So I have these sentences:

Ich kann unordentlich und fast schlampig sein, wenn ich viel arbeite.

Und penibel und pingelig, wenn ich Zeit habe.

Unordentlich means untidy and schlampig does as well. But schlampig also means sloppy, which is probably the most fitting translation for the sentence above.

Penibel means precise and painful but also finicky, just like pingelig.

I would like to know, how would you translate these words in the sentences above and how differentiate between them.

Edited: Both Unordentlich and schlampig can be translated as untidy but only schlampig can also mean sloppy. That's what I was thinking and tried to verify. The same with penibel and pingelig. They both mean finicky but only penibel also means precise.

It is what I was lead to believe after consulting dictionaries, so I asked the question to verify, if I grasped the meaning of the sentences above correctly.

I don't want to divide the question because:

1 Someone has already answered it in its original form so correcting it now would cause confusion.

2 My question was originally about the sentences above. Yes they consist of words I'm unfamiliar with and I asked about them as well but I was only interested in knowing whether I figured the sentences' meaning out.

3 Changing the title of the question won't be of much help because it will then seize to address the problem that others might have as well.

Yes, you can contradict me. I asked how to differentiate between 2 pairs of words, which is like two different questions. It was wrong of me to ask, I'm sorry.

  • 1
    Both your second examples are actually two steps down on the poshness scale (i.e. they are more colloquial) from the others.
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 13:14
  • Suchst Du englische Übersetzungen? Das ist aber doch mehr was über die Englische Sprache. Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 15:15
  • These are two different questions. Please split them into separate questions and, more importantly, elaborate a bit more on what's unclear.
    – Em1
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


You already gave the correct translations, but I try to summarize it in one sentence:

I can be untidy and almost sloppy when working a lot, but having time I can be precise and nitpicking.

I don't know, if that is what you had in mind.

I would differentiate the words in english like that:

unordentlich: untidy by the means of unsorted, not systematic, unorganized.

schlampig: sloppy by either careless, facile or slutty (negative connotation)

penibel: precise, correct, pedantic

pingelig: painstaking, nitpicking

  • 2
    Thank you for clearing this one out for me. German dictionaries developed a paranoia in me that makes me believe that German consist exclusively from synonyms sightly deviating from each other and only natives know how.
    – Gofun Dake
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 13:26
  • 1
    You can easily get the same impression going in the other direction. The problem is that very few words translate 1:1 between langauges and even if the main meaning is a 1:1 match, you can have different connotation. So one German word might be translatable to three different english words, none of which capture the exact essence of the German word, and the choice between those three can only be made using information not transported in the German word. The problem with dictionnaries is that thei format is 1:1 mapping between word in different languages, which actually rarely exists.
    – adhominem
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 14:03

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