Someone recently asked me what zuwarten meant and I said this wasn’t a verb at all. Turns out it is. The Duden lists it and it is not even marked as rare or archaic. I have never encountered it before (in 34 years, university degree) and the example in the Duden does not make any sense to me. What I’m wondering is:

  • Is zuwarten a regional thing or is it specific to Austrian or Swiss German?
  • Does anyone know this as a day to day word?
  • 5
    nie gehört, da wollte einer vom Duden uns was unterjubeln ;)
    – äüö
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 10:32
  • Wortschatz Leipzig lists about 20 examples and all but one are from .at or .ch addresses - I personally would not use it in writing.
    – guidot
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 15:12
  • I once heard an acquaintance use the phrase, "Da müssen wir beherzt zuwarten." He's originally from Mainz, which is in Rhineland-Palatinate.
    – waldrumpus
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 16:41
  • Persönlich benutze ich dieses Verb nicht, habe es aber schon mal gehört. Eine schnelle Google-Suche hat mir überdurchschnittlich viele Seiten mit Medizin-Kontext angezeigt. Vielleicht benutzen das Ärzte häufiger?
    – Chris
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 21:02

4 Answers 4


I think I have heard this synonym of abwarten a lot in colloquial standard Austrian German [edited: or maybe I read it a lot in Austrian newspapers], but I have never heard it outside the Austro-Bavarian dialect area. (In particular not in South-West Germany. Not completely sure about Switzerland.) I suppose it used to be in more general use, but I think nowadays it should probably be marked as Austrian.

  • 2
    zuwarten is definitely strictly regional, to the point that using it in broadcast media is a bad idea. I recall an incident where George bush's speech justifying the Iraq war ("While the world waited...") was dubbed by someone using this verb, and much puzzlement was caused among half the country. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 11:40
  • I have even never heard it in my home town, which is in the very West of the Bavarian dialect area (between Munich and Garmisch, 30 km East of the Lech). So maybe it's something middle to Eastern Bavarian?
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 12:22
  • 1
    Disagree with the statement "not in SW Germany". But the meaning differs slightly from "abwarten".
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 13:10

I live in Stuttgart (SW Germany), and used to live in Switzerland for several years. I heard it quite commonly in Switzerland, but cannot remember hearing or reading it in Germany.

  • I live in S, too but I have definitively heard "zuwarten" here. Admittedly, it's quite rare and has fallen a bit out of use, but nevertheless existant.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 9:46

Ahh, synonyms that are not so synonymous at all...

There is a slight difference in meaning:

  • Abwarten
    Describes waiting until a given time frame has passed or an event has occured.
    It focuses on reaching a certain state:

    Wir müssen abwarten, wie sich das Projekt entwickelt.
    Wir müssen seinen Anruf abwarten.

  • Zuwarten
    Describes waiting for a certain time frame or simply waiting longer.
    It focuses on adding (more) time:

    Wir müssen bis Freitag zuwarten.
    Es ist besser, mit der Entscheidung noch zuzuwarten,

Admittedly, "zuwarten" is rarer, but nevertheless a valid verb:

Google Ngram Viewer "zuwarten, abwarten"

And here I'd love to embed the graph from google ngrams, but haven't figured out yet, how to do this.

  • Is there any difference between "zuwarten" and "warten"? As for n-gram... just add a link :)
    – Emanuel
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 13:57
  • "Warten" can be completely without target, aim or goal: "Auf was wartest du?" - "Auf nichts." Both abwarten and zuwarten are never without purpose.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 14:02
  • "Warten" can be used without a concrete target. The difference between "abwarten" and "zuwarten" is that with "abwarten", you are waiting for a certain condition to be reached; with "zuwarten" you are waiting a bit longer in the hope that conditions will have improved until then, without necessarily reaching a definite target.
    – wolfgang
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 12:51

This is perfectly fine and correct standard German, as far as I'm concerned. (I am Austrian, granted, but I wouldn't have considered this an austriacism by any means.)

It is of a somewhat higher register, though, and perhaps frequently used in a professional context (think lawyers and doctors):

Der Arzt meinte, dass es besser sei, mit der Operation noch etwas zuzuwarten.

Das Gericht entschied, dass der Antragsteller nach seinem eigenen Vortrag durch zu langes Zuwarten ... die gesetzliche Dringlichkeitsvermutung selbst widerlegt habe.

  • 1
    Im D-Deutschen aber häufiger abwarten o. abzuwarten. Ich meine es ist ein Austrianismus. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 13:04
  • 4
    I don't think it's German German. Perhaps spoken by a few people in Southern Germany; but it's not spoken in regions situated further north of Main. I guess what I'm saying is that it is an "Austriacism".
    – Em1
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 13:50
  • The Duden does not list it a such, FWIW. Not that it matters much to us Austrians :)
    – Ingmar
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 18:14
  • Also Austrian here - I know this word mostly from a context where either a) it refers to waiting for someone else, and starting to be annoyed about that. E.g. "ich hab keine Lust mehr, immer muss ich zuwarten bis du endlich mal Zeit hast und steh dann selber blöd da." - or b) it refers to waiting too long with doing something important, such as "Naja, selber Schuld, wenn du so lang zuwartest... jetzt ist es zu spät". I.e. I usually feel it as a negative way of referring to waiting.
    – CherryDT
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 16:55

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