Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm currently learning the verb Kehren with the meaning to sweep. But I recently realized that I've already learnt fegen as meaning to sweep. Is this correct, are fegen and kehren totally interchangeable synonyms? Or does one have a slightly different meaning to the other?

I'd love some examples too.

Thanks!

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

These words mean the same thing ("to sweep", "to clean dryly with a broom"), but are used in different regions. Kehren (or variants thereof, such as zusammenkehren) can mostly be heard in southern Germany and Austria, whereas fegen is commonly used in the North.

Oddly enough, the Swiss say wischen for "to sweep", which a German would (mis-)understand as "to mop" (feucht wischen) or "to dust" (Staub wischen)..

The Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache, an ongoing academic project to map the occurrence of word variants to German-speaking areas, has a nice entry for this.

kehren fegen Sprachatlas

Source: Universität Augsburg - Philologisch-Historische Fakultät

share|improve this answer
1  
The map/chart is very useful thanks. –  mikeyP Dec 23 '11 at 1:08
    
danke @splattne :-) Ich habe noch nicht herausgefunden, wie man unter iOS Bilder bei GL&U einfügen kann... –  Jan Dec 23 '11 at 11:24
    
@Jan :-) Ich glaube, dass ich das auch noch nie geschafft habe. –  splattne Dec 23 '11 at 11:32
1  
Heißt die Kehrmaschine, die morgens um halber 6 unbescholtene Bürger weckt, dann auch Fegemaschine im Norden? Und gibt es im Süden ein Kehrfeuer für die, die nicht umfegen? Kaminkehrer/Kaminfeger habe ich beides schon gehört. Der flotte Feger (:=Schuß, Möhre, Biene, Schnecke, ...), der eine Die ist, hat aber wiederum keine Entsprechung, soweit ich weiß. –  user unknown Dec 30 '11 at 1:39

When regarding the etymology of both verbs there are interesting findings:

kehren Vb. 'fegen'. Das nur westgerm. bezeugte Verb ahd. kerien, kerren (8. Jh.), mhd. kern, mnd. mnl. kēren, nl. keren setzt germ. karjan voraus. Das zugehörige Grundwort dürfte in ahd. ubarkara 'Unreinigkeit, Unflat' (10./11. Jh.), isl. kar 'Schmutz' erhalten sein.DWDS

This means that despite its usage in the south "kehren" has a common root in Niederdeutsch.

fegen Vb. 'mit dem Besen reinigen, kehren', südd. 'naß reinigen, wischen' ahd. fegōn 'säubern, putzen' (10. Jh.), mhd. vegen 'kehren, reinigen, putzen', asächs. fegon, mnd. vēgen, mnl. vēghen, nl. vegen, ablautend mnl. vāghen, nl. (weg)vagen, anord. fāga 'reinigen, glänzend machen, schmücken' sowie die unter fair (s. d.) genannten germ. Formen können mit lit. puõšti 'schmücken, putzen', lett. post 'schmücken' auf eine Wurzel ie. pek̑- 'hübsch machen, aufgeräumt oder vergnügt sein' zurückgeführt werden [...]DWDS

Taken this into account "fegen" may have much older Indo-European roots, and is etymologically related to the English adjective "fair".

share|improve this answer
    
what about the word "Kehre", a change of direction (de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kehre)? –  0x6d64 Dec 23 '11 at 10:10
    
Kehre und kehren sollen vom germanischen kairjan abstammen, haben also eine etymologisch andere Wurzel. –  Takkat Dec 23 '11 at 11:03

"Kehren" and "fegen" both refer to "sweep" although they have somewhat different connotations.

"Kehren" means "to turn around," which is something that you do when you are "sweeping." But I've also seen kehren used in other contexts, such as "dancing."

"Fegen has more of the connotation of "cleaning." Sweeping is one form of cleaning, specifically of clearing away dust and other small particles.

share|improve this answer
2  
I wouldn't call that a connotation, it is an additional meaning. Actually, the duden lists two separate verbs spelled "kehren": kehren(reinigen/putzen) and kehren(umdrehen/wenden) with different etymological roots. –  Hulk yesterday
    
@Huik: Changed "connotation" to "means." –  Tom Au 17 hours ago
    
The "kehren" that means "to sweep" has little to do with the "kehren" that means "to change direction". Both words were there before they were spelled the same. The difference is really just regional usage. –  Hulk 1 hour ago
    
Speaking as a native speaker of Austrian German, I can confirm that "fegen" is not used around here. You will be understood if you use it, but unless you talk with a distinctly northern accent anyway it may raise a few eyebrows. –  Hulk 53 mins ago

Your Answer

 
discard

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.