A friend of mine who’s learning German asked me this and I couldn’t explain it to her. Is it just an example of how a word changes over time?

Perhaps it used to me “hear me tell you to stop”, “hör auf [my command]”?

  • Hi and welcome to German Language Stack Exchange. What a nice first question! Feel free to take a tour of the site, and visit the help center to learn more about how it works.
    – Jan
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 22:01
  • "auf" is not uncommon as a prefix that describes something stops: aufgeben, auflassen, auffliegen, aufgehen, ...
    – tofro
    Commented Oct 30, 2016 at 23:10
  • This is common in some languages. In English, it's sometimes impossible to tell the meaning of a phrasal verb. E.g. "to look forward to" has nothing to do with "looking".
    – Em1
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 10:08

1 Answer 1


Duden says mittelhochdeutsch ūfhœren, eigentlich wohl = aufhorchend von etwas ablassen

to stop (making noise) and prick (up) one's ears

but that etymology has no safe origin. So, we don't know.

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