In English, the sounds like a, e, i, o or u are called vowel sounds.
I want to know, whether ä, ö, and ü have certain names in German language and what the dots used to produce them are called.

  • 1
    Are you asking about the letters, the sounds or both?
    – Crissov
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 19:28

6 Answers 6


Multiple questions, multiple answers:

In English, the sounds like a, e, i, o, u are called vowel sounds.

Erm, technically true, but you’re forgetting y. And there are a lot more vowel sounds that just the five ‘standard’ ones. There are some twenty different vowel sounds in English if you include diphthongs (and there’s no real reason not to).

I want to know, do these sounds like ä, ö, ü have certain names in German language?

Germans would consider them vowels just like the other five (y is a variant of either ü or i) and the diphthongs (ei, au, eu, ui) German language has. If there is, for any reason, a need to specify that you’re talking about and only about the three dotted ones, the terminology is Umlaute. If you’re just talking about a specific one, it’s Ä, Ö or Ü, just like they’re pronounced.

what [are] the dots used to produce them […] called?

A.k.a. the question in the title. These dots, usually called trema (or diaeresis) in English, are called Umlaut in German (yes, this is the same word as above for the vowels themselves) if and only if they are used to signify Umlaute.

If you’re talking about a word like naïve, or the Albanian letter ë, the only correct terminology is I/E mit Trema. This also occurs in generic German names (Hoëcker) and old-fashioned spelling (Alzeÿ). Note that German generally prefers the word Trema where Umlaut is not applicable, while English prefers diaeresis for the naïve-case and trema only for distinct non-umlaut letters. (In the Alzeÿ-case, Diärese would be outright wrong.)

The word Trema can also be used in the case of umlauts. So it’s perfectly acceptable to say A mit Trema.

Colloquially, the dots also have a variety of other names derived from their shape: Punkte, Doppelpunkt, Pünktchen, Striche, Stricherl, Strichelchen and more. Note again, that any Strich-type variant is only applicable, if you’re talking about ä/ö/ü. Ï and ë would only get names that derive from Punkt in some way.[1]

In case you’re interested: Trema originates from Ancient Greek and is a name based solely on the shape of the diacritic.

Umlaut, as you might have guessed, stems from the German word which means changed sound.

Diaeresis is also Greek, meaning division or separation. It is only truly appropriate in cases where the trema shows that two letters are to be pronounced distinctly.

[1] This is due to the origin of the tremata. For the three common German letters, they derived from a superscripted e, which in blackletter and even more in Kurrent handwriting resembles a pair of vertical lines. Eventually, the e got reduced to the vertical lines which got further reduced in typesetting to a pair of dots. For diaeresis cases, the dots did not derive from lines but were introduced as dots originally.

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    I disagree with the notion that Umlaut is a synonym of Trema. You don’t call the dots “Umlaut”.
    – chirlu
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 0:29
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    I've never heard anybody name the dots umlaut aswell. Umlaut is ä/ü/ö, the dots are called "Pünktchen", "Strichelchen" or simply "Punkte" (dots).
    – Alex
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 7:57
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    @O.R.Mapper I am. It was my mother. She's very German. Sorry ^^' But I still agree that it's very rarely heard.
    – Jan
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 9:28
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    technically true, but you’re forgetting y – And r and w and probably some more, depending on your definition of vowel.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 10:54
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    the dots are NOT called umlaut, umlaut is just the vowel.
    – rhavin
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 8:32

The result of the dots, so the letter with the dots on it, is an Umlaut – literally a “resounding” – of the vowel.

The dots themselves are commonly known as ä/ö/ü-Striche (or Strichelchen), depending on what word you have in mind. That’s what we, including the teachers, used in school. The term umlaut only came to my attention once I started having contact with English speakers who would learn German. But that might just be me. The term trema however is widely … unknown. I'd recommend not using it.

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    ä/ö/ü-Punkte and ä/ö/ü-Pünktchen as well.
    – chirlu
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 0:30
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    I learned about the word "Umlaut" in elementary school, while learning to read and write (which included some info on "Selbstlaute, Mitlaute und Umlaute"); I don't think it's really that unknown. I agree that the word "Trema" is not as widely known, or rather, that it is to some extent misinterpreted as meaning diaeresis, i.e. separate pronunciation of two letters, rather than the mere graphical modifier in the shape of two dots. Commented May 12, 2015 at 8:25
  • @O.R.Mapper: I believe Emanual wanted to say “the term umlaut for the dots”, not referring to Umlaut in general.
    – chirlu
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 15:59
  • @chirlu... no, I actually meant the term :). I honestly did not really know what that was until I was 20 or so. I mean I kind of knew but not really. Maybe I was just ignoring it in school though.
    – Emanuel
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 22:36

To be absolutely accurate, “Umlaut” is a technical term for the phonological/historical process which transforms - for example - /u/ to /y/. This is the only meaning recognised in the standard dictionaries (DWB, DWDS, Duden). The two dots on top of some letters are properly called “Pünktchen”.

Compare this: http://www.dwds.de/?view=1&qu=Umlaut and this: http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Umlaut


In English the sign is called umlaut. In German is Umlaut or Trema.


is then

o mit Umlaut.

Similar for the other two vowels.

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    I disagree. As I've mentioned in another comment, I cannot imagine anyone say "Ich füge einen Umlaut zu o hinzu, um es zu einem ö zu machen." The "Umlaut" is the whole thing, the letter with the dots, not just the dots. Is that possibly a regional difference, though (I'm from South-Western Germany)? Commented May 12, 2015 at 8:27
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    @O.R.Mapper Just because it is correct, does not mean it is used; I'll agree with you on that one. If anybody would use it, it's people in a semi-professional environment, i.e. typesetters, linguists, not necessarily school teachers.
    – Jan
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 9:00
  • @O.R.Mapper Maybe. But this is an answer to the original, first question of the OP, thereafter edited.
    – c.p.
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 16:39

If you see them on the names of heavy metal bands (Motörhead) who only want to look exotic, these are called rock dots.

Edit: In German these are called Heavy-Metal-Umlaut according to Wikipedia.
Also rock dots can be written as röck döts.

  • 4
    Are they called so in German?
    – Matthias
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 7:58
  • Actually, I think there's more behind it. German is associated with harshness, militarism, violent-sounding language, and the first uses of rock dots were on letters that would make sense to use that way in German (ä, ö and ü). But it has since left that territory and gone to completely arbitrary letters (n with trema, anyone?).
    – Jan
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 9:31
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    FWIW, using these produces the opposite of the intended effect for me as a german. "Moteurhead" just sounds cute or dumb, not hard and cool. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 6:21

Diakritische Zeichen is a term covering trema, any kind of accent, cedille and other letter "ornamentation" without the letter itself.

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    True, but doesn’t answer the question.
    – chirlu
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 16:02
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    @chirlu I can't find a hint in the original question, how generic a term the OP was looking for; I find a downvote of a correct and at least supplemental [if not even useful] answer somewhat harsh.
    – guidot
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 13:53

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