German foreign dictionary

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The German Foreign Dictionary ( DFWB ) is a multi-volume foreign dictionary on contemporary German with a historical focus. It is a standard work of historical foreign word lexicography.


The German Foreign Dictionary goes back to a suggestion by Friedrich Kluge and was originally designed as a supplement to the German Dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm . Since the first volume A – K by its founder Hans Schulz was published in 1913, the DFWB has had an eventful history. Otto Basler , who had taken over the work after Schulz's death since 1923, was only able to complete a 2nd volume L – P (1942) and a delivery for the letter Q before he transferred the extensive collections to the Institute for German language (IDS) handed over in Mannheim . There, under the direction of Alan Kirkness from 1974 to 1983, the remaining letters R – Z in volumes III to VI were edited and the work was concluded in 1988 with a detailed register volume. The first edition appeared in seven volumes from 1913 to 1988.

Since 1990 a project group in the lexicon department of the institute has been involved in a long-term project with the revision of the alphabet series A – Q (initially under the direction of Gerhard Strauss, since 2006 under the direction of Herbert Schmidt). The aim is to describe the foreign vocabulary of German used today from A to Z in a standardized and contemporary dictionary according to methodology, structure and documentary depth. The second edition, estimated at twelve volumes, has been published since 1995. To date there are 8 volumes of the 2nd edition / revision.

  • Volume 1: a-prefix - antiquity. XVII / 615 pp. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 1995.
  • Volume 2: Antinomy - Azure. XII / 645 pp. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 1996.
  • Volume 3: Baby Cutter. XIII / 852 S. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 1997.
  • Volume 4: da capo - dynasty. XII / 971 S. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 1999.
  • Volume 5: Eau de Cologne - Futurism. XII / 1198 S. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 2004.
  • Volume 6: Gag - Gynecology. XIV / 692 S. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 2008.
  • Volume 7: habilitation - hysterical. XVI / 594 S. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 2010.
  • Volume 8: ideal - inactive. XXI / 577 S. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 2017.

In April 2016, the volumes of the revision of the German Foreign Dictionary that had been published to date were made available online free of charge via the OWID (online vocabulary information system for German) of the Institute for German Language.

Character (revision)

The DFWB is a selective historical dictionary of meanings and references that describes and documents the historical development of the core area of foreign words and foreign word families that are firmly anchored in the standard German language .

The temporal heterogeneity of the work manifests itself in the succession of three processing phases spanning three quarters of a century (Schulz / Basler, completion at IDS, rework). During this long time, a lot has sunk into German foreign vocabulary and has been added. Due to the constant reference to the present in the dictionary, the vocabulary area processed in the DFWB is therefore necessarily heterogeneous.

The aim of the revision of the series A – Q edited by Schulz and Basler is therefore to revise this word stock in a contemporary way, to sort out outdated vocabulary and to more or less fundamentally update or expand the articles in order to create a more homogeneous work will consist of volumes A – Q of the revision and volumes R – Z of the first edition. In many articles in Volumes I and II, the lexicographical representation of the word stories often breaks off abruptly in the early 20th century due to the processing time, often at an even earlier point in time.

In addition, current changes in the field of word formation , in particular the compositional development of older foreign words or foreign word stems and foreign affixes that have become productive , are also taken into account. Special emphasis is placed on the phenomena neglected in Volumes A – Q, which concern the development of the complementary system of loanword formation in German. These developments, which have been shaped in many ways in the history of the German language, are taken into account by the fact that the revision - like the completion of R – Z - is based on an extended foreign word term. After this foreign word phrase to apply for a Wortentlehnungen from foreign languages as foreign words, on the other, so-called Lehn-Word formations, ie the German wholly or partly with the help of borrowed words / root words and affixes coined words that often have no equivalents or role models in a foreign language .

Keyword selection

Based on the Schulz / Basler basic concept of a historical- diachronic selection dictionary, the revision primarily includes generally familiar or integrated foreign words of the current German (written) standard or common language and describes their historical development up to the present. The concept of the present is taken relatively broadly as the period from around 1950 to the present.

In addition to the criteria that apply to foreign words, namely that they have been borrowed from a foreign language or that they have been created entirely or partially in German with borrowed resources, the DFWB records keywords that they have a relatively frequent and widespread use in the corpora evaluated. Equally attested foreign words in the past and present are preferred. These guiding selection principles result in some exclusion criteria for the approach of the main keywords, which mainly affect the following groups of (peripheral) foreign vocabulary:

(a) Loan words from Old or Middle High German that have long been integrated and formally adapted to German, such as “window”, “cellar”, “wall”, “Pfaffe” or “write”. From a certain point in time, such as early New High German , such borrowings are included in the foreign dictionary, regardless of the degree of assimilation. This applies to “photo”, “film”, “flute”, “front”, “can”, “furniture”, “doctor”, “class” or “strike”.

(b) Outdated foreign words, ie words that were used in the second half of the 20th century. no longer in use or whose denotations are no longer known to most of the speakers of German and which no longer belong to the active or at most passive vocabulary of older generations. Exceptions: historically important vocabulary, especially from the field of cultural vocabulary. z. B. "Artist Faculty" under "Artist", "Equator Baptism" under "Equator" or "Alchemisterey" under "Alchemy".

(c) Borrowings or loanword formations from the very latest, ie neologisms from the 1980s / 90s. Exceptions: more recent loans, especially from the Anglo-American sphere of influence, whose whereabouts in German can be regarded as certain, e.g. B. “Bestseller”, “Comeback”, “Discount”, “Disco”, “Fan”, “Fitness”, “Party”, “Poster”. As a rule, newer words or word formations that have recently been used as fashion or catchphrases are also included (e.g. "biotope", "ecosystem"), especially if they belong to a larger family of words that ultimately go back to Graeco-Latin .

(d) Pure technical terms that are not used in educational or common language texts aimed at a broader audience, e.g. B. Schulz in Volume I: "Alexandriner", "Equilibrist" or Basler in Volume II: "Latus", "Liquor", "Prevarication", if they are not also used in a figurative sense.

(e) Foreign words for foreign things, e.g. B. "Abbé", "Igloo", "Kolkhoz", if they are not used in a figurative sense.

(f) Foreign words restricted to dialect or large regions as well as specifics of Switzerland and Austria . In exceptional cases, however, large regional semantic special developments are recorded as partial meanings.

(g) suction. Made-up words, in particular trademarks such as B. "Nylon" as well as abbreviations and letters such as "EFTA", "NATO" or "Laser".

(h) Proper names especially of people (in Basler: “Meduse”, “Morpheus”, “Pan”, “Proteus”, “Papageno”) as well as names of food, diseases, animals or plants, if they are not additionally in the figurative sense are needed, such as B. "Adam" (cf. "Adam's apple", "Adam's children", "Adam's costume"), "Abraham" ("in Abraham's bosom"), "Adonis", cf. also metaphorically used compounds such as "Achilles heel", "Argus eyes", "Ariadnefaden", "Augean stable".

Work processes

The work on an article in the foreign dictionary begins with searching for and evaluating the text sources in which there is evidence for this word. The basis for the article editors is formed by millions of slips of paper on which such documents have been excerpted over decades and which are alphabetically sorted and accessible in card boxes at the Institute for the German Language. In addition, there have recently been numerous electronic corpora , i.e. collections of digital texts that can be searched through by the computer in fractions of a second with the help of modern search functions . These include the IDS corpora (COSMAS), CD-ROMs and online texts that have been made available on the Internet by other institutions . Additional information for article work is provided by the articles in existing reference works (dictionaries and encyclopedias), some of which are also digitally available.

Based on these materials, the editor formulates a descriptive part (“article header”) that contains information on grammar , etymology and word usage. Reference is also made here to the sometimes very extensive word relationships.

In the document section, this information is documented using selected text excerpts, so that every statement in the article header is supported by a document. The documents are sorted according to the members of the word family and chronologically.

A first version of the article is subsequently edited several times until the article is finished.

Sources, web links, further literature

  • German foreign dictionary. Vol. 1, a-prefix - antiquity. Completely revised in the Institute for the German Language by Gerhard Strauss, Elke Donalies, Heidrun Kämper-Jensen , Isolde Nortmeyer, Joachim Schildt, Rosemarie Schnerrer, Oda Vietze. XVII / 615 pp. - Berlin / New York: de Gruyter, 1995, 2nd edition. ISBN 3-11-012622-2 .
  • Volumes 1 to 7 of the revision of the German Foreign Dictionary online .
  • Kirkness, Alan (1977): Foreign dictionary by Schulz / Basler (R – Z). In: Communications from the Institute for the German Language 4. Editor: Pantelis Nikitopoulos. Pp. 28–30 - Mannheim: 1977. (Communications 4)
  • Kirkness, Alan (1980): Principles of Keyword Selection in the German Foreign Dictionary. In: Communications of the Institute for German Language 7. pp. 1–10 - Mannheim: 1980. (Communications 7)
  • Kämper-Jensen, Heidrun (1994): German Foreign Dictionary - Report from the workshop. Problems of technical language in the general historical dictionary. In: Sprachreport 3/94. Pp. 10–13 - Mannheim: 1994. (Sprachreport 3/94)
  • Kämper-Jensen, Heidrun (1995): German Foreign Dictionary - Report from the workshop II. Abused words and their representation in the general dictionary. In: Sprachreport 1/95. Pp. 10–12 - Mannheim: 1995. (Sprachreport 1/95)
  • Kämper, Heidrun (1998): The corpus of the German foreign dictionary. In: Bergmann, Rolf (Hrsg.) On behalf of the commission for the German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Problems of text selection for an electronic thesaurus. Contributions to the first Göttingen working discussion on historical German word research, November 1 and 2, 1996. pp. 57–68.
  • Vietze, Oda (2003): German Foreign Dictionary. In: Städtler, Thomas (ed.) (2003): Scientific lexicography in German-speaking countries. Heidelberg: winter. Pp. 255-267.
  • Vietze, Oda (2003): 90 Years of the German Foreign Dictionary. For the publication of the 5th volume of the revision of the German Foreign Dictionary (DFWB). In: Sprachreport 4/2003. Pp. 13–17 - Mannheim: 2003. (Sprachreport 4/2003)
  • Schmidt, Herbert (2009): Continuity and Change. For the publication of the 6th volume of the revision of the German Foreign Dictionary (DFWB). In: Sprachreport 1/2009. Pp. 17–21 - Mannheim: 2009. (Sprachreport 1/2009)

See also