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Trivia question on new words in Deutsch

I have a question. I know that each item has different thes to them. However I had a question: When a new word is formed how do Germans choose the the to go with it? I realise some words must have a certain the eg. Things ending with chen must be das (the item). But what about other items. Eg. A German scientist discovers a new substance. ''What will you call it?'' scream the people. ''I will call it (the) Klavier!''. Now I don't know who really made the Klavier (I think Italians). But if it was a German who invented what would he call it and this goes for other things too.

August 23, 2017



Hi, an interesting question :-)

A view days ago this topic was in the news (because the new german dictionary Duden was released). The scientist editorial department are collecting words in a database and look which words are candidats for including. They also look how the word is written and which gender it has.

quote: "Das Dudenkorpus ist eine elektronische Datenbank, die seit 1995 existiert, ständig erweitert wird und bis jetzt etwa vier Milliarden Wortbeispiele umfasst. Es enthält sehr große Mengen journalistischer Artikel, Literatur, aber auch Sach-, Fach- und Gebrauchstexte. Die Duden-Redakion durchkämmt es regelmäßig, um herauszufinden, welche neuen Wörter Kandidaten für die Aufnahme ins Wörterbuch sein könnten, wie sie geschrieben werden und welches grammatische Geschlecht sie haben."

resource: https://www.welt.de/kultur/article167820246/Es-gibt-viel-mehr-deutsche-Woerter-als-wir-wussten.html

regards Angel


I'm still learning German but thanks for the quote. I understood some of it. Thank you, Angel. And thanks for the insight.


It's very unlikely that a new word would be invented from scratch. Someone might either create a noun:

  • by suffixation (in which case the suffix would decide the gender, for example ‘die Versteckung’—the correct form is ‘das Verstecken’),

  • from a compound verb using the noun form of the base verb (for example ‘die Versicht’ from ‘versehen’, ‘der Rausgang’ from ‘rausgehen’, etc.)

  • or borrowing a term from another language (in which case gender basically comes from Sprachgefühl and depends on the gender of the noun in the original language, similarities to other nouns in German, the gender of the noun that best seems to translate the loanword, the gender of German words with the same ending as the loanword or all of the above).

If any new word were indeed invented from scratch a gender would still probably be chosen under the unconscious influence of the considerations mentioned above.


ok. Yea I was kind of thinking of when someone just discovered a new mineral and if he was A german. My joke about the Klavier was just a joke but say like he discovered ´´Schlampin´´. A New mineral found deep in the earth. How would he chose the Gender. even though i understand that Gender is not really connected to gender


Well, substances ending in -in (like Penizillin, Keratin, Insulin) are generally neuter in German, so it would be neuter. Why the first ever -in noun indicating a substance was invented/borrowed into German as a neuter noun is debatable, but I would ascribe it to one of the mechanisms I outlined above. A similar reasoning would hold for any new scientific term that would almost certainly be formed with a preexisting suffix. Trade names are a different cup of tea, in fact sometimes people can't even agree what gender it is (is it die Nutella as in Italian, or das Nutella? Why not der Nutella?).

With other nouns there are generally stronger reasons to choose one gender over another, for example der Computer makes sense because the German suffix -er is masculine and both has the same exact function as and is a cognate of the homographic English suffix. In short: if it would be der Rechner in ‘pure’ German, then it makes sense to call it ‘der Computer’.

Ultimately, though, the gender of a word will be most significantly influenced by the unconscious analogies that native speakers make to native words with similar pronunciation or meaning. Not everyone will make the same association, but after a while the majoritarian option will win (or sometimes more than one gender will become accepted).

(I say all this based on a few things I've read from native speakers on the subject and on my experience as a native speaker of a ‘gendered’ language—Italian)


Ok. Thankyou. Lot's of good information

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