What is the origin of the word Gebühr (fee)? I'm having trouble remembering it and am looking for help to break it down into its parts. Does the ge- prefix usually indicate something in particular? Are there other related words with -bühr in them?

  • A highwayman tells you: Give me your watch! Geb Uhr! Sep 11, 2016 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Gebühr is the noun for the verb gebühren. This is defined by dwds.de as follows (excerpt):

gebühren Vb. "(nach Recht oder Verdienst) zustehen", (refl. und unpersönlich) "sich gehören, sich schicken", ahd. giburien, giburren "erheben, geschehen, hinzukommen, zuteil werden, zufallen" (um 800), mhd. gebürn

gebühren is still in use today in proverbs such as Ehre, wem Ehre gebührt. Also the adjective is used, for example in das wurde gebührend gefeiert (something was celebrated appropriately - in most cases this means excessively ;-)) or seine Verdienste werden nicht gebührend gewürdigt.

So by that definition, Gebühr is something that somebody deserves or that is righteously his. This can be used in the sense of a fee, but there's also the expression über Gebühr [strapazieren/ausnutzen/etc], which means that something is done excessively, unduly. For example:

Ich will Ihre Zeit nicht über Gebühr in Anspruch nehmen.
I don't want to encroach on your time.

The ge- in this case is not a prefix, so there's also no root -bühren.


Duden says the origin of Gebühr is:

mittelhochdeutsch gebür(e), althochdeutsch giburi, eigentlich = was einem zukommt, zufällt, zu gebühren

Translated to English:

Middle High German: gebür(e), Old High German: giburi (actual meaning = what accords someone, devolve, appertains to someone

Thus, the "Ge-" in Gebühr is no prefix, but part of the root word.


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