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I am seeing increasing use of the word "ma" amongst German teenagers nowadays. What does it mean?


Und dann hab' ich ma gegoogelt.

Nimm das ma raus!

I can't figure it out and it isn't in any of my dictionaries.

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

It is a short term for 'mal', that's all. I think the pro-word is Contraction. It even has a specific part about German dialects and contractions.

edit: Also refer to Em1's answer & its comments: 'ma' (and 'wa' for this case) can also be used as contractions of 'wir'.

Additionally I agree that none of this should be used in formal language.

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In formal speak, better avoid the word "mal" entirely. – PMF Jan 10 '14 at 8:06
Mal in this case is short for einmal, which sounds better in formal speak. Just like erst mal is short for erst einmal. But the question was about teenager speak anyway :) – OregonGhost Jan 10 '14 at 8:22

As mentioned in the other answer, its meaning here is mal.

Also often used is ma in the sense of wir.

Soll ma das machen? => Sollen wir das machen?
Ham ma noch was Zeit? => Haben wir noch etwas Zeit?

This is true for many parts of Germany, especially Northern Germany, and is not necessarily restricted to young people.

However, note that the above two examples I gave are dialectal; hence, the words ham or was (or maybe even both) may be considered wrong in other parts of Germany.

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I've also heard the "wir" version a lot, living in Schleswig-Holstein. However, the "noch was Zeit" is totally unheard of where I live ;) – OregonGhost Jan 10 '14 at 9:14
Forgot about that one. 'Ma' (and also 'Wa') can indeed be used as contractions of 'wir'. – Mark Jan 10 '14 at 9:31
Uuuh, that is very localized. I'm from the Hessian region and there you'd write it 'mer'. Like "Hammer's bald?" for "Haben wir es bald?". – Sentry Jan 10 '14 at 10:38
@Sentry I'd say that, too, but with a slightly different pronunciation: "Hammas bald" -> "Ham ma 's bald" – Em1 Jan 10 '14 at 11:40
I propose to withdraw that answer. The question is explicitly about a certain sociolect, not about the different dialects in German. – Toscho Jan 11 '14 at 11:07

Again, the Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache has an entry for that:

enter image description here

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Sensationell, wie oft da ein grünes Dreieck (=einmal) vorkommt :D - Good catch, btw. – Em1 Jan 10 '14 at 19:34
@Em1 genau, weder weiß ich genau, wie die Statistik bearbeitet wird, noch war ich dort auf dem grünen Dreieck. Anscheinend kann jeder die Umfrage online ohne Wenn und Aber ausfüllen. Somit ist dieser Atlas gewissermaßen an die gute Wille der Befragten angewiesen. – c.p. Jan 10 '14 at 19:54
Hey, in der aktuellen Runde wird auch gefragt, wie man "Haben wir noch Milch im Haus" sagt -> Da kreuze ich doch mal "ham" und "ma" an ;) – Em1 Jan 10 '14 at 22:09
Lass mich dich korrigieren: "..., muss es 'auf den guten Willen der Befragten' heißen" – Em1 Jan 11 '14 at 8:56
Also das grüne Dreieck südlich von Erfurt könnte Sonneberg oder so sein. Dort sprechen sie ein ganz eigenartiges thüringisches Fränkisch. Mich wundert es nicht, dass da einmal/a mal bevorzugt wird. – Toscho Jan 11 '14 at 11:34

An addition to the other answers:

At least in Berlin, „Haste ma ne Mark?“ is still recognised as what someone might say who is standing in the street and asking passers-by for money. This shows that it is neither new (no Marks today) nor restricted to youths.

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Agreed. It is just slang, used because people are too lazy to carefully speak the words. – Mark Jan 10 '14 at 11:42

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