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Don’t Let It Confuse You! – Mode Posted by on Dec 3, 2020 in Culture, Language, vocabulary

In this series, we look at words that exist in both English and German, but really don’t mean what you might expect them to, so-called false friends. We also look at words that sound or look deceivingly similar. Today, we look at a classic false friend, though. It’s quite fashionable – Mode!

For previous posts in this series, click here.

Expectation: Mode – Do I put my phone in the Flugzeugmode?!

Airplane Mode on! (Image by author)

die Mode – that sounds like it should just mean “the mode” or “the method” or something, right?

Well, it isn’t. The English “mode” translates well to die Art und Weise (“the way and manner”, auf die Art und Weise translates to “in that way”). Method is translated as die Methode. And as a Einstellung (setting), say the “airplane mode” on your phone, mode translates as Modus. So “airplane mode” is der Flugzeugmodus or simply Flugmodus (“flight mode”).

So what on earth does die Mode mean then?

Reality: Wear the latest Wintermode!

Image by freestocks at Unsplash.com

Die Mode means “fashion“! So for example, the different seasonal fashion styles are called Mode – die Frühjahrsmode (spring fashion) or die Wintermode (winter fashion). In this context, it’s probably nice to know that “spring collection” translates nicely to die Sommerkollektion. So at least that word is similar!

But how can these words be so different? The closest word in German I can think of that sounds like fashion is Fasching – but that’s not really related in any way.

Interestingly, the English meaning of “mode” is related to the German mode as well. Die Mode comes from the French la mode in the 17th Century, which signified the way that people lived; that went beyond fashion to things like furniture, too. Over the years, this found its way into German where it came to simply refer to fashion. Die Mode actually is an abbreviated form for die Kleidermode (clothing fashion). So the mode in which people dress is die Mode. You could kind of see it like that!

This broader meaning is also shown in expressions in German: in der Mode sein (to be in vogue) means exactly that. Modisch is an adjective for “stylish, fashionable”.

The French also didn’t come up with the word Mode, but derived it from the Latin modus, which is the basis for both Mode and “mode”. The way to remember that die Mode means fashion could be to think about fashion as the mode in which people dress! So we’re full circle!

Did this word confuse you before? What are other words you find confusing? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator and filmmaker.


Comments:

  1. Thorsten:

    Just to be precise: The word which is used in German for Airplane Mode is “Flugmodus” (fly mode), so it is the Mode you set your phone into during a flight

    • Sten:

      @Thorsten Ah yes, that’s used, too, thank you for this!
      As I understand it, Flugmodus is an abbreviation of Flugzeugmodus.

  2. Deanya Schempp:

    Fun read! The word, “fashion,” actually is coming from the Latin “facere,” to make, which leads to German’s “fach-” words. 🙂 The English verb, “to fashion” is very close.

    • Sten:

      @Deanya Schempp Oh that’s some super interesting extra info! Thanks for the great addition 🙂


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