A German Greeting From the Heart: Moin! Posted by Sten on Sep 13, 2021 in Culture, Language
We recently covered the curious greeting from Hamburg Hummel, Hummel – mors, mors! But today, we’ll look into one that is perhaps less curious, but it is a lot more popular: Moin! or sometimes also Moin, moin! What does this word mean, where does it come from, where will you hear it?
What does moin mean?
German knows many greetings, and many have their own interesting origin story. Moin simply means “hello”, and it is used mostly informally, but it wouldn’t be weird to hear it in more formal settings, too. It is that widespread!
But not all over Germany. If you hear moin, just like servus or Grüß Gott, you know you’re in a certain part of Germany. Moin is common where I’m from, the northwest of Germany. From Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) to Schleswig-Holstein to the western part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania). It is mostly understood as a greeting, similar to Guten Tag or Hallo, but not so much as an Abschied (m, farewell). Then you still just say Auf Wiedersehen, bis dann, tschüss, etcetera. In any case, if you enter northern Germany, feel free to greet people with Moin!
The Duden also says that moin is a überregionale Grußformal (supraregional greeting), though I have yet to hear it outside of the north. But I’m sure that people in other parts of Germany will recognize it as a greeting! At the same time, of course, this doesn’t mean that Northerners won’t understand other greetings. A Guten Tag will always do the trick. But if you start with a Grüß Gott, they might look at you weird and tell you: Hier im Norden sagen wir moin! (Here in the north, we say moin!)
The beauty of it, though? You can say moin with the same warmth as Guten Tag, but all day and night! So at dinner, you can tell the waiter moin. When you arrive at the Disko (f, disco), you can tell the Türsteher (m, bouncer) moin. And when you order the early morning Kebab after, you can tell the owner moin, as well!
You might also hear it used twice: Moin, moin! While to me, that’s identical to a single moin, Hamburgers apparently disagree. Another variation you hear now and then is moinsen. They all mean the same.
Where does the word moin come from?
The origin of the word is – surprise, surprise – in one of the dialects that’s spoken in the area: Plattdeutsch (“Flat” German).1Though the Duden also lists Ostfriesisch (East Frisian) and Mittelniederdeutsch (Middle Lower German) as origins. Moin is derived from the Plattdeutsch word moi, which means angenehm, gut, schön (comfortable, good, wonderful). That explains the warmth that comes from this greeting!
Have you heard about moin before? Have you used it? Are there other greetings you’ve heard and are curious about? Let me know in the comments below!
- 1Though the Duden also lists Ostfriesisch (East Frisian) and Mittelniederdeutsch (Middle Lower German) as origins.
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My family is from the region you describe & spoke the same Plattdeutsch. Many thanks!
I’m currently working through Ahoi aus Hamburg 5/11 in the Dino lernt Deutsch series by André Klein.
Moin is used quite a lot so its been very interesting to learn where it came from, thanks.
Irenej N Krayewsky:
I watch my favorite show Dahoam is Dahoam and heard new expressions: Mei, Oh Mei, Ja Mei and Schmarm, Ade, Pfüat di! und Pfüat Euch! When I look for them in the dictionary and words are found. Maybe you can help explain in the your next blog
@Irenej N Krayewsky Thanks for these suggestions! Keep an eye out for them.
John F F Neuburger:
One summer vacation from my US college, I worked at a shipyard in Elsfleth (on the Weser River) to learn German. I still use moin in conversation, as it is ingrained in me!
Thank you for addressing this! I’ve been curious about moin for a while.
Living in Basel,Switzerland for 10 years you must speak some Swiss german. and greet people with