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  5. "An eye for an eye!"

"An eye for an eye!"

Translation:Auge um Auge!

July 16, 2017



Can someone explain how "um" works in this phrase? Is it the contraction of "un dem"?


"um" in this sense is normally used for showing repeated actions. "Schlag um Schlag" (hit), "Fall um Fall" (case). And is translated as "for". But it is not a modern way of using "um". So it only really works in idiomatic contexts. Like here: "Auge um Auge." It means literally that after (hurting) one eye another one follows and so on. It refers to the escalation of conflicts if nobody backs down.

I hope I could be of help.


I don't think that the original Latin phrase (oculum pro oculo) was supposed to mean this. It means that to a person that has done something to another person, there has to be done the same (if you hurt an eye, your eye gonna be hurt too).

But maybe the German translation means exactly what you described.


I think you will find that the original is Hebrew. If is from the old testament and predates Latin by quite a bit.


It is older even than that. It comes from ancient Mesopotamia and is represented in the Code of Hamurabi.



The German translation means: if you take my eye, I take yours... so if you hurt me with something I hurt you back with the same thing.


So it can't work as meeting someone eye to eye?


So it can't work as meeting someone eye to eye?

That's right.

If it's just two people meeting each other with nobody else, you can say unter vier Augen treffen (meet someone under four eyes).

For talking about speaking face to face, I can think of von Angesicht zu Angesicht, using a slightly dated/poetic word for "face".

I can't think of a "normal" version off the top of my head.


There's also the word Augenhöhe, which I believe does work for the context of meeting sb. eye to eye, or treating/viewing them as an equal


I looked these up so I could grasp what you meant. "Schlag um Schlag" means something like "blow after blow" (so I see what you mean by repeated actions). "Fall um Fall" has a little different sense of repetition, "case by case." Helpful - thanks.


Um shows some kind of replacement.

And um is just um, it's not a contraction, preposition un doesn't exist in German


Is this an idiomatic phrase? Why would "Eine Auge für eine Auge" not be literally adequate here?


Yes, it's an idiomatic phrase, a fixed expression.

Also, Auge is neuter: das Auge, ein Auge.

  • 1836

Is the article-full version un-idiomatic?
"Ein Auge um einem Auge" is not accepted.
Btw, did Luther object to the use of articles? (With Russian being my mother tongue, I naturally sympathise, but it's surprising nonetheless.)


Is the article-full version un-idiomatic?


"Ein Auge um einem Auge" is not accepted.

And that would be an incorrect expansion anyway; um in the meaning of "in exchange for" requires the accusative case, so it would have to be ein Auge um ein Auge.

did Luether object to the use of articles?

I've never heard of that.

  • 1836

I've never heard of that.

So why didn't he use them in this sentence? Eyes are countable so some article is clearly called for, no?


I can't explain it.

But there are other similar expressions such as Schritt für Schritt (step by step) which also don't use articles (even the English "step by step" doesn't use an article before the countable noun "step").


Excuse my ignorance, is the "Luether" referenced here the person we know as Martin Luther? If not, who/what is it? And how did he get into this discussion? Just curious.

  • 1836

I believe he was the one who translated the Bible to German.
(I did misspell his name, there is no umlaut - correcting it.)


@zirkul - Ah, thanks.


This was a babylon rule "an eye for an eye , a tooth for a tooth."


That phrase comes from ancient Mesopotamia; it's mentioned in Hammurabi's Code.


Stein um Stein works as a reminder :)


Stein um Stein mauer ich dich ein

Stein um Stein

Ich werde immer bei dir sein


Ah, I see you're man of culture as well. :)


From Hammurabi's laws, among the first written legal systems that can be historically attested.


I don't believe I've learned "um" yet...


Does ein Auge für ein Aüge convey the same meaning? (I am assuming that the intended meaning is the biblical one mentioned above and not "eye after eye" as in a repeated action.)

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