As I was looking up the word ey in dict.cc, I noticed a rather interesting colloquial expression:

Ey jo, was geht, Aldää? [ugs.] = Whazzup? [coll.]

What does Aldää mean above? I could not find the word in the Duden or any of the four other online dictionaries I use.


6 Answers 6


Tofros answer is not wrong, but imho there is a different angle to it.

First of all "Aldää" is phonetic spelling for "Alter". This is German slang. It used to be teenage slang but by now it's pretty much general slang since the teenagers from back then are now 30+ and still use it.

In your example it is used as a form of adress. The translation to "Whazzup?" is kind of incomplete. I would say it's something like "Whazzup dude?". So "Alter" would translate to "dude", "man", "bro" or the like.

"Alter" can also be used as an exclamation. E.g. "Boah Alter!" would be something like "Awwww maaan!".

Literally it also translates to "age" and "old man" but in this context it means something completely different. Most people will not think of the original meaning when they hear it.

In northern Germany there is a similar slang. Often "Digger" is used instead of "Alter". Again "Digger" is phonetic spelling for "Dicker" literally meaning "overweight person" and again this original literal meaning is widely ignored in that context.

The English analogy would be "bro". If I call someone my bro, no one would assume that he is my blood relative.

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    Aldä is not the phonetic spelling of Alter but one of many. Depending on where you are from, Alter may sound more like Alda, Aldor, Aldeä or Alda or even Alta
    – Jan
    Jul 10, 2017 at 10:11
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    or ahle ... which I was told was part of colloquial greetings ("Hej, ahle, wej?") already when my grandfather was young about 100 years ago. You may also want to take into account that an alter Freund is not necessarily an aged person - the "age" refers to the friendship, so also two teens can be alte Freunde. Jul 10, 2017 at 10:23
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    The "traditional" Alter I was using when I was a teen is IMHO a bit different from what kids use today - We were using it to address each other like you say - "buddy" or even "bro". Aldä, as my kids use it today, is just a "cool" filler and doesn't mean anything beyond "Hey" or "Gosh" or "listen to me".
    – tofro
    Jul 10, 2017 at 11:16
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    I've heard some people who use those word a lot claim that when referring to someone "Alter" and "Digger" originally were simply short for something like "alter Freund" or "dicker Kumpel" (dick meaning close in this context). To them it never had anything to do with age or weight (and therefore it is not used ironically as claimed in the other answer by tofro).
    – kapex
    Jul 10, 2017 at 12:55
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    Yet another angle: Where I come from certain people use "Alter" (or Alder) to refer to other male friends and "Alte" (or Alde) to refer to female friends.
    – MrPaulch
    Jul 10, 2017 at 16:17

That is colloquial teen speak and simply means


(old man!)

And is ironically normally used between teens of ages around 11-16 to refer to each other (it is even used by and used to address girls). Later on, some of them eventually learn how to properly speak German :)

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    Except in that case it doesn't mean "old man".
    – Em1
    Jul 10, 2017 at 7:00
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    @Em1 Well, it still means "old man" - It's, however, not meant to mean it ;)
    – tofro
    Jul 10, 2017 at 7:01
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    @Dynamitos sicher nicht.
    – tofro
    Jul 10, 2017 at 8:05
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    @AngeloFuchs And how exactly would "Alter" fit a woman - that's clearly male? And why would you want to imply a male swede wouldn't be a man? Sorry, don't get it. Also don't get how Swedes relate to "Aldaa" at all.
    – tofro
    Jul 10, 2017 at 9:52
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    The term "Alter" to address one another has transcended its original meaning of "old man", it has become a new term, more or less. My guess is that girls picked it up simply because all their male friends were using it and "Alte" has a slightly different, usually derogatory meaning. But it really is used by girls to address each other, but only ones that would like being associated with being "ghetto" and "gangster", AFAIK
    – DarkDust
    Jul 10, 2017 at 10:20

Indeed Alter is used in colloquial (once teenage) slang to express astonishment, or to address friends. Both of these usages are not too recent really, as similarly used proverbs did long exist:

Alter Schwede! (known from 17. Century)
Na, mein alter Knabe! (age of origin unclear, possibly related to Knappe)

Today both proverbs are elliptically shortened.

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    I've also heard "alter Verwalter" and found variants of it on the internet. On this website someone reports the following: „Alter Verwalter“, sagt eine Wienerin, sei so ungefähr dasselbe wie „Du bist aber gscheit“. Does anybody know whether this Viennese woman is right? Jul 11, 2017 at 9:40
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    @AshwinSchumann I'm a native german speaker and I never heard of using it in that way. "Alter Verwalter" is more used to express astonishment and I'd claim that it has neither positive nor negative connotation. For example if you buy lettuce dressing that needs to be stored in the refrigerator, but your wife puts it always next to the oil in a closet. If you are about to dump a full bottle for the fifth time this week, you can say "Alter Verwalter, das glaub ich nicht." as "Jeez, I can't believe it". But you could use it aswell to express gratitude, like if you find it once in the fridge ;) Jul 11, 2017 at 14:06
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    @Felix.C Right, my experience as well - Both Aldä and Alter Verwalter are more an expression along the lines of "gosh" or "jeez" than really addressing anyone.
    – tofro
    Jul 11, 2017 at 16:50

I'm also a native Speaker and would like to shed some light on the usage of all these terms:

  • "Alter" (or any of its wrong spellings Alda, Alder etc.) is a very colloquial way to address a male person, usually a friend, but like in English you can also use it on strangers. It used to refer to an 'old' friendship. You can compare it to "old chap" in English.
  • "Dicker" (or its other wrong spellings Digger, Digga etc.) is used only among friends, unless you want to insult someone, since it literally means 'fat'. Colloquially it is an abbreviation for "dicker Freund" meaning 'chummer' or 'close friend' in English. 'dick' (translates to 'thick', since both are germanic words) refers to the strength of the bond, not to the size of the Person.
  • @AshwinSchumann "Alter Verwalter" is just used for the Rhyme. It is an Exclamation of Astonishment similar to "holy moly" in English.

As someone from Franconia, I’d also like to add what all other answers have glanced over: Aldää! doesn’t sound like the canonical Alter! to me. It much more closely resembles the colloquial expression for Alte, which I would probably render as Alde or, especially if the end of it is stressed and dragged out, as Aldä(ä) (a match in writing).*

Alde is a bit different in usage.
Some male friends may refer to their girlfriends with this expression when those aren’t present (Mei Alde is‘ im Playboy drin! and Ka Alde, ka G’schrei are samples taken from lyrics by the band J.B.O. (might be considered NSFW))
It’s also used by some – I’d say primarily and by cliché older or even elderly – husbands to refer to their wives and likewise to call and address them, especially in folk comedy shows. (I would expect it to be said like Alde, was gibts’n heud zu Middach? (Ehefrau, was gibt es denn heute zum Mittagessen?).) (I still vaguely remember such a show from when I was a child but I can’t recall its name. Trying to rediscover it (without luck), I at least found some other written samples.)

*: I would describe the sound as something inbetween the two (It doesn’t feel to me like any of the two really covers it, maybe just like the ending -er doesn’t exactly sound like E and R pronounced one after the other.)

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    Hey Keno, welcome to the German language StackExchange, and thank you for your contribution. You may want to take a look at the tour, if you like, or visit help center for more information about the features of this site. Jul 12, 2017 at 7:37

Aldää comes from "Alter" (old person, friend), but it does not mean in any sense that the person is old. It is more used between young under-educated men/boys. There is something similar, "mein Alter", "meine Alte", which means "my boy-friend", "my girl-friend" or also husband/wife. This is also used by older under-educated people, and it is not so modern. In former times "mein Alter" meant also "my father", "meine Alten" meant also "my parents". "Wohnst Du noch bei Deinen Alten?" = "Do you live still at your parents?". But I think it is mostly not more used in that sense now.

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