I'm having a hard time translating the word dependability in the context of software systems. Intuitively I would translate it as Zuverlässigkeit, synonymously to reliability.

But reading this paper got me thinking. It states that dependability encompasses reliability:

As developed over the past three decades, dependability is an integrating concept that encompasses the following attributes:

  • availability: readiness for correct service;
  • reliability: continuity of correct service;
  • safety: absence of catastrophic consequences on the user(s) and the environment;
  • integrity: absence of improper system alterations;
  • maintainability: ability to undergo modifications, and repairs.

So my question is how to translate dependability and reliability in this context in a way that captures this distinction?

This is also discussed on Leo here and here, yet there is no real answer.

  • 2
    As a software systems researcher, I often use the word "Ausfallsicherheit" to express pretty much what you listed above regarding "dependability". Jul 25 '17 at 9:02
  • Verlässlichkeit? Jul 25 '17 at 11:12
  • 2
    @JohannesBüttner: I disagree. Counterproof: dependability encompasses maintainability but imho Ausfallsicherheit does not encompass Wartbarkeit. Jul 25 '17 at 11:24
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    Of course, you can pick any two terms such as "Zuverlässigkeit", "Verläßlichkeit", "Betriebssicherheit", "Ausfallsicherheit", and use one of them to translate "dependability" and the other one to translate "reliability". You'll have to define them, but the English terms are not self-explanatory either. It gets tricky if you also want that software engineers used to the English terms know immediately which of the newly coined German terms corresponds to which of the established English terms. ...
    – Uwe
    Jul 25 '17 at 16:30
  • 3
    ... In the end, the solution might be analogous to the well-known "safety vs. security" problem: In a context where the distinction between "safety" and "security" is irrelevant, both are translated by "Sicherheit". If the distinction is important, the English terms are used instead.
    – Uwe
    Jul 25 '17 at 16:30

From a generic engineering point of view, Betriebssicherheit might be best fitting for dependability. This term is usually applied to a technical (mechanical) structure in German but could also be applied to software when viewed as a systemic whole.

However there is no good generic term in German language. The definition you gave and also Wikipedia’s define dependability as a mixture of several attributes that are already very broad on their own. In reality, software in general is seldom measured like this (it probably should). I am afraid this is why there is no term yet. Thus, for a final translation, the context is important.

By contrast, reliability is a term which measures a software from an end-user point of view which usually does not include service, support or durability over time. You would say a reliable software is not know for crashes and it works okay. I would translate it with Zuverlässigkeit.

Statement: My answer is heavily opinion-based on a long-year experience in software business and engineering.


In a situation where the exact meaning is relevant (as in a PRD) a definition is required. For everyday’s talk,

I would translate it as Zuverlässigkeit, synonymously to reliability.

This seems to be the best fit. Instead, I would not translate the very narrow definition of

  • reliability: continuity of correct service;

as Zuverlässigkeit, because it only captures a small aspect of it. From the description, this should be unterbrechungsfreier Betrieb.

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