German Language Stack Exchange is a bilingual question and answer site for speakers of all levels who want to share and increase their knowledge of the German language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It seems to me that "tja" is more a typo for "ja" than a word by its own.

I have looked in a number of websites, the only satisfying one was Wiktionary but it has nothing about its etymology as a German word.

How did the word "tja" originate?

share|improve this question

"tja" is an interjection (Interjektion). Like "oh", "ah" or "pst". I wouldn't consider it as a word which has developed from something.

You could also say "nun ja", but what does that really mean? Just filling words or a filling sound to bridge the silence till your thoughts caught up.

I doubt it originated from a typo, because it is used mainly in spoken German. It get from there into the literary language. And it sounds better as "uhm" "ähm" or "äh", but fulfills the same purpose.

share|improve this answer

"Tja" is more than a typo for "ja", Like when somebody lost her mobile:

Her : "Ich hab mein Handy verloren."
Me : "Tja da kann man nix machen"

You can't put in "ja" there. Mostly used when expressing "Schicksal/Kismet"

share|improve this answer
Thank you for you answer, I know "tja" and "ja" cannot be used interchangeably, I just guess "tja" was made of a typo when talking about its origin. – user508 Nov 29 '11 at 9:08
Ok. I still don't think tja originated from a typo. ;-) – Portree Kid Nov 29 '11 at 10:20
While I also don't think it originated from a typo, ja could be used in this example. Maybe this becomes clearer when the comma that belongs there is added: "Ja, da kann man nix machen" / "Tja, da kann man nix machen". – fzwo Nov 29 '11 at 12:47
Ja doesn't transport the implication of tough luck. Ja, da kann man nix machen = Yes you can't do anything about it.Tja, da kann man nix machen. = Yes you can't do anything about it, it's just tough luck/Kismet/Schicksal. – Portree Kid Nov 30 '11 at 6:57
@PortreeKid Add a shrug of the shoulders, and even the ja can be used in a resignative way. – fzwo Nov 30 '11 at 9:32

My opinion: tja = shortened 'Du, ja', whereas both 'du' (= you) and 'ja' (= yes) are used as stresses.

For example:

'Du – Krieg ist halt schrecklich!'

'Ja – weißt du – Krieg ist halt schrecklich!'

= 'Tja – Krieg ...'

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.