Follow up on this question.

Can "scheinbar" be used in the sense of "angeblich"?

Examples from the question above, and Zwiebelfisch:

  • Er schläft scheinbar. (You know he is not sleeping, just pretending to do so.)

  • Scheinbar interessierte er sich mehr für die Nachrichten (in Wahrheit wollte er bloß seine Ruhe haben).

Without any prior information I'd say anscheinend was intended, but these examples are explicitly opposing those with anscheinend. Still, to me it seems as if scheinbar is used in the sense of angeblich or a combination with tut so.

As a reference, "normal" examples where scheinbar cannot be replaced with angeblich or the like:

Eine scheinbar harmlose Gegend.
Das scheinbar bessere Angebot.
(teacher explaining optic illusion to kids) ...und so ist der Zwerg scheinbar größer als der Riese.

(Other question, tentatively merged:)

Does the use of "scheinbar" always express knowledge
about the falsehood of the property/action described?

Couldn't the example

Er schläft scheinbar.

be interpreted as just not knowing if he's actually sleeping? Similarly:

Herr Müller ist scheinbar krank.

If I - as a co-worker - knew that he wasn't actually sick, I wouldn't use scheinbar, but angeblich (again). Such a strong restriction of scheinbar doesn't make much sense etymologically. Still, I'd like to know if the Duden entry is justifiable.

  • No and no. If you want to express "angeblich", you'll use that word. And if you know about the falsehood, you'll tell that you know that. "Scheinbar", when correctly used and not mistaken with "anscheinend" expresses that it is likely wrong (or right for that matter) but you're not entirely sure on that.
    – Em1
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 20:48
  • "Scheinbar" is in definitely "untrue" situations only used ironically, and never defines a full confidence in the "truth", but a probability "just by the looks".
    – Sam
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 20:53
  • Yes, "scheinbar" always expresses knowledge about the falsehood of the property/action described, however, most people including native speakers don't know that (anymore). Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:02
  • The following question is meant positively: Can you back that up in any way? "Bedeutungsverengungen" and "Pejorationen" happen all the time, but always seems like a pretty strong restriction, all the more with so many people using it positively. Don't get me wrong, I simply don't want to be missing something obvious.
    – user6191
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:44
  • 1
    Just a side note: where I live (Swabia) we use scheint's instead of scheinbar, angeblich.
    – Takkat
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 6:46

3 Answers 3


The word "scheinbar" means that something seems to be true, but actually isn't. However, it is extremely often (wrongly) used instead of "anscheinend", which just means that something appears to be true.

However it is not synonymous to "angeblich" which means "it is claimed to be true". Usually it has the connotation that you doubt the truth if the claim (but it doesn't imply you know it's not true).

If I'm not wrong about the English, the correct translations are:

  • scheinbar: seemingly
  • anscheinend: apparently
  • angeblich: allegedly
  • How can a linguistic occurrence be called "wrong" if it appears "very often"? Doesn't that just mean that the use of "right" and "wrong" is just flawed in that case?
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 23:44
  • @jonathan.scholbach Language is free but not open source. The meaning of words are well defined and don't change just because of some people not bothering sticking to the rules. There are quite some examples of words that have a specific meaning and a well known but still wrong commonly used meaning. For example "Dornen" and "Stacheln". They are technical terms but even established figures of speech use them with interchanged meanings ("Diese Rose hat Dornen").
    – hajef
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 20:06
  • @hajef Actually, language is open source: of course, language is shaped by its speakers.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 22:22
  • @hajef COnsindering your example, I think it is more appropriate to say that "Dornen" has two different meanings in different contexts.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 23:19
  • @jonathan.scholbach Se here. "Dorn" is a botanical term with only one "real" meaning, that, due to misuse, got a metaphorical meaning that links it even closer to the misuse. "Dornen" are a metaphor for pain or the ability/destiny to cause pain. Since roses are metaphorically linked to love or an admirable person and that often comes with pain, people say that roses have thorns which is incorrect. Roses have prickles. Thorns don't become prickles or vice versa just because people use them in a metaphorical context.
    – hajef
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 10:11

"Angeblich" means you have heard people say it is true.

Angeblich sei das Verbrechen schon vor Monaten aufgedeckt worden.

(People say, the crime had already been exposed months ago.)

"Scheinbar" means you have the impression of something being likely to be true due to your own experiences.

Es scheint (mir), als wäre die Brücke sehr instabil.

(I have seen the bridge and it seems very unstable.)

Sometimes, "scheinbar" is used like "angeblich" too, because you have actually yourself heard people say something is true. (This is a special constellation like "fruits fresh out of the can")

  • 1
    "Scheinbar" and "es scheint als..." mean two very different things and are not interchangeable! Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:00
  • Why not? I see no significant difference. In fact, they seem to be exactly identical to me.
    – Sam
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:03
  • 1
    "Es scheint" means what you described (it appears) and is interchangeable with "anscheinend" while "scheinbar" implies that it is in fact not the way it seems. Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:05
  • Ah, I get what your point is. But I never made/experienced different usage of the two...
    – Sam
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:08
  • 6
    Yes, in everyday speech "scheinbar" is used all the time when they actually mean "anscheinend". I fear this battle is already lost ;) Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 21:15

scheinbar means that something is able to act in a manner of Schein, scheinen. Very naturally, doing something for real will seem like the way it is. The connotation false in schein is actually expressed as Anschein erwecken, in legal speech even, where the verb expresses the active part. Likewise, nur zum Schein and Schein statt Sein describe fakeness. Frankly, I see no argued reason to agree with the cited sources, who submit authoritative arguments, without carrying the necessary authority (except perhaps for ziebelfisch in a few IRC communities).

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