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Alternate German definitions for "Boy."

I don't understand why "Knabe" wasn't recognized as an acceptable answer to the German translation of "Boy?"

February 20, 2018



Knabe is very outdated. To 99,9% no one will use Knabe in the meaning of Junge. The remaining 0,1% are poets and and maybe very old people.

The only realistic chance to encounter Knabe in german is when someone says "alter Knabe". Which is a somehow friendly phrase when directly talking to a friend (and then its not aboutbeing a boy).


I think that's a bit exaggerated. It might not be used that much anymore but it's certainly not inexistent. There are normal sentences like the question "Knaben oder Mädchen?".


Where do you find them? In literature, archives and on historic toilet signs. That's all to my knowledge. Ok, and in Switzerland.


But that's Swiss German. It differs in vocabulary and even in some writing rules.


This is an answer to both of your replies. First, I did not exeggarate for the standard german. Second, I did not evne think of the german variation of switzerland (also its very different and all of their variations and dialects are tough to understand. Your link is a "very clear" form and thats because its a newspaper, but speaking with a swiss person is really tough).


thanks a lot! I use the word sometimes and I am still warm ;-)

I admit, the usage is mostly restricted to not so serious comments and oldfashioned words like "Knabenchor" or "Chorknaben". Then again, it exists and will be understood.

  • 1388

Ash907591 - You precipitated an interesting discussion. Thanks, I learn a lot from these little discussions.


I too find these little connections between the two languages interesting.


i wonder whether Knabe equates to the English knave... a bit more roguish than just boy ?


German Knabe isnt "a bit more roguish" than Junge. It was still likely connected and then evolved differently. (Similar to brave=mutig and brav=nice, but both were used to describe virtuous knights, just later in the language the usage/meaning shifted).


From Merriam Webster: Origin and Etymology of knave Middle English, from Old English cnafa; akin to Old High German knabo boy


Yes, but only in the sense that both words once existed and are related.

Both are recognized but neither is still used. And Knabe doesn't have the suggestion of roguishness that "knave" does.


Thanks, I am grateful to you (and MortiBiRD and elfinoz.) Obviously, my German isn't good enough to recognise subtle (or even not so subtle) shades of meaning. Without everyone's input I am sure I would have continued to assume that a Knabe was a bit of a knave. As for knave no longer being in use, I suppose I'm just getting old...

  • 1774

It's probably in the first lessons and "you're not supposed to know" anything else than der Junge.


Hi Ash907591! Please report errors in the sentences/courses in the sentence itself. Here's how.

Moving this from troubleshooting to the German forum. =]

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