I’ve never quite understood why some German words have tz, since the t doesn’t seem to provide any help in pronunciation as the sound it represents is already included in z.

My recent exposure is due to street names in Berlin, i.e. Tauentzienstraße, Schieritzstraße, Gubitzstraße. In the first, the t is part of ent and the z is part of zien, so I realize that may be due to the separate syllables. But that doesn’t apply to the other examples.

Other examples: schnitzen, Platz, Katze, setzen, letzt, Schatz.


1 Answer 1


Tz indicates that the preceding vowel is short; z doesn’t (though this may still be the case for other reasons). Most other consonants are doubled in such a situation; z is different for historical reasons, and instead of zz we write tz. The same thing happens to k and ß: We write ck instead of kk and ss instead of ßß.

This is § 3 of the official spelling rules:

Für k und z gilt eine besondere Regelung.
(1) Statt kk schreibt man ck.
(2) Statt zz schreibt man tz.

  • Vowel length has never been my strong suit, but your explanation makes quite a bit of sense. Thanks!
    – pattivacek
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 19:47
  • Although, my impression is that this convention isn't really necessary since for historical reasons, /ts/ doesn't occur often after long vowels. But then again, I guess /k/ doesn't occur often after long vowels either (except as the result of word-final hardening in some accents, in which case it is written "g"), so "ck" also seems to be somewhat redundant.
    – sumelic
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 4:22
  • 1
    Ironically, there is a street in Berlin named Pestalozzistraße, but I know that the source of that name is a Swiss person with Italian roots, so presumably different rules apply.
    – pattivacek
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 7:35
  • 1
    And also there are of course a few names that were not modified in any of the previous spelling reforms and that feature tz where nowadays only z is necessary such as Baitz.
    – Jan
    Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 9:56

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