6

This question also has an answer here (in German):
Was genau ist ein Strom (Gewässer)?

What is the difference between Fluss and Strom, which both translate to river?

  • 1
    "Als Strom wird ein großer Fluss oder ein großes Fließgewässer bezeichnet, das ins Meer mündet. Zu den Charakteristika eines Stromes gehört, dass er mindestens eine Länge von 500 Kilometern hat und mehr als als 2.000 Kubikmeter Wasser pro Sekunde führt." (wissen.de/raetsel/…) – hellcode Jan 9 '16 at 12:35
  • "Als Strom wird in gehobener Umgangssprache ein großer Fluss bezeichnet, der ins offene Meer mündet. Als Kriterium wird eine Länge von mindestens 500 km und ein Einzugsgebiet von mindestens 100.000 km² angegeben." (de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strom_(Gew%C3%A4sser)) – hellcode Jan 9 '16 at 12:36
  • @hellcode Zwei gut bequellte Zitate reichen Dir nicht, um eine richtige Antwort zu schreiben? – hiergiltdiestfu Jan 13 '16 at 14:49
  • 2
    To close voters: Note that the alleged duplicate is in German, and that we have a policy not to consider different-language questions duplicates of each other. – chirlu Jan 13 '16 at 16:52
3

The distinction is quite easy. In German, you usually say Fluss to any kind of river, so that’d be a proper translation. A small river is called a Bach, which in English is called a “stream”, mind you.

A Strom (“main stem”, “major river” and others in English; literally “current” or “stream”) however is a larger body of water, usually the main stream that leads to the open sea (unlike its tributaries).

Rivers like the Rhine, Ganges and Nile would be called a Strom in German, but it’s probably a hydrology term rather than a colloquial one (Wikipedia likes to differ). That being said, there are some criteria to determine when a Fluss is called a Strom (like the amount of water it conveys or it having an estuary).

|improve this answer|||||
  • 2
    The Rhine can be called Fluß, too, and this would be perfectly fine. It is true, though, that one would not call a very small river Strom. Then there are other differences: e g in poems you might more often find Strom than in colloquial speech. And then, both words have different and distinct meanings in other contexts, for example in electricity. – Martin Peters Jan 11 '16 at 10:58
  • 1
    @MartinPeters: Like I said, you can say Fluss (with ss, not ß) to any Strom in German. It’s a good remark on poetry. And naturally, due to their properties of “flow”, there’s some overlap between hydrology and electricity, the former having been invented first. – dakab Jan 11 '16 at 11:04
1

While there is a pretty good agreement on what can be called Fluss and what must be called Bach (the latter is typically only valid if you can hop across it), there is no clear-cut distinction between a Fluss and a Strom.

Every larger body of flowing water can be called a Fluss (but not a Bach) but many would raise an eyebrow if you called them Strom. Nowadays — and especially for me — the distinction is typically only size: Somewhere between the size of the Isar in Munich (a Fluss) and the Inn and Danube in Passau (Strom) is where I would place the absolute lower boundary.

There is also, traditionally, the distinction that a Strom had to have some cultural significance for the people living around it, much like the Rhine has for most of western Germany. However, I personally find that argument a bad and neglectable one.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.