German word of the day: Auftauchen

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
German word of the day: Auftauchen
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Whether you've just seen someone who hasn't been around for months or found something you thought you'd lost, this German word can be useful in a wide range of situations.


Why do I need to know auftauchen?

Auftauchen is a great verb to have in your wheelhouse, because it can be used in a tonne of everyday situations - usually when finding something you've lost or coming across something (or someone) unexpected. 

It also has another very useful verb contained within it, so you get two for the price of one.

What does it mean?

Auftauchen (pronounced like this) means to emerge, appear or show up somewhere. It's a combination of the prefix 'auf', meaning on or up, and the verb 'tauchen', which means to dip, immerse or dive. In fact, if you go on a diving trip in the ocean, you'd use the word tauchen to describe that activity. 

Knowing the meaning of tauchen makes this word much easier to remember: an old friend popping up out of nowhere is a bit like a diver suddenly emerging at the surface of the sea. 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Abwechslung

Just like words such as appear or emerge, auftauchen also has a wide range of applications. You might use it to tell your friends that your old school leaving certificate finally showed up after weeks of looking for it, or that some concerns and questions cropped up at your meeting at work. 


Often, there's an element of the unexpected involved, like seeing someone you know turn up at your favourite bar after months of absence. 

In some cases, you'll also hear auftauchen used in a more general way to describe someone simply going or being somewhere. For example, "Er war willkommen, wo immer er auftauchte" would mean, "He was welcome wherever he went."

Use it like this: 

Ich habe nicht erwartet, dass du hier auftauchst.

I didn't expect you to turn up here.

Wir haben uns ewig nicht gesehen, und dann tauchte er plötzlich in Frankfurt auf! 

We hadn't seen each other for ages, and then he suddenly turned up in Frankfurt!


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