From which words does the German Ursprung originate? In Portuguese we have the translation origem (origin), but I need to know more about this word.

I tried to separate the ur from the sprung to see if I could get a hint, but I’m not sure if I can do this. I discovered that ur can mean origin, and translating sprung I got leap. Can I consider it?


5 Answers 5


About the German prefix ur- a lot has been written. But what I read is not satisfying. First of all ur- has different sources.

Urlaub - this ur- is connected with er- as in Erlaubnis/erlauben. Urlaub was a military term and it was the permission to leave the military service for some time.

Urzeit - in most cases ur- has the meaning of "earliest/first". I think this ur- is a variant or vor- with drop of v and change of o to u. I would connect it with "vorderster" (English first and German vorderst-er/erst-er are related).

German vor is related with Latin pro and its variants pre-/pri-/por-and Latin pri-mus and Greek pro:tos meaning the first.

Ultimately I think the idea of ur- is "the foremost".

Ursprung I think this is the place where water springs up from the ground to form a rivulet. And I think this ur- is connected with "empor", a variant of "vor", meaning "hervor" out of.


You are right in separating "ur-" and "Sprung".

The prefix "ur-" was originally used in the meaning of "from" or "out of".

The word "Sprung" did in Old German also have the meaning of "source", especially water source. Remains of this meaning is e.g. still used in words like "Springbrunnen" (fountain) - literary a well or fountain fed by a water source.

Combining the terms gives a rough translation of "from the source".

  • I'm not convinced of the etymological explanation for Springbrunnen, do you have any references? After all, a Springbrunnen is a special type of "Brunnen" - while all kinds of "Brunnen" in some way work as origins of water, the distinguishing mark of a Springbrunnen is that the water is expelled with some pressure, usually not straight downwards, often up into the air - i.e. as opposed to other types of Brunnen that are just as well an Ursprung of water, a Springbrunnen makes the water "jump" (springen) into the air. At least that's my native speaker's impression. Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 20:46
  • @O.R.Mapper: Take a look at this question.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 21:08
  • @Wrzlprmft: Thanks, that confirms my suspicion that Springbrunnen is not that closely related with entspringen (originate), and is rather linked to the movement springen (jump) of the water - as it is expressed in the accepted answer to the question you linked: "dass man das Wasser über den Rasen springen läßt. "Springen" und Wasser findet sich auch heute noch im "Springbrunnen"". Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 21:12
  • Compare etymonline.com/…
    – Carsten S
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 21:48
  • 2
    Kluge Etymologisches Wörterbuch confirms the relation between Ursprung (including the prefix) and a source (of water). According to them, „Ursprung“ is the noun formed for „erspringen“, which would be called „entspringen“ in modern German. The prefix „Ur-“ in nouns seems to often correspond to „er-“ in verbs, according to the text on that prefix. E.g. „Urlaub“ relates to „erlauben“.
    – MvG
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 1:40

I think you're almost there. You're correct about "Ur" and "Sprung", but the latter is also related to "entspringen" (originate, rise up, spring up) and the english word "spring" as the season everything "starts". If you leap, you have the connotation of "starting something new", as you consciously initiate a process which can't be stopped easily.

  • 2
    Considering Sprung, take a look at this question. I would also guess that the English usage of spring for Quelle has the same origin.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 21:06

The word "Ursprung" comes from the Old High German word: irspringan which evolved to the Middle High German word: ursprunc. Ur (prefix, adj.) = ancient, primal, original. Sprung (noun,masculine) = well, spring, source. And the word means "primal" or "ancestral" origin and it is a parental/maternal term. In the English language the term offspring (noun) is more popular. So, you can say the Ursprung is where the offspring come from :-D


Just adding to the already excellent answers.

Vater, Großvater, Urgroßvater, Ururgroßvater, Urururgroßvater. Ursprünglich kommt der Ururururururururururgroßvater aus Afrika. Die Urururururururururururgroßmutter teilen wir uns alle. Ursprünglich kommen wir alle aus dem selben Ei.

Unser Ursprung ist die vor Urzeiten existierende Ursuppe. Die Ursache für den Beginn des Lebens ist ein Überschuss von Energie.

Urig interessant dass. :D

Ob Urlaub - Erlaubnis zur (temporären) Rückkehr zum Ursprung bedeutet?

  • 2
    Klingt als bräuchte da jemand Urlaub. SCNR Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 9:53
  • 1
    Falls mich demnächst jemand nach der Urzeit fragt, bist du es schuld. ;)
    – Em1
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 14:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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