I understand that Fräulein is lexically accented (stressed) more on the first syllable than the second; wiktionary shows IPA pronunciation as /ˈfʁɔɪ̯laɪ̯n/, /ˈfʁɔlaɪ̯n/, and also wikipedia says "Stress in German usually falls on the first syllable, with the following exceptions: ..."

Anyhow, encountering Das Waldfräulein in a list of works of von Ebner-Eschenbach, it occurred to me that my inclination to accent the first syllable of Waldfräulein rather than the second might be incorrect. Does this word fall into one of the classes of exceptions mentioned in the above wikipedia reference, such as compound adverbs or words with inseparable prefixes? What's the correct placement of accent for Waldfräulein?

3 Answers 3


Waldfräulein is normally accented more on the first syllable than on the second. It is not an exception described in the wikipedia article you mentioned. Waldfräulein is a compound noun of the two nouns Wald and Fräulein.

Exception: For example:

Ich bin ein Waldfräulein und keine Waldfrau.

In this example, you can accent either the first syllable of the compound words Waldfräulein and Waldfrau (as usual), or you can accent the first syllable of the -fräulein/-frau part (in this case the second syllable of the whole compound word) of both the words Waldfräulein and Waldfrau in order to emphasize acoustically the difference between a Fräulein (young or unmarried woman) and a Frau (adult or married woman).

  • Good point about emphasis to contrast differences. :-)
    – Kevin
    Feb 17, 2012 at 7:03

The emphasis on the first syllable (on Wald) would be correct and standard in this case, although it seems to me that I have heard some people who might put the stress on the second here, but that would be more a regional or dialectic variation (perhaps in some southern regions?). You might also check out a couple of articles from Duden about the accent syllable (Akzentsilbe) for further study.


"Wald" is the place where the Fräulein is living or comes from. Wald could be considered as the adjective melted together with the noun.

The accent in German is the same as in English use. The emphasis is on the part of the term that wants to emphasize the difference to others combinations with this noun.

Compare with non composite terms:strong text Street-worker, a Englishman, Swiss-people (an accent on Englishwoman would make clear that it is an female not male.

Usually the nouns with the diminutive -lein are pronounced with the same emphasis as without diminutive. Fräulein has an accent on the first syllable. But combined with Wald this emphasis on Fräu is lacking.

For once : as the ending "-lein" is a diminutive the accent might be there to emphasize that something or someone (the noun) is very small or little. e.g. the mother tells the little child who took a big piece of the cake: "Ich habe dir gesagt, ein Stücklein, not a whole piece!" (in this case the emphasis might be even on both syllables. (But keep in mind: This was still "ein Kindlein", a very little child. In the diminutive of Frau this difference would never make sense as Fräu alone doesn't exist. (In Bernese German we could do it as we say Frou and could emphasize to show it is a little girl: Froueli. But this would mean something different again, as the meaning of Fräulein or in our speaking Frolein or Frölein used to be not married of virgin.

However this difference will not be made with the other diminutive "-chen". "Schau mal, ein Fisch!" - "Ach, das ist bloss ein Fischlein!" but no ("Ach was, das ist nur ein Fischchen!!)

So the Waldfräulein is the virgin of the wood with emphasis of wood and not virgin!


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