I know the meaning of Gang; however, it seems to me that there are so many different meanings of Gang and I do not understand the fundamental meaning behind this word. Even if it has different meanings (a lot actually), it must have at least one core meaning that eventually branched out into different meanings. Can anyone explain?

closed as unclear what you're asking by chirlu, Em1, boaten, Wrzlprmft Jul 26 '15 at 8:43

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    Uh, well, it's derived from gehen (past tenses: ging, ist gegangen), so its original meaning is 'a way gone by foot' and 'the process of going'. What is unclear about that? – chirlu Jul 25 '15 at 15:36
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    Can you specifiy the different meanings of Gang you are talking about and elaborate your confusion a bit? As it stands, all we can do to answer your question is to quote a dictionary. – Wrzlprmft Jul 25 '15 at 15:59
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    the most obscure one I could imagine is the "gear" in a car - which I guess was derived originally from the way horses walk at different speeds... – Gerhard Jul 25 '15 at 17:36
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The word der Gang derives from gehen (to go, to walk, to run, to work - maybe try to understand all the meanings of gehen first, maybe this would help you) and its core meanings are the way something/somebody goes/walks or process of going/walking for example:

  • Du hast aber einen komischen Gang. - The way you walk is weird.

  • Ich habe keine Zeit für diese ganzen Behördengänge. - I don't have time for all these trips to the authorities.

Additionally, there are some idioms using this core meaning, for example

etwas in Gang setzen

which means literally to make something go/run/work.

Other most important meanings which branched out of the core meaning are :

  • course (Suppe geht vor dem Hauptmahlzeit, Nachtisch geht nach der Hauptmahlzeit, so it became erster Gang, zweiter Gang)
  • gear (in dieser Getriebestellung geht der Antrieb schneller --> in diesem Gang ist der Antrieb schneller)

That's pretty much it. Just memorize those three - four meanings of Gang and you're good to go.

Footnote: there is also the word die Gang (pronounced: Gäng), pl. die Gangs which means the same as English gang (a group of criminals).

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    An IMO very obvious meaning of Gang (maybe even so obvious that one can easily miss it when trying to think of all meanings) is quite directly related to gehen, as well, but describes a concrete, tangible thing rather than a way of walking, or the activity of visiting something or someone: Gang can also be used as a synonym of Korridor, a lengthy hallway, an indoor space whose primary function is often to connect other rooms. – O. R. Mapper Jul 25 '15 at 20:27
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    @O.R.Mapper And - in the same sense - a tunnel. – Stephie Jul 25 '15 at 23:15

I've just had a look at some dictionaries to see how they present German Gang and if they have a reasonable arrangement of the divers uses of the word. There seem to be about a dozen uses and they should have a useful arrangement so that it is possible to keep the uses in mind. I did not find anything which I find optimal. In most cases one has to do such studies by oneself.

For my personal use I would use the following division

1 The central meaning of Gang. Activity noun to gehen.

2 semantic developments that are near to the central meaning, the activity noun.

3 Gang used for path/way where you go (passage, corridor) and similar meanings as Gehörgang of the ear.

3 Metaphoric use when talking of vehicles, such as bike or motorcar

4 Metaphoric use Gang, Gänge when talking of meals

5 Idioms with Gang

I think this would be a useful division and you could try to get the various uses of Pons.eu or Wiktionary into the above arrangement. Pons has 12 uses and Gang no.2 (Gang referring to meals). I don't see why it should be necessary to have a Gang no.2. Their arrangement does not seem very logical to me.

I find Wiktionary better in regard to optical presentation, arrangement and compactness. And they have some pictures. Uses and example material is separated. They have 14 uses.

I think one could do a lot more in lexicology, especially in dictionaries for learners. Big Latin dictionaries had developed an astonishing method to make long entries in dictionaries transparent. The innovative Ĺongman DCE also shows for English words how it can be done.

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