German word of the day: Der Erdapfel

German is a notoriously difficult language to master. And to make matters worse, some things have different names in different German-speaking regions. This word is a prime example

German word of the day: Der Erdapfel
There are various regional terms for potatoes in the German language. Photo: DPA

German is the 12th most spoken language in the world, with over 130 million speakers worldwide. It is the official language of Germany and Austria, and is one of the official languages in Switzerland.

But the language may not sound as you expect if you visit certain regions, as there are plenty of variations to get your head around. 

One very common example is the different words used to refer to a very popular food: potatoes. 

The normal translation for this beloved carbohydrate would be die Kartoffel, but in Austria, parts of Bavaria and Switzerland the term Erdapfel is far more popular.  

Erdapfel literally translates as ‘earth apple’, which may be confusing for many. Apples, after all, grow on trees, whilst potatoes grow in the ground. 

The word Kartoffel comes from the Italian term tartufo (or tartufolo), which initially referred to truffles. As truffles had a similar appearance and also grew in the ground, the term eventually came to be used for potatoes as well. 

READ ALSO: Can you tell a Bavarian dialect from a north German one? 

While this term emerged in the 16th century, however, it is thought that Erdapfel dates even further back, coming from the Latin malum terrae as a loan translation into medieval German during the Middle Ages.

The Latin (and the corresponding German) term was used back then to refer to any fruit or vegetable that grew in or on the ground, such as melons or pumpkins. 

When potatoes arrived in Europe from South America centuries later, the term expanded in meaning to refer to them too.

Other languages’ terms for potato also have the same translation into English, such as the Dutch aardappel and the French pomme de terre

The regional variations do not stop there, either. Just some of the other terms you may hear on your travels around German speaking countries are Grundbirne (meaning ‘ground pear’, sometimes written as Gromper, or Krumper, or Grumbeere), which is used in Austria and in the some Western regions of Germany, Herdäpfel (or Härdöpfel), which can be heard in Switzerland or the hybrid term Erdbirne.


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Austrian word of the day: Beisl

This is a spot you might visit at the end of the working day - or Feierabend - particularly in Austria, as Germany has a different word for these establishments. Here's what this Austrian-German word means and how to use it.

Austrian word of the day: Beisl

Why do I need to know Beisl?

Because you may be invited to one or need to find one on the map.

What does it mean?

Das Beisl, which sounds like this, is the name for a pub or inn in Austrian German where people gather to drink beverages. In Germany, it is usually called a Kneipe.

This isn’t a fancy cocktail bar – it’s a neighbourhood watering hole and forms part of the make-up of towns and cities across Austria. It’s usually unpretentious, often small and used to be very smoky before Austria banned smoking indoors.

The term comes from the Czech “pajzl”, which means pub or dive. It’s a diminutive short form of the noun “hampejz” – with meaning such as “dog house” and even “brothel”.

Other possibilities for its origins include the Yiddish bajiss (house) , and the Austrian dialectal diminutive of the word Beiz – which was a low-class pub until the word got a better reputation.

Nowadays, the Beisl are usually friendly and charming and give an insight into life in Austria. So perhaps ask your Austria friends for a tip on a cool Beisl to visit. Just don’t expect the staff to speak English at all – or take credit cards.

If you’re hungry, keep in mind that Beisl usually doesn’t serve food or at least no hot dishes.

How to use it:
Treffen wir uns am Freitag nach Feierabend im Beisl.
Let’s meet in the pub on Friday after work finishes.
Ich gehe mit den Jungs ins Beisl.
I’m going to the pub with the lads.