1. Auf der dritten Etage
  2. Auf dem dritten Geschoss
  3. Auf dem dritten Stock

All the above three phrases mean "on the third floor/storey" since Etage, Geschoss and Stock all mean "floor/storey" according to the dictionary. My question is how one determines that which particular german word should be used to refer to "floor/storey" (of a building, e.g.). Is there a regional preference to use one over the other.

  • 8
    Note that Germans also have storey 0: Erdgeschoss. Unlike in the US, 1st floor is one above Erdgeschoss.
    – Robert
    Aug 18, 2016 at 16:13
  • 3
    Hier in Wien: im dritten Stock = auf der vierten Etage, wenn man das Mezzanin nicht mitzählt ­čśä
    – user19546
    Aug 18, 2016 at 19:40
  • 7
    Imho, the preposition "auf" only works with "Etage". Thus, example two and three are grammatically wrong to my mind.
    – Em1
    Aug 19, 2016 at 8:08

5 Answers 5


Those words are synonyms. They all mean the same, so you can use whichever you like better.

But your prepositions are wrong, and you forgot two synonyms:

  • Auf der dritten Etage
  • Im dritten Geschoss/Gescho├č*
  • Im dritten Stock
  • Im dritten Stockwerk
  • Im dritten Obergeschoss/Obergescho├č*

(*) The word Geschoss/Gescho├č is one of the very rare examples, where the orthography of German German and Austrian German are different. The reason for this is the different pronunciation. The o in this word is short in German German, but long in Austrian German. And there is a rule that says: "After short vowels use ss, after long vowels use ├č". And that's why the official standard-writing of this word is different in Germany and Austria. (I am from Austria, so I will write ┬╗Gescho├č┬ź here in this article.)
(Also note that in Swiss German, there is no ├č. In Switzerland, every ├č has to be replaced by ss.)

Etage is a little bit exalted.

The word Stock can also mean "stick" (like walking stick or drum stick), so if you want to be very clear, it is to better use Stockwerk instead of Stock.

Gescho├č (and Obergescho├č) has, IMHO, a more technical connotation than the other words.

This Ngram shows you how frequently these synonyms are used:

enter image description here (source)

Names of floors/storeys in German language

The level of the pavement is called Erdgescho├č. In elevators you will see either the letter ┬╗E┬ź or the number ┬╗0┬ź.

The next higher level is erster Stock or erste Etage. In elevators the number ┬╗1┬ź. (Higher levels are zweiter Stock, dritter Stock etc.)

The first level below Erdgescho├č is called erstes Untergescho├č. In elevators the letter ┬╗U┬ź or the number ┬╗-1┬ź. If there are more levels below ground level, you will see ┬╗U1┬ź, ┬╗U2┬ź etc. or ┬╗-1┬ź, ┬╗-2┬ź etc.

But there are also some special names:


In buildings with only one level below street level, Keller is this lowest floor. But the word Keller is more bound to its usage than to its place in the building. A Keller is an area, where you can store goods. This means: A Keller exists only in buildings, where you have the need to store things for a longer period of time. You find a Keller in residential buildings, but it is very rare to have a Keller in office buildings.

I lived for many years in a multi-functional-building. There was (from bottom to top) an underground car park, a shopping mall, offices and apartments in this building. It had 4 levels below ground and 13 levels above ground. Residents needed storage space, so this building had to have a Keller, but in the lower 4 levels there was no space for it because of the underground car park. We had our Keller between the highest office level and the lowest residential level, on the 5th floor. This is very rare, but it shows that the meaning of the word Keller is more relevant to its purpose than to its position in a building.

In elevators, sometimes K for Keller is used, but this is rare. More often you just see U or -1 (if Keller = erstes Untergescho├č).


Just a synonym for Erdgescho├č. So in some houses you find a ┬╗P┬ź-Button in the elevator, where you would expect ┬╗E┬ź or ┬╗0┬ź.


More and more people are moving into big cities, and most of them want to live near the center, but you can't build new buildings there because they've already been built. You can't make those buildings higher because laws often limit the height of buildings. In addition to that, many buildings are under monument protection, so you can't change their appearance. But you can convert attics into new apartments or lofts. This is called ┬╗Dachgescho├čausbau┬ź (loft extension).

Those added levels may be called, for example, f├╝nfter Stock (if the former last level was vierter Stock), but they very often are called ┬╗Dachgescho├č┬ź. If there is only one Dachgescho├č in the building, then it is simply called ┬╗Dachgescho├č┬ź (┬╗D┬ź in the elevator). If there is more than one, then you have ┬╗erstes Dachgescho├č┬ź, ┬╗zweites Dachgescho├č┬ź and so on (┬╗D1┬ź, ┬╗D2┬ź etc.)

Special floor names in Vienna

The names of floors in Vienna are unique because during the time of the monarchy, a law prohibited building floors above the fourth floor. A fifth floor would be illegal.

But in 1910 Vienna was the 4th biggest Megacity in the world (only New York, London and Paris were bigger). About 2.1 million people lived there, and the city needed room for their residents. So, people built buildings with many more levels then just four. But to have the highest level be named ┬╗vierter Stock┬ź, they needed to invent new names for the lower levels. So, in some old buildings in Vienna, you still find names for a building's levels (from bottom to top):

  • Tiefparterre
    Typically the floor in Tiefparterre is one or two meters below street level, so you still can have windows at street level to let light and fresh air into the apartment.
    Button in the Elevator: ┬╗T┬ź
  • Parterre
    This is the level you would call Erdgescho├č or in English ground floor, although you have to step a few steps up to reach it.
    Button in the Elevator: ┬╗P┬ź
  • Hochparterre
    In "normal" counting this would be erster Stock, but not in old houses in Vienna.
    Button in the Elevator: ┬╗H┬ź
  • Mezzanin (from Italian mezzo = half)
    Literally this a half-level between two other levels, but in praxis it is just another level.
    Button in the Elevator: ┬╗M┬ź
  • erster Stock
    Did you count? We are already three floors above street level, and four levels above the lowest level for apartments, but still call it the first floor.
    Button in the Elevator: ┬╗1┬ź
  • 3
    The "special floor names in Vienna" are not really isolated to Vienna. Especially "Hochparterre" can be commonly found e.g. in apartment offers to indicate you still have to climb a few stairs even though the apartment is more or less on what would be the ground level of the building. Sep 30, 2018 at 6:02
  • In the elevator, the underground floors can also be called U1, U2, etc. Sep 30, 2018 at 6:12
  • So, based on the prepositions one can say that Etage is a 2D surface while Geschoss and Stockwerk are 3D objects although I'm not so sure about them because ppl often say in der 3. Etage. I wish I could undo my vote.
    – hash-tag
    Mar 25, 2021 at 20:42

I don't remember to have heard Gescho├č or Geschoss (both spellings are valid) with an ordinal number, there are only compounds like:

  • Erdgescho├č
  • Untergescho├č and
  • Obergescho├č (which is also exchangeable with Etage and Stock, but even longer)

or the meaning auf dem selben Gescho├č (on the same floor).

The other ones are quite exchangeable, Etage being slightly more high-brow, but no so much, not to read it in classified ads. I would assume that Stock gets a higher share in the Southern parts of Germany.

  • 3
    Above the Erdgeschoss follows the 1. Obergeschoss, 2. Obergeschoss etc., the third floor being the 2. Obergeschoss.
    – oW_
    Aug 18, 2016 at 16:21
  • 8
    I doubt that "Geschoss" is a projectile while "Geschoß" is a floor. According to Duden both can mean both but "Geschoß" is more frequent in southern Germany. However, it is not unheard of that people write (and as well talk of the) "OG" for "Obergeschoss". -- "Wo ist Herrn Mayers Büro? -- "2. OG rechts." (3rd floor, on the right).
    – PerlDuck
    Aug 18, 2016 at 18:23
  • 5
    The stretch of the "o" actually varies across the German-speaking areas: The more south you get, the longer it is stretched, so actually both versions are correct, even if the Rechtschreibrat says Geschoß is typically Austrian. And no, there is no projectile vs. floor orthography difference. I would actually consider Geschoß aging, at least in Germany.
    – tofro
    Aug 18, 2016 at 18:56

There are no differences - these 3 words are synonyms.

  • 1
    Es gibt ein Obergeschoss, aber keine Oberetage. Daher sind die Wörter nicht vollständig austauschbar. Sep 30, 2018 at 6:02

This isn't as simple as many responders would have you believe. Like in so many things, we Germans insist on doing this our own way. Yes, logic would dictate that the 'first floor/story/stock/etage/etc.' would be the ground floor. In German we have OG... Obergeschoss... meaning 'over-floor'. So, we have the ground floor (actually the 1st floor/story of the building), 1st over-floor (2nd floor/story), 2nd over-floor (3rd floor/story, etc. Yes, you'd think a five-story building would have floors 1 through 5... but not here! We have floors Erdgeschoss through 4. Obergeschoss :) Some buildings used to name floors '2. OG/3. Etage' in an attempt to make sense of this oddity of the German mind... but stubborn as always, we've managed to coopt the word 'Etage' to mean the same as Geschoss... defeating the entire purpose of trying to make sense of ze Germans. Today, most Germans would assume 2. Etage means 2. OG... meaning the third floor of the building.

  • 1
    I don't understand the core statement of this answer and where it exceeds the existing answers despite the first sentence claiming so.
    – guidot
    Mar 1, 2022 at 10:28
  • As one of ze Germans, I beg you, to exclude me from your claim, I would insist on doing so many things in a specific German way. Mar 3, 2022 at 12:01
  • @guidot Apologies. Maybe I was unclear. The 'core statement' was a caveat that the entire issue is confusing as Geschoss and Etage are considered interchangeable, but shouldn't be. In North America, for example, the first floor is exactly that. In Germany the first Obergeschoss is actually the second floor. The attempt to clarify this by describing floors with both (i.e. 2. O.G./3 Etage) has failed... but you'll still find it in some buildings. Again, my apologies. I actually find the entire issue amusing, and answered in that spirit. I'll try to be more anal retentive next time. Mar 3, 2022 at 12:33

Die Etage is generally used for residential apartment complexes. Der Stock is used office buildings. This is what I have learnt. When is Das Geschoss used

  • 4
    Your last sentence seems to be incomplete.
    – IQV
    May 5, 2017 at 5:41

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