Some books begin with an Einleitung and others, seemingly indiscriminately, with an Einführung.

Is there any semantic difference between these two words for introduction or can they be used interchangeably?



is a rather generic first chapter with motivations of the author, history of the book etc.


emphasizes a technical introduction into a subject, e.g. a book about programming could have a "Einführung" about binary numbers.


Einleitung is a generic preamble to a book covering rather generic text-related (the presentation) topics ("this is how the book is ordered", "this is the expected audience", and even maybe "this is how we typeset specific material"). Eine Einleitung doesn't necessarily need to cover topic-related areas (it could, however). You could title the chapter "About this book"

Einführung is an introduction to a topic (the contents) of a book. So it is addressing the problem/topic-related areas of a book rather than its presentation-related areas. You could title this chapter "Introduction to the topic of this book"

Although there is a subtile difference between the two terms, they can be used somewhat interchangeably when the autor decides to cover both the topic-related and presentation-related introduction in the same chapter, which seems to be done quite a lot.


Both words can very well be used as synonyms IF used in non-fictional books, but both have their own separate set of meaning that does not always overlap with the other:

Einleitung means an introduction to the text that follows. This text can be of any type and scope: A whole book, a chapter of a book, a magazine article,... it just has to be a text. The Einleitung will focus on this specific text (describing its motivation, previewing the contents) and as such might have direct references to it (e.g. a brief description of the chapter structure). In the case of fiction, it may contain a prologue.. or, on the other extreme, some first person remarks from the author.

Einführung means an introduction to a topic in general. Its usage is not limited to texts, e.g. kids can get an Einführung if they are new in a sports club, but never an Einleitung. If a book has a chapter named Einführung, it will often serve the same role as the Einleitung though.. with a more loose focus on the following text. It is less likely to contain the mentioned description of chapters, for example. Instead, it deals more with the topic in general and often has a more educative character compared to the Einleitung. Most importantly, it should only be used for non-fictional works (i.e., books that have a topic, not a story).


Einleitung would be if you were given "general" directions into a book. In the physical world, this would be the function of an officer at, say, an information desk.

Einführung would be if you were pushed to see certain things that the author wanted to emphasize before you read the book itself. This would be more like the function of a tour guide.

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