In the phrase "All sein Hab und Gut", what exactly is "Hab" and what is "Gut"?

I realise that both refer to private property of some kind, but are the two distinct concepts? Is "Gut" real property (like land) or titles (like something owed to the person) and "Hab" personal property (like clothes)?

  • There is an exactly equivalent phrase in english "realty and personalty" but it is only used in law these days. – user1329 Feb 13 '12 at 16:32
  • The difference in meaning is probably gone by now, leaving a fixed expression like "bits and pieces". – Raphael Jul 2 '14 at 17:02

"Landgut" is an old noun describing "real estate" and "haben" comes for grapping/holding (with the hand).

So I assume that "Gut" stands for immovable objects (like land, buildings) and "Hab" for movable objects (even if they are too big to carry in your hand and you need a carriage). That corresponds with your assumption.

But the meaning changed like you can see with the word "Habe". It's derived from "haben" like "Hab", but the distinction between "fahrende Habe" (movable objects) and "liegender Habe" (immovable objects) existed and were judiciary terms.

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    Hab is a short form of Habe where the final letter is omitted. It means material things (stuff you can touch or see). Gut refers more to things that can be used for production and includes immaterial belongings. Nowadays Habe is hardly used and replaced by either Gut, Vermögen (thing you own) or Besitz (things you control). Note that there is no clear distinction of those words in everyday use. – Augustus Kling Jan 27 '12 at 19:02
  • @AugustusKling: I'm not referring how it is used, I referring how it (maybe) was used. That there is no distinction today does not mean there wasn't one when the term was coined. – John Smithers Jan 27 '12 at 21:19
  • @JohnSmithers That's what I thought. If I'm not the only one who reads the term that way, I assume it is correct. – Andrew J. Brehm Jan 27 '12 at 23:54

Nowadays there is no difference between “Hab” and “Gut”. Note that “Hab” is a short version of “Habe”. Nowadays “Habe” is hardly used and replaced by either “Gut” (material for production or selling), “Vermögen” (thing you own) or “Besitz” (things you control).

As John Smithers pointed out earlier in former times there have actually been different meanings for the two words.

Old encyclopedia Oeconomische Encyclopädie (1780) explains

Im Hochdeutschen wird es außer der dichterischen Schreibart wenig mehr gebraucht. Nur im g. L. sagt man noch Hab und Gut, jemandes sämmtliches Vermögen auszudrücken, wo Habe in engerer Bedeutung das bewegliche, Gut aber das unbewegliche Vermögen bezeichnet.

My transcription replaces the old glyphs with nowadays letters with approximately the same meaning. This translates to English roughly as

It is hardly used anymore in High German except in poetic style. Only in rural regions “Hab und Gut” is still in broad use to refer to all of somebody's property. Where more specifically “Habe” means the movable things and “Gut” means the non-movable property.

Movables have been called “Mobilien” at the time (1803) so have a look for a verbose description about the meaning of “Mobilien” in this respect.

Searching for the reason for the former distinction takes us back in time even further – where things starting to get imprecise.

Back then “Gut“ referred to an area (“Gutsbezirk” or “Gutsgebiet” in Austria) that was owned by another party than the ones using it. Think about a landowner and farmers where the farmers had to give shares of their crops (“Zehnt”) for permission to use/lease the land. These lands used to be controlled/protected by armed parties and several farmers where living on the lands. Often there was a central building or residence. In other words “Gut” included some sort of administrative structure and people in distinct roles. Probably this could come into existence because central Europe wasn't a peaceful place and specialization gave an advantage of better security.
Today, some bigger farms are still called “Weingut” or “Gutshof” but usually the landowner or employees work there.

“Habe” was something which the user actually controlled himself in my interpretation. This something could be movable stuff and land. However it was more likely that a farmers property was movable (what a human can hold) but the land wasn't his own. Later the law distincted using movability as criterion with exceptions.

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    In Grimm's dictionary the following is cited: "Man hat wol die bedeutung der formel hab und gut dahin gefaszt, dasz habe das bewegliche, gut das unbewegliche, liegende eigentum ausdrücken solle; allein dieser unterschied, der erst zu ende des vorigen jahrhunderts ausgespürt worden zu sein scheint (Eberhard Synon. Handwörterb. 419), ist willkürlich und pedantisch." Summarized: The distinction between movable and non-movable is as stated above, but seems to have been assigned after the phrase was coined and is arbitrary and pedantic. – guidot Jul 2 '14 at 6:30

I'd say that this is the wrong question - I don't think that the point here is comprehensiveness but style. I've always felt this to be a figure along the lines of "Wind und Wetter" (where wind quite obviously is already part of the weather), the intention being emphasis.

Wind und Wetter = every imaginable meteorological condition (but tending to bad weather)
Hab und Gut = everything s.o. posesses

also (but note that the following examples actually unite two distinct concepts to achieve comprehensiveness):

Mann und Maus = every living organism in a stated place (often used with ships: "das Schiff sank mit Mann und Maus")
Kind und Kegel = all children, by extension the whole family and dependents, kith and kin :)
[edit: note that, as Em1 points out, "Kegel" does not refer to things, toys or similar - it's an old term for an illegitimate child (born out of wedlock), so "Kind und Kegel" means all of someone's progeny.]

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    Kegel = „uneheliches oder lediges Kind“ – Em1 Jan 27 '12 at 14:40
  • +1 True! :) [editing this in right now] – Mac Jan 27 '12 at 15:39

There is no distinct difference in meaning between the Hab and the Gut here. They both refer to the person's belongings in a wider sense.

The implicated meaning of Gut you identified in your questions also shows the root for the distinction of the two terms, that today mean basically the same. A Gut or Gutshof is a larger farm or the like (vinyard is Weingut).

Also notice the word Guthaben, which referes to a persons bank account balance or depositions. Here, the words have eventually merged together, while in the old fashioned phrase you came across both words essentially mean the same.

In a more modern context, you would neither use Hab[en] or Gut/Güter, but rather Besitz or Eigentum.


A "Hab" is something that you "have" in your immediate possession. It refers to things like movable objects.

A Gut is a "good" that you own, that is too big to be a "possession" that can be moved. Like a house or a piece of land.

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