My dictionary translates "curious (inquisitive)" to "neugierig". There are two kinds of inquisitive curiosity, though: the temporary, pressing desire to find something out, and the long-term characteristic to seek knowledge.

Does "neugierig" fit as a translation in both of the following examples?

Please tell me! I'm so curious.

Bob has been reading Wikipedia for hours. He's a very curious boy.

Which kind of curiosity is understood in this example?

-- Ich habe dir ein Phykologiebuch gekauft.
-- Was für ein Buch? Ich bin so neugierig!

  • Danke, @bernd und @pekka.
    – Tim
    Jun 10 '11 at 13:48
  • 2
    Do you study biologie? If not, you rarely know the word Phykologie and speak of ein Buch über Algen. I had to look it up. de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phykologie
    – bernd_k
    Jun 10 '11 at 13:58
  • Do you mean the "Was für ein Buch" in the sense "I have no idea what Phykologie is"? Then to me, "Ich bin so neugierig" sounds a bit awkward; I'd rather say "Jetzt bin ich aber neugierig". Jun 10 '11 at 14:00
  • @bernd: I think this is by intention; see my previous comment :-) Jun 10 '11 at 14:01
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    When speaking, make sure you spell Phykologie. ;-)
    – splattne
    Jun 10 '11 at 14:20

Does "neugierig" fit as a translation in both of the following examples?

It does. Leo's translations have the full bandwidth:

  • curious adj.
  • inquiring esp AE / enquiring esp BE adj.
  • inquisitive adj.
  • nosy also: nosey adj.
  • prying adj.
  • snoopy adj.

"Neugierig" fits for all of these. In some contexts, it can carry a slightly negative connotation (when used like "nosey"/"prying"), but it doesn't by default.

The most fitting translation for "inquisitive" (which is more of a life-long characteristic) is "wissbegierig" (Literally, "greedy/eager for knowledge", but with no negative connotation at all.)

  • Thanks. In the latter example, is it understood that the speaker is curious about the book or curious about things in general?
    – Tim
    Jun 10 '11 at 13:42
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    @Tim it is crystal clear that the speaker is curious about the book, like in the english example.
    – Pekka
    Jun 10 '11 at 13:42
  • 2
    +1 for wissbegierig. Jun 10 '11 at 13:42
  • 4
    Ein Alternative ist auch wissensdurstig
    – Takkat
    Jun 10 '11 at 14:35

It is used for both:

As a temporary attitude towards a specific thing/event:

Die ganze, wochenlange Geheimnistuerei hat mich neugierig gemacht.

As a personality trait:

Er war immer schon ein neugieriger Mensch.

The personality trait 'openness' of the so called big 5 includes to a certain extent curiosity. The big 5 are known to be very stable personality factors (traits).


"Neugierig," unlike many other adjectives, is not "time limited." Instead, it's strictly "qualitative." That means in can be used to refer either a temporary or lifelong want.

It is often translated as "curious," but it's literal meaning is "eager for the new."

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