German word of the day: Der Ursprung

Ursprung is one of these tricky, evil German words that change their meaning depending on the given context.

Published: Thu 29 Dec 2022 15:03 CEST
German word of the day: Der Ursprung
Photo: Depositphotos

Why? Because it is just a single word for a number of English translations.

In German, Ursprung can have three general English equivalents: origin, source and root.

So Ursprung is used to describe something that created something else. That can be a moment in time, a place or even a material.

Even the word Ursprung has an Ursprung: It comes ursprünglich from the Middle High German word ursprunc, which used to just mean, "source.“

Nowadays it is usually used when something changed, and the adjective ursprünglich is far more common than the noun Ursprung.

Here is an example. If you want to tell somebody that your family has roots in, say, the USA but moved to Germany you can say: "Meine Familie kommt ursprünglich aus den USA.“ ("My family originally comes from the USA.“)

You could also say "Meine Familie hat ihren Ursprung in den USA“ ("My family has its origin in the USA.“) But even in English that sounds weird, admittedly. 

Do you have an "Ursprung" in any of these countries? Photo: Depositphotos


Diese Art hat ihren Ursprung in Indoniesien.

This species has its origin in Indonesia.

Ursprünglich habe ich in Berlin gewohnt, aber jetzt wohne ich in Leipzig.

I used to live in Berlin, but now I live in Leipzig.

Dieser Ring war ursprünglich aus reinem Gold, aber jetzt ist auch ein Muster Silber dabei.

This ring was originally made from pure gold, but now is also has patterns made from silver.

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This article was produced independently with support from Lingoda.


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