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The German Word Eselsbrücke (Mnemonic) Posted by on May 3, 2019 in Language

Guten Tag! Today we are going to look at the German word die Eselsbrücke, and what it means. Not only is it an interesting word, but an Eselsbrücke is something that might even help you with your language learning!

Die Eselsbrücke literally translates to ‘the donkey bridge’. Its actual translation in English, however, is mnemonic – an abbreviation, phrase or rhyme used to help remember things.

Die Eselsbrücke is made up of the words der Esel (donkey) and die Brücke (bridge). So what do a donkey and a bridge have to do with mnemonics?

der Esel – donkey. image via pixabay.

This word, die Eselsbrücke, refers to a time when donkeys were used to transport goods. People used to create shortcuts in the form of bridges, to cut down on the time it would take to transport the goods from place to place. A mnemonic can be seen as a ‘mental shortcut’, and that is why this word – Eselsbrücke – is used in German to describe it.

However, it is also commonly known as der Merksatz or der Merkspruch. The first part of these words – Merk – comes from the German verb merken: to remember/to notice/to realise. Der Satz means sentence or phrase, and der Spruch means saying.

In English, you would say to ‘create’ a mnemonic. However, in German, you’d build one. So if you wanted to advise a student on how to remember something tricky, you’d say:

“Bau dir eine Eselsbrücke”
“Build yourself a donkey-bridge”

die Brücke – bridge. image via pixabay.

Are there any Eselsbrücken you can use to help you learn German?

Yes, there are. Here is an example. To help you remember which prepositions take the accusative case and which take the dative case, you can use these Eselsbrücken:

FUGODE (accusative)

Für – for
Um – around/at
Gegen – against
Ohne – without
Durch – through
Entlang – along

BAMSVANZ (dative)

Bei – at
Aus – from/out of
Mit – with
Seit – since
Von – from
Ausser – except
Nach – after
Zu – to

As you start learning different topics, have a look for any Eselsbrücke that might help you remember what you’re learning. Alternatively, why not make up your own? And if you have any good Eselsbrücken to help you remember certain aspects of German, why not share them in the comments below? 🙂

Related: Take a look at this post by Jan on Eselsbrücke in German.

Related Vocabulary

die Mnemotechnik – mnemonic/memory-aiding technique

die Erinnerung/das Gedächtnis – memory

das Gedächtnistraining – memory training

das Hilfsmittel – aid/help

die Lerntechnik – learning/study technique

studieren – to study

erinnern – to remember

zurückrufen – to recall

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and love writing about German language and culture. I also work as a group fitness instructor.


  1. Champa:

    Die Eselsbrücke für Accusativ, die ich gebaut habe lautet :
    God (gegen, ohne, durch), be(bis), with (wider), you (um), for ( fūr) , ever
    ( entlang).
    Ich hoffe, es gefällt Ihnen!