I was trying to understand the difference between Tafel and Whiteboard, do they have a different meaning?

Having some examples:

Konrad, schreib deine Ergebnisse an die Tafel.

Konrad, write your results on the board.


Fragen Sie den potenziellen Kunden, ob Sie das Whiteboard statt einer PowerPoint-Präsentation verwenden können.

Ask the prospect if you can use the whiteboard instead of a PowerPoint presentation.

3 Answers 3


I grew up in a time when no whiteboards existed. Therefore, for me a Tafel was always a blackboard, since otherwise you wouldn't be able to see the white chalk on it.

Now that I'm adult and whiteboards are common in business use, the word Tafel still means a blackboard (irrelevant in my daily life, only used in schools and universities), and Whiteboard means a whiteboard (used regularly).

Sure, I could try out what happens if I call the whiteboard Tafel from now on, but I think my colleages would be confused, just because we agreed to have different words for them.

  • I saw it in some memory cards, and apparently they look similar, just in my childhood I saw what's a "Tafel" because now is more common to see whiteboards in any classroom, office and so on, thanks for the explanation and the example, very useful. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 12:20
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    If a colleague would start using Tafel instead of whiteboard, I'd be very confused, because I'd think he'd be talking about a grand table, as in a table laid for ten people. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:09

A Tafel is really any kind of panel or tablet. Usually it's something you write on (Schreibtafel), but not necessarily: eine Tafel Schokolade means "a bar of chocolate".

There are many kinds of Schreibtafel: Kreidetafel, Steintafel, Tontafel, etc. In the context of school, Tafel alone usually means blackboard, although it is a superset of all kinds of Tafel so it can refer to any board that you write on.

Das Whiteboard actually has a non-imported equivalent: die Weißwandtafel. This, as you can see, is also a specific kind of Tafel. So, to answer the question, I think it is accurate to say that die Tafel is a much broader word (again, it will point to a Kreidetafel in many contexts), while das Whiteboard, following its English meaning, is specifically a white Tafel used with colored markers.

  • I really like this one (+1). There is just a missing h in (Schreibtafel) in the first paragraph.
    – Arsak
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 6:40
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    I welcome all attempts to introduce a German word for Whiteboard. But "Weißwandtafel" is unnecessarily repetitive with "Wand" and "Tafel" in one word. - For practical use, in our organisation, we just call this thing a "Tafel" as in "Schreib das mal an die Tafel" without specificially mentioning its colour. Why should we? Everybody sees that it is white. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 9:40
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    Interesting (?) addition: in a very specific context, "Tafel" also means "Table". The context is that if the table is set, and the occasion is formal or exceptional, then you can refer to the table as "Tafel". See also: "Knights of the round table", translation: "Ritter der Tafelrunde", and "tafeln", a verb which basically means "to dine" or "to feast".
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 9:40
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    @ChristianGeiselmann Weißwandtafel is not a word I made up.
    – Blavius
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 21:24

Whiteboards have a different technical background. They often include some kind of camera and tracking system.

A Tafel in a traditional sense is a board which you wrote on with chalk.

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    You mean an interactive Whiteboaard, right? A classic Whiteboard is just a white, magnetic board writable with certain pens.
    – Arsak
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 11:33
  • @Marzipanherz From the example sentences in the question it was pretty clear to me that the question was about interactive Whiteboards, as not classic Whiteboard would ever replace a PowerPoint presentation. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 11:55
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    I see. I had the focus rather on the question title. It might be helpful for the OP or future readers to know that both (classical and interactive) exist.
    – Arsak
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 12:20
  • Except for those Power Point presentations which should not have been in the first place, because a board, whatever its colour would have been the better medium.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 12:49
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    @ThorstenDittmar: "as not classic Whiteboard would ever replace a PowerPoint presentation" - I disagree. For instance, in university settings, different lecturers prefer different media; some prefer PowerPoint (or similar) presentations, while some prefer blackboards (and whiteboads do not work that differently). Thus, obviously, a "high-tech" digital presentation and a "low-tech" vertical board for physical writing can indeed replace one another. What is more, if it is an interactive whiteboard, the PowerPoint presentation and the whiteboard are not mutually exclusive, so the example ... Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 19:54

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