I have translated customer into German. I have five translations: "Kunde m, Klient m, Auftraggeber m, Abnehmer m, Käufer m"

I am studying the difference between them.

Kunde = "jmd., der in einem Geschäft (häufig oder regelmäßig) etw. kauft oder eine Dienstleistung in Anspruch nimmt" - DWDS

Klient = "der von einem Rechtsanwalt Beratene oder Vertretene, Mandant" - DWDS

Auftraggeber = (no entry) - DWDS

Abnehmer = "Person, die (als Zwischenhändler) eine Ware kauft" or "jmd., der etw. von einem anderen annimmt" - DWDS

Käufer = "jmd., der etw. kauft, gekauft hat" - DWDS

What is the difference?

Which one is more formal? Which one refers to one person as a customer and which one can also refer to a company?

hypothesis: Käufer is only someone who has already bought something. I think that Klient can also mean a customer (it is a loan word from English client)

Thank you.

closed as unclear what you're asking by user unknown, Jan, Hubert Schölnast, Em1, tofro Oct 31 '16 at 9:56

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I think Kunde can be used for both. My company works with other companies and when they refer to other companies as a customer, everybody says : Unser Kunde, which is another company. – Ad Infinitum Oct 28 '16 at 18:12
  • Both German Klient and English client are rooted in Latin cliens. – Janka Oct 28 '16 at 20:10
  • 1
    Du hast die Unterschiede doch gefunden. Welche Frage ist denn noch offen? – user unknown Oct 30 '16 at 2:07

Kunde is a general term for people who may want to buy something. They are Kunden even when they leave the place without buying.

Wir müssen mehr Kunden gewinnen.

We have to acquire more customers.

Es kamen zwar Kunden in den Laden, aber niemand kaufte etwas.

Customers came into the store but no one bought anything.

Käufer in contrary are people who have actually bought something.

Als Käufer sollte man seine Rückgaberechte kennen.

As a customer you should know your rights to return the item.

Auftraggeber is someone who signed a contract to have someone else work on something.

Dieser Auftraggeber ist besonders pingelig, also arbeite genau.

That customer is especially nitpicking, so work precisely.

Abnehmer is someone who takes a burden from someone else. When talking about customers, it is usually meaning the salesperson is happy to have this item out of the store.

Für diesen Müll finden wir niemals einen Abnehmer.

For that rubbish we will never find a customer.

Er hatte schon einen Abnehmer für die gestohlenen Autos.

He already had a customer for the stolen cars.

Klient or Mandant finally is someone who receives counseling, usually legal or tax counseling. Also used for customer relations between companies.

Er konnte einen Freispruch seines Mandanten erreichen.

He managed to get his client a verdict of not guilty.

Unsere Firma hat VW, Bosch und Siemens als Klienten.

Our company has VW, Bosch and Siemens as customers.

  • can a Käufer be a company or only a person? – cornejo Oct 28 '16 at 20:37
  • Both. None of those aren't limited to persons but it's hard to find a sentence where you have a company and it's important to focus on they have actually bought something. Maybe this one: Für die Tengelmann-Gruppe fand sich nun doch kein Käufer mehr. For acquiring the Tengelmann group there finally was no buyer left. – Janka Oct 28 '16 at 20:57
  • "Einkäufer" is the person in a company whose job it is to buy things that the company needs, or in the case of a store, the person whose job it is to purchase goods from manufacturers that will be sold in the store. – gnasher729 Oct 30 '16 at 21:40


... is typically a person who is (at least potentially) paying for something. This may be a person who buys something or a person who pays for work that is done.

A company paying another company for something is also called Kunde.

The employer of a person is (normally) not called Kunde of the employee although he pays for work!

If someone must pay another one for some reasons you don't use this word either.

You also typically don't use this word if a private person is selling something.


... is another word for Kunde which is only used in certain bussinesses (for example lawyers).

In these bussinesses you typically don't use the word Kunde.


An Auftrag is an order. Therefore Auftraggeber is someone who orders something or gives orders to other persons.

In some (rare) contexts you use the word for people giving orders to other persons not paying for that.

But normally you use this word when a company oders some goods or work from another company and a (typically written) order (Auftrag) exists.

The other side is then called Auftragnehmer.

Note that the Auftraggeber is also a Kunde in this case.


Abnehmen means: To take something so Abnehmer is a person (or of course company) who is taking something.

Typically this is a customer who is paying for what he is taking. However there are exceptions: A company disposing waste is the Abnehmer of the waste (= it is taking the waste) but it is payed for that.

Sometimes the word is used for a customer that pays for work but this ist not done often.


Kaufen is "to buy" so a Käufer is a person that buys something.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.