Why is Mädchen gender neutral in German when it refers to girls?
Can someone tell me?
Mark Twain once complained: "In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has."
Because it's a diminutive and ends in -chen. Words with those characteristics are always neutral.
Because Mädchen is the diminutive form of the word Magt - Mägdchen which changed to Mädchen. So Mädchen is a small Magt and since all diminutive forms are neuter in German, the word Mädchen has to be neuter, too.
Though there is a relation, I think it's actually the diminutive form of "Maid". It also should be mentioned that there are male equivalents to this - namely "Bübchen/-lein" and "Jüngchen/-lein", which are also gender neutral; but unlike "Mädchen" they have fallen out of style.
Someone had to explain this to me too as it seemed odd; it is because of the "-chen" suffix. In compound words in German the gender is always from the last part of the word.
So since "-chen" is neutral, "Mädchen" becomes neutral too.
@drvdw false friends my dear
the english maid is magd in german yes but the german maid is girl in english
Yes, as a German Mädchen (now woman) I agree with you. There is not the same principle used to speak about boys and girls. But it is so formal, that it does not make me feel to be underestimated in this mentioned case (der Junge / das Mädchen). In the last decades in Germany is an awareness for the way to use language increasing, thank God. In former times, perhaps until 1960 and later on, it was normal to call a not married woman "Fräulein" and "Frau" after her wedding. For men nothing changed. The aggrevation is the term "Fräuleinchen", which you still could hear nowadays (rarely!). That is a salutation some grownups still use, when they want to express that something about the girl or its behavior is not right - in their view. : ) Additionally - if that would be a comfort ; ) - there exists in the German language a similar degoratory term for a teenage boy or young man: "Das /ein Jüngelchen". It means, a young man does not look like or behave like a man but like a child in a negative way; the one who uses the term doesn´t take him serious.
So: Mädchen is an "emotionally" normal word; Fräuleinchen and Jüngelchen are discounting terms.
I hope that was somehow interesting for you and / or a bit amusing. Many greetings to you all Hildegard
Thanks Hildegard, it's always nice to hear a native speaker's opinion; this stuff is never in the dictionaries.
If you look at the usage of genders in German then you will understand that the real question is "why on Earth do they call the declanation classes of nouns as masculine/feminine/neuter at all?"
There is no reason to think that a table ("der Tisch") is something masculine and a lamp ("die Lampe") is something feminine. It is just a bad historical selection of names for the three existing classes of nouns existing in the German language.
Each language has its peculiarities, in English I have the problem with the different "Perfects" Simple present perfect, present perfect progressive and past perfect progressive. In Spanish are the article differnt to German. la luna - der Mond = only "the" moon; el sol - die Sonne - the sun. That makes it so exciting to learn a language. There are some differences between German/German and Austrian/German: Schlagsahne - Schlagobers, Tomaten - Paradeiser, Kartoffel - Erdapfel, Ohrfeigen - Watschen etc.
With the suffix -lein, -chen, neuter nouns are formed. With the suffix -ei, -schaft, -keit, -ung, -heit female nouns are formed. With -ling, -eur male nouns are formed. The plural is always "DIE". das Fräulein, das Mädchen....die Liebelei, die Freundschaft, die Einigkeit, die Lesung, die Krankheit.....der Sonderling, der Transporteur. Plural: die Fräulein, die Mädchen, die Freundschaften, die Sonderlinge, die Transporteure etc. XXXX Enjoy learning German
There is no logic when it comes to the "genders" of nouns in German. There are, however, a few patterns and tricks that help you guess the gender. For example, when a word ends in "-chen" it is neutral.
das mädchen is the belittlement of die Maid which would actually be correct word for girl but for some reason it is hardly used maybe because the same word in english would have a different meaning people stoped using it then the engish laguage started to be used more often iin german speaking areas... it would be the same with der Junge das jüngchen