I have come across the verb anflicken in a German translation of Ars Poetica by Horace and have not been able to find the meaning or translation in English on the internet. I have found example sentences, yet nothing that allows me to divine the meaning. It also also seems to be used with the preposition an.

The excerpt:

Oft wird an gewichtige Anfänge und große Versprechen hier und da ein Lappen von Purpur, daß weithin er leuchte, angeflickt ...


Page 5

Horaz, Ars Poetica / Die Dichtkunst. Lat./dt. Reclam (UB 9421). Printed 2011.

ISBN 978-3-15-009421-1

Essentially it seems to be used in the passive in the following construction: werden + an + Objekt + angeflickt.

I would like to know what this means and I would also like a corresponding English word, if it exists.

  • 1
    I don't know what your level of proficiency is, but for future reference: quite often with prefix verbs you can decide what they mean by looking at the root word. Once you gain some familiarity with the prefixes, its added meaning is usually fairly clear. Jul 8, 2014 at 13:48
  • @TimSeguine Yes that is true. This is the strategy that I normally employ, yet in this case I could not be sure and it was important to know precisely what this meant. That side, your advice is solid. Jul 9, 2014 at 9:04
  • Okay, I suggested it because I thought it works well for this example. I guess it is difficult to judge sometimes what is ambiguous or confusing or whatnot for another person. Maybe I was just picking up context clues subconsciously or something. Jul 9, 2014 at 16:51

6 Answers 6


"Anflicken" is a composition of "an" and "flicken". "Flicken" means to patch something. Together with "an" it means, that the object is being enlarged.


  • DEU: Ich flicke etwas Seide an den Schal an.
  • ENG: I patch the scarf with some silk.

I am not an native English speaker. So, please excuse my mistakes. I hope I could answer your question...


Both Tobias and guidot make important points: “anflicken” does imply that the result is extended in some way, and it does imply some imperfect character of the result. However, neither “patch” nor “apply” seem entirely satisfactory to me.

I’d amend guidot’s translation to "Often a patch of purple is affixed to important starts…”. That does not capture the imperfect character, though. Maybe one could say "Often a patch of purple is rigged to important starts…”, but to me, that does not properly capture the attachment/extension character of the word.

  • 1
    That's an unfortunate characteristic of translating more often than not. At least with all the good explanations, I think the meaning is pretty clear to anyone who might read here now. Jul 9, 2014 at 16:49
  • The extra explanation is extremely useful and makes a lot of sense in the context. +1 Jul 10, 2014 at 8:34

As mentioned in guidots answer, "flicken" means "mend".
Now "an-" has the same origin as the english "ad-" and a very similar meaning.

You could translate "anflicken" with "amend" then because in the process of adding "ad-" at the front of mend, the "d" got dropped. But this does not reflect the meaning of the german word. "amend" has become "add" too much. As also stressed in guidots answer it has the connotation of some "patchwork" finshed product

I'd thus probably translate with either "patch up" or "admend"[sic] to better reflect the german connotations

  • As far as I know, the German preposition "an" corresponds etymologically to English "on", even though the two prepositions have now slightly different meanings.
    – Giorgio
    Jul 8, 2014 at 17:03
  • @giorgio the root is the same because there are two different an in german
    – Vogel612
    Jul 8, 2014 at 17:07
  • Interesting, I did not know. Can you provide some reference to the literature? I would like to learn more about it.
    – Giorgio
    Jul 8, 2014 at 17:19
  • @Giorgio de.wiktionary.org/wiki/an- take a look at the Präfix-Herkunft section. There are 4 different origins listed (gotic, latin, 2 different greek) one means "without" (as in analkoholisch) and one has the meaning "ad-" / "adjacent" as seen in the current context ;)
    – Vogel612
    Jul 8, 2014 at 19:56
  • Ah, ok. But the Germanic prefix / preposition is German "an", English "on", Gothic "ana". "ad" is of Latin origin.
    – Giorgio
    Jul 8, 2014 at 20:17

My translation of this would be: "Often a patch of purple is applied to important starts and meaningful promises... [to improve total appearance or detract from the uglier parts]". "Flicken" also means mending, so the German translation implies some provisional, non-perfect character of the result.


"angeflickt", as you guessed, is a compound (as a past participle) of an + ge + flickt, so you could search for flicken on the internet rather than anflicken ... In fact many German words have "detachable" prefixes:

aufpassen, e.g. becomes "passen Sie auf" in the imperative

I think dictionaries rarely include independent entries for each prefixed word of the same stem; I mean they include the stem, then detail each prefix, under the same entry, so you have to search for the stem. Flicken means "sew" or "patch", so the past participle is sewed (or sewn) or patched:

Oft wird an gewichtige Anfänge und große Versprechen hier und da ein Lappen von Purpur, daß weithin er leuchte, angeflickt ...

In the English translation this means:

Weighty openings and grand declarations often have one or two purple patches tacked on, that gleam far and wide...

(I don't guarantee that this link is the best translation that we can find on the net or that it is error-free...)


"Anflicken" to me as native german speaker is not instantly clear. "Flicken" is widly used as rather slang term for repairing mostly anything, correctly used it should have something to do with sewing (esp. "Socken flicken" = "to mend socks") So "anflicken" should mean something like to annex or to stick...

Here the meaning gets clear through the context. I'd say the best translation in this meaning (esp. in combination with "Den weithin leuchtenden roten Lappen..." just a few lines later) would be "to tag".

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