Unterricht means Class.

But for me, it is hard to link the German Unter-richt with the English Class.

Can anyone give an account?

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    German »Unterricht« = English »(the act of) teaching«. English »Class« = German »Klasse« (Group of people as well as a room.) Apr 2, 2017 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


No it doesn't.

Etymologically, Unterricht is the noun corresponding to the verb unterrichten: to inform s.o., to impart information. It means "to inform" and only by extension also "to teach". The noun has come to mean the act of teaching, and by further extension also the formalized setting where teachers stand in front of an assembly of minors to teach them things in school.

The English term comes to the same meaning via a completely different route: it uses the location or the situation as a proxy to mean the activity.

(German has a similar construction, but we name the entire institution rather than the room: "etw. in der Schule lernen" rather than *"etw. in der Klasse lernen".)

And why is this? Historical accident. (By which I mean that you can look up the details of the development in etymological dictionaries, but they tell you something only about these particular terms, nothing useful about the languages in general.)


"Unterricht" means "instruction." A "class" (or group of people) is where the "unterricht" or instruction takes place. The first is the action, the second is the location.

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