I am only a rank beginner in Deutsch, and I wanted some help with an expression I found, whose translation to English seems suspicious to me. The quote is from Carl Schmitt, Politische Theologie:

Freilich stellt in der protestantischen Theologie eine andere, angeblich unpolitische Lehre Gott in derselben Weise als das "Ganz Andere" hin, wie für den ihr zugehörigen politischen Liberalismus Staat und Politik das "Ganz Andere" sind.
[the quotation marks around "Ganz Andere" are in the original]

My question is whether Ganz Andere is really Wholly other as the English translation of the book states (in both instances) – isn’t wholly translated to gänzlich? Is it possible that andere qualifies ganz in this sentence?

  • 2
    I'd say it's OK to use wholly [other] here, but to be sure it's a good idea to add the whole English sentence. Alternatives could be the completely different. I think Carl Schmitt emphasis on das in das "Ganz Andere" and it's important to lay emphasis on this part to translate it correctly. Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 15:20
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    There is no difference between "ganz andere" and "gänzlich andere".
    – Carsten S
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 17:45
  • @CarstenSchultz I think "gänzlich" sounds much more like a regular qualifier. Semantically it's the same but it takes away from the "epic".
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 9:18

3 Answers 3


This is an old question, but it has not, I think, been answered correctly. Schmitt puts the words “Ganz Andere” in quotation marks and it is in fact a quotation. He also puts both words in capitals, as though they were in effect a proper noun. The quotation is from a (for theologians) very famous book, “Das Heilige” (1917) by Rudolf Otto, who says that God is “das Ganz Andere”, not perceptible by human reason but only through a numinous (“numinos”) experience. For Otto, God is not merely “completely different” from Man, but is “totally Other”, he belongs to a totally separate sphere of existence.


No, absolutely not. That translation is incorrect! I propose 'the complete opposite' or 'the utterly alien'. 'The wholly other' is a bad translation and the OP is right to question it. There are many bad translations out there, and this is one of them. For decades I have seen translations of wir andere by Nietzsche as 'we others'. Nonsense! 'The rest of us' is a correct translation, but 'we others' is certainly not!

If you think about it, you should realize that 'other' cannot be a matter of degree, and thus 'wholly other' is ludicrous on its face. Something cannot be more or less 'other', partially or wholly 'other'. In fact, no adjectives can be applied to 'other' at all! It's not qualifiable! It's absolute! It's like 'dead' in that sense, an absolute adjective made into a noun ('the dead are all around us').

See: absolute adjectives

This means that the German word andere here cannot mean 'other' but must mean 'different', 'strange', 'alien', or something of that kind, something which can be qualified and modified. How can such idiotic translations even see the light of day?

Here is an idiomatic sentence using 'other':

'Where are my gloves? Oh, here's one, now where is the other?'

It does not appear in the 19th century, which proves it is not an idiomatic expression. As a literal translation, it is pointless and absurd. Too much if this kind of thing is still going on, and I commend the OP for bringing this horrible translation to our attention. Ganz doesn't mean just 'whole' or 'wholly', and andere doesn't mean just 'other', as can be seen here:



  • first of all it would be more "completely different", second of all in this case it is used to denote an entity of sorts. So it would be "the quite different". However, the focus is not on being different as in not sharing too many characteristics but on being the other. Like "there's all these things and then there's the great other... god." So "quite different" is very much not the correct translation. - 1
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 9:16
  • The point is that it is not 'the wholly other'. That's not idiomatic English. 'The utterly alien' might work.
    – Ornello
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 15:16
  • How is it not idiomatic English? Seems very idiomatic in about 30 thousand instances, many of which are certainly proper English... google.de/…
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 19:58
  • Nope. 'The wholly other' sounds completely illiterate, which it is. You ask 'how'? You use your ears. I'm a native English speaker, and I know what idiomatic English sounds like, and that ain't it. 'The utterly alien' is idiomatic. A lot of the instances you found are from a bad literal translation. You won't find any in the 19th century: google.com/…
    – Ornello
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 20:51
  • So you're saying that the philosophers and theologists who are/were native speakers of English and who used "the wholly other" in their books don't know their native language because you know it better? Are you the reference for today's English then? Maybe it's just a specific term that you have never heard before and that's why it strikes you as odd. You're right that I won't find anything from the 19th century but there has been a steady grows in use over the 20th century. Either way, I removed my downvote since you actually made an effort now to explain your answer
    – Emanuel
    Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 22:03

No, this doesn't work. You can translate it to "completely different".

  • Diese richtige, wenn auch knappe Antwort wurde weshalb genau abgewertet? Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 8:54

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