I wonder if the Yiddish word "Säegermacher" (Seegermacher?) has a German origin. It seems obvious that it must, but I can't see it.

  • Thanks, Void and Without Form. That's definitely it. I had thought of zeiger but I know of know other instance where the initial consonant changes from a z to an s, so I had discounted it. But if it is already idomatic for watch hand, then that's another matter. (The misleading spelling was my own attempt to romanize the Yiddish; in the original spelling there is no hint of the etymology.) Oct 2, 2011 at 10:19
  • Of course, the vowel shift from zeiger to zéiger is very normal in Yiddish, but I generally assumed it derived from an older form of the German vowel, so I don't expect to see it in newer words associated with technology. On the other hand, pendulum clocks have existed for many hundreds of years, and their pointers were probably also called Uhrzeigers. Oct 2, 2011 at 10:27

2 Answers 2


I suppose it's connected with „Zeigermacher“ - „Uhrzeiger“ is the german word for 'watch hand'. Google gives several sources for watchmakers being called Zeigermacher, too.

  • Thanks, tohuwawohu, for upgrading your comment to an answer. I have left my replies to your answer in the comment field of the original question where I posted them while the question was still locked down. Oct 2, 2011 at 14:09
  • @Marty Why was the question closed?
    – Phira
    Oct 3, 2011 at 22:37
  • I guess some people don't like to think of Yiddish as a dialect of German. Oct 3, 2011 at 22:47
  • This answer is utterly wrong.
    – alephreish
    Jul 21, 2016 at 20:49

זייגערמאַכער is pronounced in Standard Yiddish as /zeɪgərmaxər/ and is a composite word with both components being of German origin: זייגער and מאַכער. They also exist as separate words and both have their cognates in Standard German: Seiger and Macher. While Macher/מאַכער is someone who makes, Seiger/זייגער is/was a word for "clock" (originally: plumb line or pendulum). Duden claims Seiger is an outdated/dialectal form in German (replaced by Uhr); in Yiddish it is nevertheless standard and valid. Seiger and זייגער come ultimately from the same MHG source.

Zejger and Zeiger, on the other hand, are not even distantly related. There is no correspondence between Yiddish [z] and German [ts]: there are just no examples of this sort. Maybe less obvious is the discrepancy in the diphthong. The stressed vowel in the source of the NHG Zeiger and its Yiddish cognate צייגער (yes, with the expected [ts]) was MHG î: it gave rise in both languages to [aɪ]; that's why one would expect the NHG and Yiddish cognates of the word to have the same phonetic shape (which they do). Then again, the vowel in Seiger/זייגער was MHG ei: it also became [aɪ] in NHG, but remained unchanged in the Yiddish dialect on which the standard is based.


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