I have translated disease into German. There are three translations for that.

I am studying the difference between them:

Krankheit = "zeitweilige Störung der normalen Funktion eines Organismus, eines Organs, das Kranksein" ~ DWDS

Erkrankung = "das Erkranken, die Krankheit" ~ DWDS

Erkranken = {no entry}

My hypothesis: Krankheit is the general term, Erkrankung is chronic.

Am I right? What's the difference between them?

  • 1
    "Krankheit is the general term, Erkrankung is chronic" - No, not in general. Both can be an expression for a chronic illness, but both can be a non chronic illness too.
    – anion
    Oct 26, 2016 at 11:32
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    "Krankheit" and "Erkrankung" mean the same. "Krankheit" is the commonly used term, "Erkrankung" sounds more formal, it's rarely used in everyday speech. "Erkranken" is the process of getting ill, the nominal form of the verb "erkranken".
    – Khris
    Oct 26, 2016 at 11:39

1 Answer 1


First of all: Erkranken is the process of getting ill, not the status itself.

The other two have one common meaning where they are completely interchangeable.

This common meaning is a persons status of just being ill.

In case of Erkrankung in a little more specific meaning this can brake down to parts of the body being ill as in the example

Erkrankung der Lunge

Here Krankheit can not be used.

The second meaning of Krankheit is the disease itself.

A flu will always be a Krankheit and never a Erkrankung.

With Erkrankung you usually describe a process / period.

Here is an example text that tries to make the difference clear:

Joe erkrankte an der Grippe.
Die Krankheit schwächte seinen Körper und griff die Lunge an.
Die Erkrankung der Lunge schwächte ihn noch weiter.
Während der gesamten Dauer der Erkrankung konnte er kaum aufstehen.

Only the last Erkrankung could be replaced by Krankheit all other sentences would sound weird if you changed Krankheit and Erkrankung (though I have to admit, that in the second sentence you could use Erkrankung, but then again it would refer to his status instead of Grippe, so the meaning would change slightly).

  • 1
    Nice explanation. Reading so much about Erkrankung I'd rather think about "Genesung", "Genesen" and "Gesundheit" (the counterparts). :) Oct 26, 2016 at 13:10

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