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What is the meaning of the word Gasse in Austrian German; street or alley?

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    Welcome to German Language SE. Can you please give us more details about what you found so far and why it did not answer your question, especially in regards to Austrian German? – Wrzlprmft Oct 6 '15 at 11:08
  • Gasse is a secondary street and not the main street. But in some cases Gasse and Straße have the same sense. – rogermue Oct 12 '15 at 17:50
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As far as I know there is no difference in the meaning of »Gasse« between German German and Austria German.

A Gasse is a small street in an urban environment. The length of a Gasse is just a few blocks (vienna's shortest Gasse is just 17 m long), and it has one or two lanes for driving cars, and normally one or two lanes for parking cars, and a sidewalk on each side.

But for each of this attributes you will find exceptions. The Hadikgasse in Vienna has 3 lanes, at some places even 5 (before crossings), and is many kilometers long. It is the beginning of B1 (Bundesstraße 1)*. But this is an exception. A normal Gasse is much smaller.

Other words often used in names of streets are:

Weg
(english: way): Like Gasse, but also used in rural environments. A famous exception is Rennweg in vienna, which is a long and big street.
Examples in Vienna: Ernst-Jandl-Weg, Rennweg, Rennbahnweg, Sileneweg

Gasse
(english: alley): See above
Examples in Vienna: Falcogasse, Porzellangasse, Sensengasse, Silenegasse (Sileneweg and Silenegasse are at its closes point just 20 m away from each other)

Allee
(english: avenue): A street with trees on both sides. But there are also Alleen where there no longer are trees.
Examples in Vienna: Rotundenallee, Prater Hauptallee, Stadionallee

Straße
(english: street): Like Gasse, but normally longer and wider.
Examples in Vienna: Maria-Theresien-Straße, Schönbrunner Straße, Schönbrunner Schloßstraße

Promenade
(english: promenade): A street, that was built for pedestrians.
Example in Vienna: Rudolf-Nurejew-Promenade

Gang
(englisch: walk): A Weg or Gasse, that was built for pedestrians.
Example in Vienna: Beethovengang

Ring
(english: ring): A street that surrounds the downtown (or parts of it).
One of the most important streets in Vienna is the famous Ringstraße, but you will not find a street with this name in Viennas streetmap. This street is devided into 9 sections, each of it has a different name, but the names of all nine sections end with -ring.
Examples in Vienna: Stubenring, Opernring, Universitätsring

Kai
(english: kay): A street that runs along a rivers bank.
Examples in Vienna: Handelskai (at river Danube), Franz-Joseph-Kai (at river Donaukanal)

Lände
Same as Kai: A street that runs along a rivers bank.
Examples in Vienna: Roßauer Lände, Erdberger Lände, Weißgerberlände (all three at river Donaukanal)

Zeile
(english: line) Same as Kai and Lände: A street that runs along a rivers bank.
Examples in Vienna: Linke Wienzeile, rechte Wienzeile (at river Wien)

*(Bundesstraße is the 3rd category of streets in Austria; Category 1 is Autobahn, category 2 is Schnellstraße and Bundesstraße is category 3)

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    According to Duden, Gasse can be used in the general meaning of street in some Austrian expressions such as „über die Gasse“, „auf der Gasse“, „das Zimmer liegt an der Gasse“, „drei Gassen weiter“ – a usage that is uncommon in Germany. Is that correct? – Loong Oct 6 '15 at 20:34
  • @Loong: Oh, I didn't know that this is uncommon in Germany. You really don't say »Herr Schneider wohnt drei Gassen weiter«? Or »Ich muss nur über die Gasse gehen um zum nächsten Bäcker zu kommen«? – Hubert Schölnast Oct 6 '15 at 20:41
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    Yes. At least in North Germany, we would say Straße in such expressions. However, there might be regional differences in Germany. – Loong Oct 6 '15 at 20:48
  • Vielleicht noch Magistrale aufnehmen? – user unknown Oct 6 '15 at 21:45
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    @Ingmar: Gassenhauer: Das ist ursprünglich sehr kräftiger Kämpfer, der mit einem Bihänderschwert eine Gasse in die Reihe der Gegner haut, damit der Rest der Gruppe nachrücken kann. Während er die Gasse haut, singen er und seine Mannen laut ein Kampflied, das Gassenhauer-Lied. Eine Gasse kann nämlich auch eine Schneise oder auch ein Hohlweg sein (Goethe, Wilhelm Tell: »Durch diese hohle Gasse muss er kommen«) – Hubert Schölnast Oct 7 '15 at 12:09
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The question is most likely motivated by the fact that most street names in Austrian cities such as Salzburg and Vienna end in -gasse, not -straße. This is evidently related, in one direction or another (probably both), to the fact that it is more common in Austrian German than in German German to refer to a street in a city as a Gasse.

The word Straße is from Latin strata and originally referred to a paved road. The word Gasse is from a proto-Germanic word and originally referred to a road/street/path/passage that is laned by hedges or walls. A typical city street is paved and is laned by houses, so both original meanings make sense. In German German, Straße has become the standard term and Gasse is used only when its original sense is particularly strong, i.e. for narrow roads between houses or sometimes walls/hedges. In Austrian German, Gasse has become the standard term [added later:] regionally at least in Vienna. I am not sure what determines the alternative use of Straße in Austrian German - maybe Hubert Schölnast will shed some light on this.

PS: The results of web searches for "Straßenverzeichnis" in connection with München, Salzburg and Wien have convinced me that my original impression concerning Salzburg was wrong. Gasse, while being more common than in Munich is clearly not the default term there as it is rarer than Straße. However, Gasse has always felt like the default term to me in Vienna. The city is currently expanding west of the Danube, where I lived for a few years. Many of the streets there seem to get names ending in -gasse at a time when they are still surrounded mostly by fields and no dense building development is planned. On the other hand, I just checked, and it turns out that -straße is also used occasionally, for example in the new Seestadt quarter. I guess this is decided on a case by case basis, perhaps often determined primarily by who suggests a name and which part of the country they come from.

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    While Gasse is certainly used more frequently in Austria than in Germany (by and large), you really can't say that it has become the "standard term" for street names. In Vienna there are (approx.) 1325 Straßen, 396 Plätze, 43 Steige, 151 Stege, 10 Stiegen, 261 Brücken and 752 Wege. Gasse is usually reserved for smaller streets, although some of them certainly no longer are (Hadikgasse was mentioned as an example already). It is true that there are more than 3000 Gassen in Vienna, however. – Ingmar Oct 7 '15 at 13:30
  • Hans, you should say that this is not really a question of Austria and Germany, like many other features of the language Southern Germany and Austria are best grouped together. – Adam Bittlingmayer Oct 7 '15 at 20:36
  • Ingmar, in my village (populated by people from what later became Germany but built under Austro-Hungarian rule) even the main street is Gasse (die Hauptgasse), as are the roads to the neighbouring villages (what in Prussia one might call Landstrassen). It is probably a good indication of how things were earlier in more places. – Adam Bittlingmayer Oct 7 '15 at 20:40
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    @AdamM.B.: Southern German and Austrian German are much closer than many Austrians believe, as they only notice northern German consciously and tend to generalise the differences to all Germans. But in this case I have my doubts. I will provide more details concerning this in my answer. – Hans Adler Oct 8 '15 at 7:48
  • In this case I also cannot say where the line is. Ideally there would be a fine-grained statistical way to know this (eg if Bayern had its own TLD). – Adam Bittlingmayer Oct 8 '15 at 8:33
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I (and I am Austrian) would prefer to translate Gasse as lane. I assume also lane having another meaning as alley.

See for example here.

  • The question is a little ambiguous. It asks for a definition/meaning on the one hand, and for a translation on the other hand. While "lane" is probably a good translation (+1 for that) for the Austrian German specific meaning for a "(Quer)Straße", this answer though lacks an explanation of what it actually refers to (-1 for that). I mean, "lane" has several meanings in English and certainly most of them are not covered by "Gasse". In total that makes zero points from me ;) – Em1 Oct 6 '15 at 13:15
  • Are you implying that (Austrian) "Gasse" refers to a Querstraße? – Ingmar Oct 6 '15 at 13:19
  • Lane sounds indeed very appropriate. One can check it out in real life in Melbourne. – Martin Peters Oct 7 '15 at 7:49
  • I would normally assume that Gasse is urban, and I would normally assume that Lane is rural. – Michael Kay Oct 9 '15 at 20:39

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