"Wand" vs. "Mauer"
Could somebody please explain the difference between the German words "Wand" and "Mauer"?
I believe that both mean 'wall'.
Thank you! AP4418
Sometimes you can use both „Wand“ and „Mauer“ interchangeably. I myself would mostly think of „Wand“ as a kind of (vertical) border of a room or space... and of „Mauer“ as the thing itself that is made from stones or bricks. Some examples: Bergwand (mountain face), Magenwand (stomach wall), Schrankwand (either the side/rear part of a cupboard itself or a large cupboard that covers one wall of a room completely - I think the english word is „wall unit“), Wolkenwand (cloud bank); Burgmauer (castle wall), die Chinesische Mauer (the Great Wall of China), Gartenmauer (garden wall). If you're building a house you can talk about „Wand“ or „Mauer“, but you say „Ich streiche die Wände in meinem Zimmer.“ (I'm painting the walls in my room.) or „Das Bild hängt an der Wand.“ (The picture is hanging on the wall) – those sentences would sound funny if you said „Mauer“.
The bricks don't really come into the definition anyway - the Berlin Wall was built from concrete elements.
And the activity of building/bricking an additional wall inside your house can be called "eine Wand mauern", because you do it by putting bricks (or whatever) on top of each other, and the result is a Mauer (because you technically put bricks/stones/... on top of each other) but by function also a Wand (as part of a house). Once the thing is built and plastered and painted, the important aspect is the function, so I'll usually call it a Wand. If years later I want to drill a hole in it and the material becomes relevant again, I might call it a Mauer ("I need a different drill for this Mauer, this one doesn't get me through").
Although I'm really just repeating what everyone else said - I'd say that the typical "Wand" is the wall of a room inside a house, and the typical "Mauer" is a stand-alone thing like those that separate fields/meadows in regions like Ireland. And following from there, you get overlaps and idiomatic things...
A “Wand” is part of a building (Hauswand) or a room and is normally closed at the top by a roof or ceiling. Generally, four “Wände” are placed a 90 degeree angles to form an enclosure such as a building or a room. The term “Wand” can also be used in “Felswand”, for instance. It is a massive rock formation, usually fairly steep and straight and tall. Or, as mentioned above, as the four sides of a closet or similar enclosure.
A “Mauer” is usually open at the top amd has open space on both sides of it. It is often used around something, a house, a garden, a field, or it can be just a long “Mauer” like the Chinese Wall or Hadrian’s Wall or the Berlin Wall or, on a smaller scale, a wall between two neighbors. It is used as a border to separate two parts of land and/or to enclose an area.
You can climb over a “Mauer”, but generally not over a “Wand”. In relation to its surroundings, a “Wand” is much taller than a “Mauer”.
There is some overlap of Mauer and Wand. Wand is a vertical structure that encloses (one side of) a space, like a room, a house, even a boat, a truck or some other technical construction, also biological cell walls are called (Zell-)wand. Mauer is a structure made of bricks, mostly stone. So a Wand can be a Mauer, and Mauer can be a Wand. Free standing structures can also be called Wand, but it's less common (e.g. Lärmschutzwand along the Autobahn ;-)).
On top of everything others have said, there might be some added confusion over "der Wall", which maybe could be described as the broader equivalent to a Mauer. It can be a structure that serves to hold off enemies from an ancient Celtic settlement (which today only is visible as an elevated line of ground, but has a crumbled stone wall inside) or from a city (Wallanlage, ramparts, most importantly from the 17th century), or something like a Lärmschutzwall (a heap of earth to hold off traffic noise, cf. Max.Em's mention of Lärmschutzwand = a vertical wall to hold off traffic noise).