The German Word ‘Zeug’ Posted by Constanze on Jun 26, 2019 in Language
Guten Tag! Today we’re looking at a very small, but very versatile German word: das Zeug.
Simply put, Zeug (das) means thing, or stuff. It is quite common to hear people say things like ‘Was ist das für ein Zeug?’ (‘What kind of thing/stuff is this?’).
Zeug can refer to one thing, or several things (stuff). For example:
- At a Flohmarkt, looking at a stall full of weird items: ‘Was ist das für ein Zeug?’
- In a shop, picking a gadget off the shelf and looking more closely at it: ‘Was ist das für ein Zeug?’
In this way, the word das Zeug is useful as a placeholder, much like the word das Ding (the thing). It is also slightly dismissive when used this way, suggesting the item(s) in question is a bit rubbish. Parents often use the word Zeug when telling their kids to tidy up: ‘Räum dein Zeug weg!’ (‘Tidy your stuff away!’).
The word Zeug is related to the verb ziehen: to pull. That’s because it used to refer to tools used to ‘pull’ or ‘bring’ things to you (think horses and carts, etc.). When we see how else the word Zeug is used today in the German language, this connection starts to make sense.
The flight stuff
Many German words end in -zeug. Here are a few of them, along with their literal definitions and their meanings. Do you notice a pattern among them?
‘The flight stuff/thing’
‘The play stuff’
‘The knit stuff’
‘The work stuff’
‘The hit stuff’
‘The fire stuff’
‘The write stuff’
‘The drive stuff’
‘The green stuff’
Greenery, or salad
‘The bathing stuff’
Do you see the pattern?
Because these are compound nouns, in theory you could add -zeug onto anything to create your own word. If you’re a bit of a coffee connoisseur and have lots of coffee-making equipment at home, for example, you could refer to it collectively as your Kaffeezeug!
I hope this post on das Zeug has been helpful.
Bis bald (see you soon).
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