Translated they both mean "recognition, identification" (the act of recognizing or fact of being recognized).

Are they synonymous? Is there any difference in usage or meaning? Is one maybe the "older" version of the other? could you write me examples in which one is preferable than the other?

2 Answers 2


There is already a good answer on the verbs erkennen and anerkennen. But you asked for the nouns. And they are quite different.

die Anerkennung
means recognition, praise. It's expressedly noticing something or someone or someone's acchievements and praising them, showing respect. A frequent phrase is (jemandem) Anerkennung zollen.

die Erkennung
is almost exclusively used in a technical context, meaning recognition, e.g. Mustererkennung (pattern recognition) or Gesichtserkennung (face recognition).

Two other related nouns are

das Erkennen
meaning the act of recognizing something or someone and

die Erkenntnis
meaning the result of the recognizing process.

  • +1, kleiner Einwand aber: Erkenntnis wird kaum im selben Zusammenhang wie Erkennung und Erkennen benutzt (höchstens Erkennen eines Zusammenhangs), es ist eher das Ergebnis eines Denk- als eines Erkennungsprozesses.
    – chirlu
    May 20, 2015 at 13:57

These are two quite different words. And their meaning also differs whether the object is a person or an object.

Etwas erkennen means to recognize something, i.e. used to describe the fact of recognizing a far away or very small object.

Etwas anerkennen is a term to describe acceptance of a fact or a treaty. Not very often used expression. A government for instance may accept a treaty as valid. That would be

Die Regierung erkennt den Friedensvertrag an. (Duden, Fall 2, case 1a is similar but more general)

Similar here: akzeptieren.

Jemanden anerkennen (more common: jemandem Anerkennung entgegenbringen) means bringing recognition towards somebody, i.e. by complimenting his work.

Matthias anerkannte Leo, der Bemühungen um eine friedliche Beilegung des Konfliktes unternahm. (Duden, Fall 1b)

Jemanden erkennen is an old term (used i.e. in the bible) to describe having sex with somebody. Sounds silly if you use it nowadays. It can be used in the first case though, meaning to recognize somebody from a distance or by remembering their face. Compare:

Als Josef seine Brüder sah, erkannte er sie. (Gen 42,7)

Adam erkannte Eva, seine Frau; sie wurde schwanger und gebar Kain. (Gen 4,1)

  • Uhm... could you add one example for "jemanden anerkennen" that would have the meaning that you described? Because I don't think the verb is used that way (structurally speaking)
    – Emanuel
    May 20, 2015 at 10:29
  • @Emanuel: Check the provided duden link. I think that really describes the word in this meaning.
    – PMF
    May 20, 2015 at 10:49
  • Well, the thing with the example you added now is that "anerkennen" is connected to a thing. The effort is what's recognized, not Leo. Sure, on a meta level it is Leo but you claim that meaning depends on whether the object is a person or a thing and I don't agree with that. "Matthias anerkannte Leo." based on your explanation this should mean the same as "Matthias brachte Leo Anerkennung entgegen." but to me it doesn't.
    – Emanuel
    May 20, 2015 at 11:15
  • Vielleicht so? Ich bin ehrlich auch nicht so sicher, wie man das einsetzt, aber die verlinkten Beispiele suggerieren schon irgendwas in die Richtung. Dort wird "Die Mitmenschen anerkennen" explizit als Beispiel genannt.
    – PMF
    May 20, 2015 at 12:06
  • Für mich ist anerkennen übrigens trennbar (ich erkenne an). Ich weiß aber, der Gebrauch schwankt.
    – chirlu
    May 20, 2015 at 12:57

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