As far as I understand this means some kind of trick that helps you to memorise something without deep understanding. Is it so? Is there a story behind this word?

  • 4
    Apparently there is no agreement on the origin. Some possibilities are here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pons_asinorum#Etymology_and_related_terms
    – Carsten S
    May 27, 2015 at 17:31
  • 2
    @CarstenSchultz: The (English) pons asinorum has almost nothing to do with the German Eselsbrücke (in the sense of a mnemonic trick). I'd go so far as to call it a false friend.
    – Ingmar
    May 27, 2015 at 18:30
  • @Ingmar, this is one explanation that has been given for the origin, I did not claim that the current meaning is the same.
    – Carsten S
    May 27, 2015 at 19:12
  • 3
    Some remarks can be found at Merkspruch
    – knut
    May 27, 2015 at 19:27
  • @Ingmar Looks like the German Eselsbrücke didn't have the current meaning some 150 years ago: woerterbuchnetz.de/DWB/…
    – Matthias
    May 27, 2015 at 22:09

1 Answer 1


Yes, you're right about its meaning. An Eselsbrücke is, for instance, a word or phrase that helps you to remember something. A good English translation is mnemonic.

An example:

    Alle          Priester       Saufen    Tequila     Nach      Der         Predigt.
    Application / Presentation / Session / Transport / Network / Data Link / Phyiscal

About its origin, there's a quite possible version given at redensarten.net.

The thing is that a horse (similar to a donkey in many respects) would simply jump over a ditch, a brook or whatever. The donkey, however, won't even go through the ditch.
But if you build a bridge (or take an existing one), the donkey walks over that one without hesitation. 1

The 'donkey bridge' helps to get to the other side.

In a television show of ZDF, they second this story.

1 They mention (and the link in Matthias' comment seconds this) that the original meaning was quite a bit different and that it changed.
However, I am not sure if there's an error in that article or if it's just a little too late for me right now, but I don't quite get it.


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