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I have translated wall into German. There are two translations:

  • Wand
  • Mauer

My hypothesis: Mauer is a physical structure having two sides - Wand, wheras a Mauer refers to a wall outside (Berliner Mauer).

Am I right?

If you put on poster on a wall, you put it on Wand or also can I use Mauer?

What is the difference?

  • I never noticed that Wand and Mauer both translate as wall. Interesting! – Iris Nov 16 '16 at 10:54
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    Ich denke die Bilder helfen niemandem weiter. Jeder weiß, was eine Wand und eine Mauer sind. – user unknown Nov 16 '16 at 17:31
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die Mauer

A »Mauer« ...

  • is a three-dimensional man-made building or a part of a man-made building
  • is made from a hard and durable material like concrete, stone or bricks
  • has no (small) holes. (Big holes are for doors and windows.)
  • has always the purpose to separate areas from each other
  • has sometimes the purpose to carry those parts of a building, that are located above the Mauer
  • has two big sides which are called »Wände« (plural of »Wand«) (only the two big surfaces are called »Wände«. The surfaces on the both ends, as well as the surface on top or at the bottom are not called »Wände«)

die Wand

A »Wand« ...

  • is a two-dimensional surface (There are exceptions, see »Spanische Wand« below)
  • has an upright orientation, i.e. it is not parallel to the floor; It stands orthogonal to the floor. (Also for this exist exceptions, see »Darmwand« below)
  • can be the inner or outer surface of a »Mauer« (Innenwand und Außenwand einer Mauer, inside wall and outside wall of a wall)
  • can be the steep and almost vertical surface of a mountain (Eiger-Nordwand; Eiger North Face)
  • can be the surface on which you project pictures or movies (Bildwand, Leinwand; projection screen)
  • can be the front of an upcoming storm (Gewitterwand, Thunderstorm wall)
  • can also be a furniture that is made to hide behind while chancing clothes (Spanische Wand; Folding screen) (in this case the »Wand« is a three-dimensional, but flat, object)
  • can be the surface that bounds a hollow area (Darmwand; intestinal wall; this is an example where a Wand don't need to be upright)

der Wall

(False-Friend-Alarm! In english this is not "wall". It is: rampart, bank or ridge)

A »Wall« ...

  • is very similar to a Mauer, so most properties of »Mauer« listet above match here too.
  • is very often made of compressed earth
  • is often thicker that a Mauer
  • is not part of a building (a »Wall« is always a building for itself)
  • never has holes (a »Wall« has no doors and no windows)

der Zaun

(english: fence)

A »Zaun« ...

  • is like a thin and less stable »Mauer«.
  • has lots of little holes where you can see through.
  • is made of wooden slats, netting wire or sometimes of living plants (like Thuja).

exception Wand <-> Mauer

There is a special case when can you use »Wand« instead of »Mauer«: Often you have the inner walls of a building not built from concrete or stone, but gypsum boards ("drywall"). Such inner walls in buildings are often not called »Mauer« but »Wand«:

Die Wände im Hotel waren sehr dünn, man konnte alle Geräusche aus dem Nebenzimmer hören.

This also is transferred to the outer walls of a building when you tall about their thickness. You use the word »Wandstärke« to talk about the thickness of a wall, even if it is built from concrete, bricks or stone:

Das Mauerwerk alter Kirchen kann im Fundament Wandstärken von mehren Metern haben.


picture on the wall

You can hang a picture on a »Wand«. You also can hang it on a »Mauer«, but in this case you in fact will hang it on one of it's »Wände«. So you better use »Wand« in this case.

But you can also paint pictures directly on a Wand/Mauer. The »Berliner Mauer« (Berlin Wall) was covered all over with graffiti, which are pictures painted (or more often sprayed) on walls. You can have graffiti on a »Wand«, but more often you say it's on a »Mauer«.

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A Wand can be made from wood, a Mauer will always be stone/brick/concrete or be a fortification.

  • Wand refers more to the boundaries of a room or the walls or a building. Also, parts of a casing (e.g. computer) can be a Wand, but never a Mauer (the brick-laying aspect and expectation is too dominant).
  • Mauer tends to be used for unfinished (still being erected or visible brickwork) walls and "stone fences". But also general fortifications as in Stadtmauern = city walls. All Mauern could be considered Wände, but mostly, if there is a roof above them.
  • English firewalls (the non-digital kind) are Brandmauern in German, however. (example for fortifications being Mauern)
  • Finally, there is also Wall, which refers to city defenses - but not the wall itself, more the bastions.

So, if you hang a poster on a Mauer, it better be rainproof.

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Some distinctions:

  • A "Mauer" is usually something man-made, a "Wand" can be artifical or natural (e.g. Felswand).

  • A "Mauer" seperates two things (like a fence), a "Wand" is the seperates a hollow space (e.g. in a room or a cave)

  • The material of a "Mauer" is stone/brick/cement and "Mauer" often have a distinct structure though the use of bricks. The material of a wand is variable (stone, wood, Shoji-paper, or even gingerbread in a gingerbread house)


So in a house, I would usually use "Wand", e.g. :

Ich hänge das Bild an die Wand. Ich tapeziere die Wand.

However, if the house is still in construction, the material is stone and the room is not yet finished (there is no roof for example), you can call it "Wand" or "Mauer".

Diese Mauer/ Wand muss noch verputzt werden.

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The word "Mauer" refers to "masonry." As a "wall," it is made of stone, brick, or similar material that is suitable for marking the interior versus the exterior of a building.

A "Wand" is a wall that is merely "upright," that acts as a "divider" within a building. It is usually made of wood, but could be glass or plastic (in offices) or even something as flimsy as paper or cloth. It is used to mark off "rooms," (Zimmer), not a whole building.

You can put up a poster against either a Mauer or a Wand. If you put up a poster on the inside of the stone external structure, the latter is a Mauer. If against a wooden, interior structure, a Wand.

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