My favorite German suffix

German frequently demands great complexity to express the silliest little thing. But just as often, I run across components delightful in their simplicity. Today I share with you the joy of –zeug (pronounced tsoyg). This charming suffix pretty much means “thingy,” and you can attach it to all kinds of word beginnings with deeply satisfying results. Here are the examples I know so far:

Spielzeug – toy (play-thingy)

Werkzeug – tool (work-thingy)

Flugzeug – airplane (flight-thingy)

Feuerzeug – lighter (fire-thingy)

Schlagzeug – drum (hit-thingy)

The added bonus is, obviously, that –zeug is approximately the perfect syllable as far as pleasure of pronunciation goes. Just try it: zeug, zeug, zeug. You’re smiling, aren’t you?

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8 responses to “My favorite German suffix

  1. But how do you pronounce “tsoyg”?

    • Yes, that’s a problem. I had trouble with the phonetic spelling, but if you just say all the sounds there, I promise you’ll approximate it just fine. You’ll know you’ve got it when you just want to keep saying it all day and probably add it to all your other wordzeugs. zeug zeug zeug!

  2. And what about “die zeughaus?” Home of things could be a translation for attic.

    • Good one, Dad. Das Zeughaus actually means armory, but “thingy house” or “house for thingies” might then give us insight into the status of weapons as the basic thingy. Aaron also reminded me of Das Fahrzeug, which means vehicle, or in other words “travel thingy.”

  3. Claudia /German :-)

    I only want to note that you can use the word “Zeug” also as a word for its own! 😉 for all kind of stuff!!!! ..or Zeugs,… in Berlin and Saxony, more informal…

  4. yes, i like it! i think we should integrate zeug into english. we need more words beginning with the ts sound 🙂

  5. Zeug is great. My mom had one I like, too. Hers was “hootsy”. She would ask for “that hootsy over there”. I thought it was a real word. Is it? Or is it another Lefflerism?

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