexical dictionary. His corps brother Georg Kloß also left an idioticon of boys' language that was published postmortem. In the case of these two practitioners, a great deal of realism can be assumed at the same time. What is remarkable in the case of the work by Wallis, published in 1813 during the French era , is the baffled reference to the existing censorship and its effect on the content of the dictionary: the author had to take into account the strong official persecution pressure on the student associations of this time if he did not want his fellow students endanger.

The words of the student language - they mostly originate from the middle of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century - like student idioms, are also subject to a change in meaning over time.

The heyday of the German boys' language is the 18th century, when the German mother tongue gradually supplanted Latin in high schools. At that time the student determined with his appearance, with his customs not only life in the small university towns, his language and vocabulary also dominated the intercourse with the citizens. Similarly, the language was a schoolboy under the influence of the university and its special language . The German student also carried his boys' language to his homeland, he took it with him on his further life.

Linguistic particularities

The language of German students, especially those of the 16th and 17th centuries and the beginning of the 18th century, was interspersed with Greek and especially Latin language elements much more strongly than the language of today's students. Latin , the universal language of science, determined teaching and life in German high schools.

“Teutonisare”, speaking German, was frowned upon and was even a criminal offense. The student took over Latin words unchanged in his vocabulary - and used them, etc. a. in the name of the batches and in traditional student songs.

In the end, the student strips off any mandatory rules, he mixes Latin, Greek and German language elements without hesitation and puts German words with Latin endings. The most well-known is the colloquial term boy , the word is derived from Bursarius, the resident of a Burse. The Latin bursa (originally bag, pouch, purse) changed its meaning to common cash register, derived from the term the Burse, a community that lives from a common cash register, and also the Burse, the communal dormitory of university teachers and their students. The totality of the inhabitants of a Burse, the Bursanten or the Bursgesellen (Bursale, also Bursalis, Burßgesell and Bursenknecht) was also called the Bursch - and only gradually this expression has been transferred to the individual residents. In the 17th century, the meaning changed again: the boy is a synonym for student, a narrowing of meaning in the 19th century makes it a full member of a student association. In southern Germany and Austria, on the other hand, the term was expanded and describes every young man.

From the Latin adjective crassus (thick, largely) was glaringly adopted in the 18th century, whereby the mixture with nhd. Graß - still in use today in dreadful - has occurred, so that the student-language term "a crass fux " means a young student without a way of life means.

Fidel, derived from the Latin fidus (loyal, reliable), comes from the boys' language of the 17th century. A change in meaning made a jolly fellow - in the student language a little more coarsely also referred to as jolly bones - a brother Liederlich, a relaxed journeyman; Today the former word of the boys' language has taken on the harmless meaning of cheerful, funny.

Typical word formations in the student language are Exkneipe , Conkneipant . Words that are just as genuine student are to be addressed: Spiritus Kornus for brandy, Dickus for a stout person, Politician for a clever head; but also Pfiffikus and Luftikus are equally valid , - likewise weak matikus or Schlechtikus.

Student circles in the 16th and 17th centuries referred to newcomers to the high schools as bacchants . Similar words in the boys' language in -ant are Erzstapulant, Lyrant, Schnurrant or Paukant.

The French influence on the student language is no less significant than that of Latin, which has long been predominant.

Around 1700 a new spirit stirs in the German high schools. For example, Professor Christian Thomasius is pushing Latin out of the lecture halls in Halle and is the first in German university history to read in his native German.

On the other hand, in the age of Louis XIV, French exerts a lasting influence on the entire cultural life, thus also on the language and literature in the German-speaking area.

The French influence can be seen in the boys' language in the vocabulary as well as in the word formation. In the professional language of the German student - as in the language of the educated people of that time - French words penetrate and replace German.

The most common examples, which are still used today as German terms, are: the Couleur (French color)

  • the colors of a fraternity, through term extensions;
  • a color-bearing connection: "To which (which) color does he belong?"

Carrying color , showing the colors of the student union in the ribbon, in the hat, in the tip of beer, wine or champagne, as frequently used word combinations are mentioned here: Couleurbruder, Couleurbummel, Couleurdame, Couleurdiener, Couleur card, Couleur student, couleur capable.

On the other hand, there are new word formations - e.g. Partly derived from French words - with French endings, e.g. B. on -ier and -age . One example is the word "embarrassment" (shame, exposure), which has come into standard German today, a Frenchizing new formation of the German boys' language coined around 1750, which despite its basic French word ( blâmer = to blame) never belonged to the French language.

Furthermore, burlesque word formations are also attested: lecherous, pitched, malignant, philistine, dreadful, snappy.

The influence of Hebrew, Yiddish and Rotwelschen on the boys' language cannot be overlooked either. Traveling scholars and begging students of the late Middle Ages came into contact with traders and showmen, but also crooks on their travels. This has been reflected in their language, especially when it comes to expressing money or fraud.

The influence of German dialects on the student's language is there - measured against the influence of foreign languages ​​on them, however, small. A well-known example is the word finch; It originally comes from Low German and referred to a light-hearted, reckless youth, and later a non-incorporated.

Another important component is the borrowing of terms from other German group and professional languages. In addition to foreign language influences, the vernacular of the university cities also has an impact on the student language. It not only borrows expressions from standard German and transforms them, but also uses colloquial language and, in particular, other special languages.

The lads' language is particularly rich in pictorial, sometimes crude, comparisons, some of which are no longer used today.

Some powerful words or strange word structures are the result of chance or the adolescent arrogance of a brisk lad, which is what characterizes the colourfulness and ingenuity of the German student language. From the rich treasure trove of the boys' language - as well as from that of other German professional and professional languages ​​- many words and expressions have entered the colloquial language; some have even taken up common literary language: a rude fellow.

Just a few distinctive, meaningful words in the boys' language live on in today's colloquial language.


  • Studentikoses Idiotikon or common German boy language. published from a moss-covered head, Hochhausen Verlag, Jena 1841.
  • Martin Biastoch : Colossal plugging! A contribution to the student language of the 19th century. In: then and now. Vol. 35, 1990, pp. 35-38.
  • Richard Fick : At Germany's high schools. Ludwig Thilo, Berlin 1900.
  • Friedhelm Golücke : Student Dictionary . Student und Hochschule from A to Z , 5th, completely revised and expanded edition in four volumes, published on behalf of the Association for German Student History and the Institute for German Student History. akadpress, Essen 2018, ISBN 978-3-939413-68-4 .
  • Helmut Henne and Georg Objartel (eds.): Library on the historical German language for students and pupils. Vol. 1-6. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1984, ISBN 3-11-009992-6 .
    • Vol. 1: Historical German student and school language. Introduction, bibliography and word index.
    • Vol. 2: Dictionaries of the 18th century on German student language.
    • Vol. 3/4: 19th century dictionaries on the German student language I / II.
    • Vol. 5: Scientific monographs on the historical German language for students and pupils.
    • Vol. 6: Smaller scientific contributions to the historical German language for students and pupils. Appendix: German translation dictionaries.
  • Hortus Injuriarum or "The fine Couleurbummel" . A gallant dictionary of corporate conversation compiled, with a very famous appendix, filled with all sorts of wisdoms of the boyish patriarchs and explained with as many words and illustrations as necessary by Crescentius Gregarius Silenus. Potopolis 2010 [Norderstedt: Books on Demand], ISBN 978-3-83918786-9 .
  • Christian Wilhelm Kindleben : Student Lexicon. Halle (Saale) 1781.
  • Georg Kloß : The Idiotikon der Burschenssprache , published with an introduction by Carl Manfred Frommel . Frankfurt a. M. 1931.
  • Friedrich Kluge : German student language. Trübner, Strasbourg 1895 (new edition: Student History Association of the Coburg Convent, Nuremberg 1984–1985).
  • Peter Krause : O old lad glory. 5th edition. Styria, Graz-Vienna-Cologne 1997, ISBN 3-222-12478-7 .
  • Norbert Nail: Regional language in the historical German student language of the 18th and 19th centuries. In: German vocabulary. Lexicological studies. Ludwig Erich Schmitt on the 80th birthday of his Marburg students. Edited by Horst Haider Munske, Peter von Polenz , Oskar Reichmann, Reiner Hildebrandt. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1988, pp. 351-369.
  • Norbert Nail: Go-in / Go-out: Continuity and change in the German student language of the 19th and 20th centuries - an attempt. In: Contributions to linguistics and phonetics. Festschrift for Joachim Göschel on his 70th birthday. Edited by Angelika Braun. Stuttgart 2001 (Journal for Dialectology and Linguistics. Supplements; 118), pp. 135–153. ( PDF file )
  • Norbert Nail: Beyond the “broad stone”: Student German in the GDR. In: Studenten-Kurier 3/2013, pp. 15-17. ( online at )
  • Norbert Nail: “1968” in student parlance. Searching for clues at the Philipps University of Marburg. In: Studenten-Kurier 1/2018, pp. 5–7. ( online at )
  • Georg Objartel: Language and way of life of German students in the 18th and 19th centuries. Articles and documents. de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2016 (Studia Linguistica Germanica; 123), ISBN 978-3-11-045657-8 .
  • Gerhard Richwien: To be a student. Society for German Student History, Würzburg 1998, ISBN 3-89498-049-4 .
  • Carl Albert Constantin Ragotzky: The brisk boy or newest completely complete collection of all the boyish idioms and words now in use. Leipzig 1831. (Reprint in: Helmut Henne and Georg Objartel (Hrsg.): Library for the historical German student and pupil language. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1984, Vol. 3, pp. 191-304.)
  • Paul Ssymank : The German student body. Verlag für Hochschulkunde, Munich 1932.
  • J. Vollmann: Vollmann: Burschicoses Dictionary . Ragaz 1846; Reprint with introduction, Graz 1969.
  • Daniel Ludwig Wallis : The Göttingen student. Göttingen 1813 (VI. Part). ( Online in Google Book Search)

Web links

Wiktionary: Student language  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations