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I have translated mist into German. There are two translations there: "Dunst m, Nebel m".

I am studying the differences between them.

  • Dunst = "durch Wasserdampf oder Verunreinigungen getrübte Atmosphäre" or "stark riechende, warme Luft, die oft als lästig und erstickend empfunden wird" - DWDS
  • Nebel = "dichter, trüber Dunst, der durch Ausscheidung sehr kleiner Wassertröpfchen infolge von Abkühlung der Luft hervorgerufen wird" or "dunstiger Schleier" or "Nebelfleck" - DWDS

Hypothesis: Dunst can be in kitchen above the stofe, when driving in bad weather I should use Nebel.

What is the difference?

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The kitchen mist can only be translated with Dunst. Sometimes Dunst is used as a poetical alternative to the common Nebel.

Die Sonne schien fahl durch den Morgendunst über den Weiden.

Sun shone sallow through the morning mist at the meadows.

But in general, Dunst has a negative connotation.

Die Sonne durchdrang kaum den Morgendunst der Stadt.

Sun hardly pierced the morning haze of the city.

It can also be used for smoke and bad smell.

Lass mal den Dunst aus dem Zimmer!

Let the haze out of the room!

So ein Dunstschuppen.

What a hazy bar.

Am blauen Dunst sterben jährlich 100.000 Menschen, allein in Deutschland.

There are 100,000 people dying from smoking each year, in Germany alone.


Nebel is (depite Bühnennebel from a Nebelmaschine) a purely outdoors thing. It can be used for mist and for fog as well.

Der Morgennebel lichtete sich.

The morning mist thinned out.

Viele Autofahrer fuhren trotz der Nebelbänke viel zu schnell.

Many car drivers went too fast despite of the fog banks.

Another word you might hear is Suppe (lit. soup), which is colloquial for Nebel. Because you don't have soup outdoors.

Was für eine Suppe!

What a dense fog!

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Dunst is the turbidity in the air caused by evaporating water

Nebel is caused by condensing water

easy as that

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Reading the other answers I see that the word is obviously used in different ways in differents parts of Germany.

Where I come from the word "Nebel" is used if the rage of vision is affected. For example if you can only see 200 meters.

The word "Dunst" is typically used if the mist is man-made (for example when cooking).

The word "Dunst" is sometimes also used for natural mist if there is only few mist so you can only see the mist when looking to the horizon but you cannot see the mist in near distances. However most people use the word "Nebel" when you can see the mist within a range of a few kilometers.

Examples (that apply to entire Germany)

  1. The fan mounted over the stove in the kitchen is called "Dunstabzugshaube" because it is there to remove the "Dunst" from the kitchen.

  2. If someone in the city I come from says:

Nach dem Kochen war ein richtiger Nebel in der Küche.

... this means that after cooking there was very, very much mist in the kitchen (so much that the vision was affected).

  1. If car drivers are warned to drive slowly because the vision may be affected due to the mist the word "Nebel" is used.
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  • Notice that most people don´t speak their own language correctly. But, in germany, if too many people do it wrong, it becomes right, thanks to the Duden. "Nebel" in the kitchen is incorrect - yet. – Titus Nov 1 '16 at 11:20
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    @Titus Especially in Germany (with the lots of dialects) I would not say that people speak their language incorrectly if something is "traditionally" correct according to their dialect. Something most people don't know is that the "Duden" is only a book sold by a private company which is NOT defining which is correct or incorrect. According to the verdict of the BVerfG of 1998 only the Bundesländer are allowed to define which is correct German language in schools and adminstration. In private life there is NOONE who is allowed to do this. – Martin Rosenau Nov 1 '16 at 12:56

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