9

Stein and Felsen both translate to stone in English, but are they interchangeable? When I google images for both, I get mostly small palm-sized stones for Stein and something that I would call boulder for Felsen. Also I saw in my text-book expressions like:

Dieser steile Felsen ist sehr imposant.

but nothing with steiler Stein, which might signify that der Felsen are generally big in size.

So my question is: Can I translate Felsen with boulder and Stein with a small stone?

Please refrain from going into scientific definitions. This isn’t geological question. I just want to know how native speakers perceive the difference.

3
  • 1
    As I recently found out, the meaning of the English terms for stones of different sizes varies considerably between regions. Related: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/85817/…, english.stackexchange.com/questions/5931/…
    – chirlu
    Apr 3, 2016 at 18:41
  • As a mnemonic you may use: You can jump from a Felsen into the sea [in Acapulco], and – after reaching the shore – you can pick up a flat Stein and skim it over the water surface.
    – Pollitzer
    Apr 4, 2016 at 12:03
  • Stein can also translate to "rock", also "Felsen" can be a "rock". Große Steine in einem Fluß werden z. B. als rock übersetzt. Apr 5, 2016 at 4:19

1 Answer 1

7

Your observation is right as far as i can tell. One would talk about a "Felsen" like in "boulder" in english. It typically refers to a bigger sort of stone while a stone would be something palm sized.

I would usally use "Felsen" for a big stone which can´t be moved in an easy way.

3
  • 4
    Felsen is also always in its natural, "grown" form, while Stein can have been shaped into form or even be man-made - That is pretty close to English, there's a "Grabstein" or "Tombstone", but no "Grabfelsen" or "Tomb rock", also see "Backstein" == "Brick"
    – tofro
    Apr 3, 2016 at 20:26
  • @tofro this is a great addition! Apr 3, 2016 at 22:07
  • And, "Felsen" typically refers to a part of the fixed landscape, whereas "Stein" typically denotes something movable. Feb 9, 2022 at 12:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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