I found this phrase as the title of a blog I was reading (here). There exists a German language Wiktionary page for it (here). Checking the meaning of the words individually, it seemed like "and also for itself", but I don't really know what the phrase would be used for. Checking the synonyms on the German wiktionary page yields "in principle" as the most understandable synonym.

Edit based on answers: It's just the title of a blog I was reading, no context given, except that one of the main authors of the blog is apparently a bit of a Zizek reader, so the Hegel bit might be what it is.

  • i really feel like prinzipiell and grundsätzlich are translations that get closest to its meaning
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 13:45

4 Answers 4


The English version is in and for itself. It has become a general idiomatic expression in the meaning of "an sich" / "eigentlich" / "in itself" / "per se".

Originally it's a philosophical expression attributed to Hegel, it's a combination of "an sich" and "für sich". Someone with insight into the philosophy of Hegel might be able to explain the original concepts behind it. Or you could ask at philosophy.stackexchange.com

  • Interesting. Do you have a source for Hegel being the origin? Also: I am not familiar with Hegel, but I would reckon that an sich is taken from Kant. an sich in Kant's philosophy is to the intellegible, to how the things "on their own", i.e. (in Kant's system) before they are processed by the perceptive apparatus.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 18:06

If your question is (and that is not really clear - or not "an und für sich" clear) what the meaning of this phrase is: Most of the time it just used to weaken whatever statement else is given in the sentence it is used in.

For example: Take a piece of software that generelly does its job quite well, but lacks some (very minor) feature that may be seldom used. You could then say

"Dieses Programm ist an und für sich perfekt für die gestellte Aufgabe, aber es fehlt an folgenden Kleinigkeiten ..."

So "in principle" seems to me like a perfect translation.


Onkel Duden nennt als Synonyme:


genau genommen



streng genommen

Quelle: http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/an_und_fuer_sich


Could be translated as 'basically' in colloquial English.

It's basically very good but …

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