I was wondering, middle of the day is Mittag, middle of the week is Mittwoch, but why midnight is called Mitternacht!

I searched a little, and found the explanation behind middle of the week being Mittwoch. Since both Woche and Nacht are feminine, why is midnight called Mitternacht?

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    It might be worth mentioning that /Mittnacht/ is a pretty common surname in Germany - a weak proof for the existence of that word in former times. I also happen to own am astronomy book from 1625 that uses /Mittnacht/ as a synonym for /Mitternacht / which proves the decision was close.
    – tofro
    Feb 21, 2016 at 17:20
  • Google Books holds a nice example books.google.de/… p.47
    – tofro
    Feb 21, 2016 at 20:56

2 Answers 2


The word Mitternacht is some centuries younger than Mittwoch and Mittag. Mitternacht derives from 14th century phrases such as vor mitter nahte (‘before middle night’), where mitter is an adjective in dative singular. By reanalysis, the new noun mitternaht developed. (See Pfeifer’s Etymologisches Wörterbuch, via DWDS.)

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    I am wondering if the root of this root was "Mitte der Nacht"? Feb 22, 2016 at 1:14
  • @TheBlastOne: What do you mean by that, the root of this root?
    – chirlu
    Feb 22, 2016 at 4:09
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    @chirlu i think, it is root of this word !
    – MAKZ
    Feb 22, 2016 at 5:44
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    @chirlu is it vor mitter nahte or vor mitter nachte, and new noun mitternaht or new noun mitternacht ?
    – MAKZ
    Feb 22, 2016 at 5:46
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    @MAKZ: Those are just spelling variants. In Middle High German, the /x/ sound is usually written h.
    – chirlu
    Feb 22, 2016 at 8:12

In both etymological dictionaries that I have available (one of them here; as well as Kluge, 24. edition), it is mentioned that Mitternacht is derived from prepositional phrases that were used as adverbials.

In Middle High German there seems to have been an adjective mitt(e) whose strong (used without article) dative singular feminine form was formed by means of an er-suffix just as in Modern Standard German. From expressions such as Middle High German ze mitter nachte, lit. 'at middle night', middle corresponding to an adjective in the MHG constructions (unlike English where it just occurs as a noun), the noun Mitternacht was derived by dropping the preposition.

  • Your answer also seems to be correct. thanks for the explanation.
    – MAKZ
    Feb 22, 2016 at 8:59

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