I have a Wittgenstein book whose initial page thanks an English scholar "Miß G.E.M. Anscombe". The text was published in 1960. Is this use of the ß/esszet still a common way of writing Miss (as opposed to Ms. or Mrs.) in German?

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    Can you clarify what you mean? To my knowledge, Ms., Mrs. and Miss are entirely English words that were never used in German, and thus could not possibly have a German spelling involving an ß. Maybe the author was mistaken and thought "Miß" was the person's first name (though even then, independently deciding to change the spelling of a name is highly questionable)? Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 0:54
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    If I would use English Miss + name I would write it in the English form and never as Miß which is associated with the prefix miß- having the general meaning of badly. Your instance of Miß + name is an individual spelling or mis-spelling of an English address that is not adequate. We have no Miss/Miß as a German word.
    – rogermue
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 3:52
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    Before the last spelling reform, there was a rule that no German word could end in -ss, and -ß had to be used instead. This did not include proper names and foreign words, granted, but perhaps "Miss" was considered to be on its way into the German language to such an extent that the editors did apply German spelling rules?
    – Ingmar
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 6:48
  • @O.R.Mapper - Ms. "Miss" has an german equivalent -> "Fräulein" which is kinda oldscool and used seldom.
    – jawo
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 9:44
  • @Sempie: Sure, but the availability of a translation cannot possibly explain using German orthography in an English word. BTW, Miss is not the same as Ms. Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 10:08

5 Answers 5


Just checked my collection of Duden:

  • 1880 – Not in the book (Faksimile 1990)
  • 1924 – Miß (Misses, pl)
  • 1947 – Miß (Misses, pl) (Leipzig)
  • 1991 – Miß (in engl. spelling Miss)
  • 2006 – Miss

For good measure two Knaur:

  • 1932 – Miß
  • 1965 – Miss

So Miß was the correct spelling until the reform(s) in 1996/2004/2006 and there was a time when the English spelling was accepted as well.


Miß (sic) seems to have been an accepted spelling back in the 1960’s. Take this article from the Zeit, e.g.:

Denn auf der glatten Stirn dieser Jung-Parlamentarierin namens Dr. Ursula Krips ziehen steile Unmutsfalten auf, wenn sie daran erinnert wird, daß eilfertige Reporter ihr den Titel „Miß Bundestag“ verpaßt haben: „Politik ist doch kein Schaugeschäft! Ich finde es schon fatal, wenn man bei der Beurteilung der Männer, die sich der Politik widmen, Maßstäbe anlegt, die mit Gesinnung oder Leistung nichts zu tun haben. Aber geradezu ärgerlich finde ich es, wenn man einer Frau, die sich für die Politik entschieden hat, einen Titel aufzwingt, der ihr die Arbeit eher erschwert als erleichtert.“

These days (i.e. after the reform) anything but Miss would be considered incorrect, however.

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    You may want to consider to add that it was until the reformed spelling in 1996 when "Miß" was allowed.
    – Takkat
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 7:52

There is no Miss or Miß in German. The author used it probably because Anscombe was English. The German word for miss is Fräulein but it is not used anymore today. You say Frau in every case, even if she is not married.

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    This is wrong. The word has been in German dictionaries for around a hundred years.. But yes, it is used for English persons only, just as in English one can refer to a German as 'Herr Meier'..
    – TaW
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 8:59
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    How does this answer the question?
    – Carsten S
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 9:34
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    I wanted to make the point that I cannot google who won "Frau Universe" last year, but in fact Google gives the correct results. ;)
    – AndreKR
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 9:58
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    Fräulein is used today. Maybe not to address unmarried women, but if you have a "serious talk" with your daughter, you might start with "Hör mir mal zu, mein Fräulein!". Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 7:19
  • @ThorstenDittmar: If you have a "serious talk" to your daughter, I guess she's not yet married, therefore you are indeed addressing a (very specific) unmarried woman. ;-)
    – celtschk
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 15:41

I think that in literature it is widely accepted to use the English abbreviations, actually. There are the German equivalents Frau and Fräulein.

According to current rules, however, you'd not use Miß, but Miss, as the vowel i is short, as in dass or Fass.


Miss Marple is "Miss Marple" in German in much the same way that the English press often refers to "Frau Merkel". It's actually a quite common word in translations from English and in German literature that plays in English-speaking countries, and this is by no means a recent phenomenon. Apart from that, Miss also exists in German as a common component of beauty pageant titles, but I don't know if that was already a relevant factor in Wittgenstein's lifetime.

ß was originally a ligature for sz (or more precisely ſz, where ſ is long s as in the integral sign), but is treated in German to some degree as if it had evolved out of a ligature for ss (or rather ſs). In fact, the antiqua version nowadays looks more like ſs than like ſz, though that's in part due to the simpler modern shape of z.

According to pre-1998 orthography rules, ss at the end of the syllable was always spelled ß in German words. Whether this was applied to an English word depended primarily on how 'foreign' that word still felt. I think Miss feels roughly as 'foreign' in German as rucksack and sauerkraut do in English, i.e. it's recognisably foreign but has already been naturalised except for spelling. And just like rucksack and sauerkraut lost the capitalisation which every German noun has, Miss got the obligatory ss to ß transformation normally reserved for German words.

In 1998, the majority of uses of ß - after a single short vowel - was reformed to become ss. (This is essentially one of the rules that once competed for becoming the official standard but lost when the spelling of Konrad Duden's dictionary was finally agreed upon as mandatory for official use.) This affected the spelling of Miss, but the fact is obviously not relevant to Wittgenstein. Making naturalised foreign words look closer to the original spelling may actually have been one of the motivations for this detail of the spelling reform.

Since ß felt like a ligature, I expect that many Germans used it even when writing English, at least in handwriting.

Writing Miss as Miß is no longer done for the simple reason that it is no longer the officially correct spelling, though the fact that many German speakers nowadays are using a lot of English every day may also play a role. Reprints and new editions of German books generally get their orthography modernised silently, just like you won't find ſ in today's English Dickens editions. (If this is not done, it's either for financial reasons or because someone rejects the spelling reform, but generally not out of some idea of staying true to the original text.)

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