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I think "Kollegen" means only the male colleagues. Or does it mean the female colleagues, or even both?

I can't find an explanation in the dictionaries.

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The concept you're looking for is called "generisches Maskulinum". It is explained here: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generisches_Maskulinum and here: hypermedia.ids-mannheim.de/call/public/… –  elena Jan 31 '12 at 8:44
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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Kollege is the male form while female would be Kollegin - but a lot of people just say meine Kollegen if they're referring to both (where meine Kolleginnen und Kollegen or das Kollegium would be the better form).

So in conclusion:

  • Kollegen = may mean both genders, depending on the context (plural)
  • Kollege = male (singular)
  • Kolleginnen/Kollegin = female (plural/singular)
  • Kollegium = both, including yourself (plural)
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@LanceBaynes Kollege is a noun, pay attention on the upper case. In your context Kollegen will be understand as plural for both male and female colleagues. –  Em1 Jan 30 '12 at 11:29
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@oezi: If you work at a school, then Kollegium is good. If you use this word for your Kollegen at a company, you'd receive some curious looks, I guess. –  Hendrik Vogt Jan 30 '12 at 12:04
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Ich weiß nicht, "Kollegium" ist für mich ziemlich eingeschränkt, auf die Menge der Lehrer an einer Schule. Für andere Arbeitsbereiche würde ich das nicht benutzen. –  bitmask Jan 30 '12 at 12:11
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Note that, like with anything else, the male form in general is also the gender-neutral form, even if used in singular. If I say "Das erledigt ein Kollege von mir", it may very well be a female co-worker. The long form "meine Kolleginnen und Kollegen" is only required in very politically correct contexts. "Liebe Mitgliederinnen und Mitglieder" is an exaggerated joke of always having female words when the male word would suffice. And also note that a lof of immigrants I know use the term "Kollege" when referring to "Freund", likely because their native language has a similar word. –  OregonGhost Jan 30 '12 at 13:51
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@Em1: It may not be wrong, but as I wrote - be prepared for curious looks. People just don't use it in other contexts (at least not the people I know). EDIT: I don't like the general description "Gruppe von Personen mit gleichem Amt oder Beruf"; it's misleading. But the example "ein Kollegium von Ärztinnen und Ärzten" seems to be good - for medical doctors, Kollegium is apparently not uncommon. (I didn't know that.) –  Hendrik Vogt Jan 30 '12 at 14:08
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