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The German Word ‘Zeug’ Posted by 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:

  1. At a Flohmarkt, looking at a stall full of weird items: ‘Was ist das für ein Zeug?’
  2. 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!’).

Zeug – stuff, mess, things. Image via Pixabay.

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?

Das Flugzeug
‘The flight stuff/thing’
Aeroplane (airplane)

Man looking at flight stuff. Image via Pixabay.

Das Spielzeug
‘The play stuff’
Toys

Das Strickzeug
‘The knit stuff’
Knitting utensils

Das Werkzeug
‘The work stuff’
Workbox tools

Das Schlagzeug
‘The hit stuff’
Drumkit

Das Feuerzeug
‘The fire stuff’
Lighter/matches

Fire stuff. Image via Pixabay.

Das Schreibzeug
‘The write stuff’
Stationery

Das Fahrzeug
‘The drive stuff’
Vehicle

Das Grünzeug
‘The green stuff’
Greenery, or salad

Das Badezeug
‘The bathing stuff’
Swimming attire

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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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.


Comments:

  1. Peter Croft:

    Ich bin Schlazeuger!

  2. Peter Croft:

    ich bin Schlagzeuger!

  3. John Stephen:

    Zeug……A good word to keep in mind……a good to remember for German learners….

  4. Gottfried:

    Höchst interessant. Danke vielmals.


Leave a comment to John Stephen