mind ≈ Geist & Verstand
Have a look at the wiki articles for each Geist and mind. By definition both words mean the same.
But we also have Verstand, which means understanding (noun). Verstand is related to verstehen which means to understand.
By definition we have:
- Geist = Mind
- Verstand = understanding (noun)
- verstehen = to understand
Even tough mind and Geist are closer by definition, look at this example and see how similar mind and Verstand are in practice:
- Have you lost your mind!? = Hast du deinen Verstand verloren!?
- Use your mind, stupid! = Benutz' deinen Verstand, Dummkopf!
- Boy, you have a sharp mind. = Junge, du hast einen scharfen Verstand.
- You can train your mind = Du kannst deinen Verstand trainieren.
- He's got the mind of a four-year-old! = Er hat den Verstand eines Vierjährigen!
- She has a clear mind = Sie hat einen klaren Verstand.
- My mind tells me... = Mein Verstand sagt mir…
In German you may use Geist and Verstand other than you would expect in English. Just replace mind with understanding and read the English sentences from the list again. That way you see it from a German native perspective. It may seem unusual, but the sentences still make sense. Both ways work. German just developed into using the other.
However, you don't always use Verstand for mind in practice, e.g.:
What have you got on your mind?
doesn't translate to Was hast du auf deinem Verstand?. But this is somewhat easy to recognize, because if you do the swap again, it would read What have you got on your understanding, which doesn't sound good.
A direct translation to What's on your mind? could be something like this:
- Was hast du im Sinn?
- Was schwebt dir vor (im Geiste)?
Geist ≈ mind & spirit
If you refer to Geist regarding the intellect and psyche of a person it is mostly the same as mind by definition. But Geist also translates into spirit. And there you have another mix-up between the two languages. In German you use Geist for both mind and spirit. For example:
Das war der Geist der Epoche.
The preferred translation would be "It was the spirit of that epoch.".
But if you refer to Geist as mind you have: "It was the mind of that epoch.". The first sentence works fine. The second sounds strange, but it is not far from earth.
The word Geist has a broader meaning, it merges mind and spirit. It contains both. Its meaning is defined by the context it is placed in. From a German perspective you just put Geist in the sentence and leave it for the reader to decide if he wants to put the emphasis more on the spirit side or more on the mind side or take the mix of both. But in the end it's mostly context and common sense that define the meaning of Geist.
Here are some examples for when I would say Geist emphases on spirit rather than mind:
- Das ist der Geist der Epoche.
- Das passt zum heutigen Zeitgeist.
- Sie hat einen sehr lebhaften Geist.
For the next example it wouldn't be clear, because the person could have a great mind or a great spirit. It's both very much in there. (I would say.)
- Er ist eine geistreiche Person.
So, whenever you read or hear the word Geist keep in mind that it may refer to both mind and spirit and emphasize for yourself by context and of cause by your own like.
The shift between the words in translation
This is how I would visualize it:
Verstand | Geist
understanding | mind | spirit