Dictionaries show both as "dry, arid" etc., wiktionary shows them as synonyms. I asked in a chat, and got replies about liquids on the outside or inside, which confused me even further.

What's the difference between the two, if any? Are they interchangeable?

2 Answers 2


trocken: dry or arid, used for objects, weather and land.
also: metaphorical dry as in dry wit or dry wine
noun: Trockenheit - dryness
comparative always means drier

dürr: dry or arid, used for land and soil, usually not single objects
also: very thin (plants or also persons), dried out (verdorrt)
noun: Dürre - drought
comparative means thinner

  • 2
    For the meaning of ‘thin’ for dürr also see my answer to another question
    – Crissov
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 12:20
  • 1
    @Crissov thanks for the addendum. I won't expand on that here, because this question focused more on the dry-aspect.
    – Chieron
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 12:26

"Dürr" is used more regarding vegetation and agriculture. I would say ...

"Eine große Dürre kam über das Land." "A great drought came upon the land."

Means: There was no rain and so they had problems to grow food.

If you're not sure then use rather "trocken". Makes more sense in most cases and is more general.

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