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The title of the first Harry Potter book is "Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen". (English: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone)

I noticed that "Weise" is a noun that declines as an adjective. Does that mean the gender of "Weisen" here is feminine or plural? Why is it not translated as the masculine "des Weisen"?

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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Die Weisen is plural here (which means that the gender can't be determined). The expression, which is many centuries older than the Harry Potter series, is a translation of the Latin lapis philosophorum, where philosophorum is plural as well (in genitive).

An interesting question (but for ELU) is why there is variation between philosopher's stone and philosophers' stone in English. Apparently, the dictionaries vary as well.

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Ja, ich war neugierig, weil der englischen Harry Potter Titel "Philosopher" als ein singuläres Nomen hat. Sowieso, danke! –  Mika H. Sep 2 '13 at 17:05
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It is not possible to derive from

Der Stein der Weisen

whether

der Weisen

is genitive, singular, female for

the wise woman

or genitive, plural for

the wise [people]

For the latter the gender is indetermined, it could be woman or men or both.

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The downvoter might like to comment? –  alk Sep 4 '13 at 13:01
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