The term graceful degradation is often used as a technical term to describe a system that doesn't loose all its functionality at once, but is able to maintain some intermediary mode to remain partially operational.

What is the german term for that? On linguee.de one person used the term anmutige Verschlechterung, which sounds odd. The again, I could just call it grazile Degradation, but that sound even weirder. Dict.cc also suggests Fehlertoleranz, but that is a too strong generalisation of the concept.

Any ideas how to translate this nicely?

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    If you look at the linguee.de examples, it's either kept in English as a technical term, or it's replaced by a different expression according to context. That's also what I would do. Any attempt at direct translation would very probably lead to head-scratching by the reader, followed by "ah! he means graceful degradation! why doesn't he say so in the first place?".
    – dirkt
    Apr 8, 2015 at 19:09
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    IATE has "reduzierte Betrieb", "allmähliche Leistungsabnahm" iate.europa.eu/…
    – Nemo
    Apr 9, 2015 at 9:02
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    Just a small comment: Be very careful with linguee.de... Be aware that it is nothing more than an automated concordance of websites that have an English and a German version. This means that all the entries are just found translations of wildly varying quality. From the context of the entries, it often becomes clear that either the English or the German are atrocious. Linguee should not be treated as a dictionary, but as a confirmation tool of things you already know. For anything else it's pretty much worthless. :(
    – Mac
    Apr 13, 2015 at 12:00

2 Answers 2


In the German standard DIN EN 61508-7 Funktionale Sicherheit sicherheitsbezogener elektrischer/elektronischer/programmierbarer elektronischer Systeme – Teil 7: Überblick über Verfahren und Maßnahmen (German version of IEC 61508-7 and EN 61508-7 Functional safety of electrical/electronic/programmable electronic safety-related systems – Part 7: Overview of techniques and measures), the section graceful degradation is translated as abgestufte Funktionseinschränkungen.

The corresponding standard in Austria is ÖVE/ÖNORM EN 61508-7.

  • Just like "Funktionsabbau" in hellcode's answer, I think "Funktionseinschränkungen" are not a good translation, as they sound as if functionality was actively removed or blocked, rather than the passive process conveyed by the word "degradation". Also, I think "allmählich" from hellcode's answer is a better choice, as "abgestuft" does not carry the temporal aspect contained in "allmählich". (An "Abstufung" can also be based on other factors than time.) Apr 9, 2015 at 7:47
  • I've never heard anyone using this as a technical term.
    – dirkt
    Apr 9, 2015 at 9:30
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    Never heard that (in professional IT) either, but Funktionseinschränkung does not carry the "actively removed" aspect for me, since Einschränkungen is also used for unpredictable or unwanted events, like traffic jams, i. e. Verkehrseinschränkungen. When in doubt, trust the DIN. :) Apr 9, 2015 at 16:01

I suggest: 

allmählicher Funktionsabbau

  • I agree with "allmählich", but I thought the "Verschlechterung" from the question wasn't bad. "Funktionsabbau" sounds very "active", as if someone or something step by step switched off components, whereas "Verschlechterung" seems to reflect the degradation process that happens on its own. Apr 8, 2015 at 19:15

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