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If you want to tell somebody to go away you could shout:

"Hau ab!"

However this is considered as not very polite, much like "Get lost!", or "F*** off!". I am wondering where German "Hau ab" comes from to explain why it is considered as rude in usage. What does it mean literally?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

According to this link, hauen used to mean "hurry" or "run" at some point in addition to "beat", probably originating from "beating a horse to make it run faster". "Ab" is a Latin prefix meaning "away from."

So "abhauen" just means "run away".

I don't think it's rude because of its etymology, but because there are very few polite ways to tell someone to go away in general, because a) you're telling someone what to do, and b) you're telling them "I don't want you here." That's going to come across as impolite pretty much regardless of what words you use.

I don't think "Hau ab!" is any more impolite than "Go away!" "F**k off!" is stronger than that, and a better German equivalent would be "Verpiss dich!"

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Nice explanation. "Hau ab" definitely is stronger than "Geh weg". "Verpiss Dich" is used regionally (but less so recently). –  Takkat Oct 4 '11 at 8:03
I agree that it's stronger than "Geh weg", but I'd say "Go away" is still a pretty good translation. English doesn't seem to have as many nuanced ways to tell someone to leave. It goes directly from "Go away" to various vulgarities. –  Cass Oct 4 '11 at 8:15
But why "ab" and not "weg"? –  Takkat Oct 4 '11 at 8:22
+1 for pointing out that "Hau ab" has not to be impolite. For example "Hau ab" is also somthing you could say to a fugitive if the "bad guys" come to get him. –  0x6d64 Oct 4 '11 at 10:55
@Takkat "Hau weg" means something completely different: redensarten-index.de/… –  starblue Oct 4 '11 at 12:06

Hau ab, this comes from the verb abhauen, that's a word for "to run away".

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abhauen und zuhauen

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While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  Tom Au Aug 30 '12 at 19:14

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