I refer to the word 'Equity', defined here as per the Oxford English Dictionary:

The quality of being equal or fair; fairness, impartiality; even-handed dealing.[1]

(and not so much about being equal per se (i.e. not all equality is fair (e.g. toddlers need less food that teenagers)).

[This is just a little context, though not strictly part of the question: I am a health professional (epidemiologist) and am interested in a recent German law regarding 'health equity' ('Health Equity and Public Health Act') that is said to have been launched (the source is in English (http://eurohealthnet.eu/media/news-releases/german-prevention-act-spotlight-future-model-health-equity-other-member-states) but unfortunately with no links to original German material) and am interested in searching for the German documents myself.]

I have found suggestions on Google Translate that 'die Gerechtigkeit' or 'die Billigkeit' might be suitable translations. I seem to gather that 'die Gerechtigkeit' is the more apt word?

Please could members here perhaps give a more nuanced or expert opinion on the differences between the two?


Reference: [1] "equity, n.". OED Online. June 2017. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/63838?redirectedFrom=equity (accessed October 11, 2017).

  • 2
    There is a term called "egalitäres Gesundheitssystem" which might hit your spot better than "Gerechtigkeit im" or "Billigkeit im Gesundheitssystem.
    – tofro
    Oct 11, 2017 at 9:32
  • Could you give a link what that German 'Health Equity and Public Health Act' should be about, according to your English-language sources? I can't find something like that in the public records of the German Health Ministry.
    – Janka
    Oct 11, 2017 at 22:30
  • @Janka I think they mean the Gesetz zur Stärkung der Gesundheitsförderung und der Prävention (Präventionsgesetz - PrävG) bzga.de/die-bzga/aufgaben-und-ziele/…
    – PiedPiper
    Oct 11, 2017 at 23:03
  • @Janka the source is eurohealthnet.eu/media/news-releases/…. This is updated in the question. Oct 12, 2017 at 21:29
  • @PiedPiper I think you are right. Though I am not sure why the author of the news-release used the term 'Health Equity and Public Health Act', when actually it should be 'Act to Strengthen Health Promotion and Prevention' or something close to that (bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/prevention/…) Oct 12, 2017 at 21:36

2 Answers 2


Even if both have in general the same meaning. The word "Billigkeit" is not used in common speech. It is rather a term used in laws. There you can say it means the application of the law in a way that the specific case is considered. You may compare in this context the latin terms "ius aequum" vs "ius strictum". I think "Billigkeit" is not the term used in combination with "Gesundheit". I rather think the comment from tofro applies.

  • Although the two words appear together in the expression “recht und billig”. edit: sorry, I thought you had written “Billigkeit” is not used with “Gerechtigkeit”, but you wrote “Gesundheit”.
    – Philipp
    Oct 11, 2017 at 13:39
  • @Philipp: That's right the expression "recht und billig" stands exactly for these two slightly different meanings. If something is "recht und billig", it means, it fits the law and fits, let's say, the common feeling of justice in this Special case.. Oct 11, 2017 at 15:06
  • Very interesting. Can it be said therefore that Billigkeit conveys 'equity' in the form of 'justice', closer to the sense of "ius aequum", whereas Gerechtigkeit is closer to "ius strictum"? Oct 11, 2017 at 21:39
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    @Abdul-Kareem Abdul-Rahman Yes, that's what I wanted to express. Oct 11, 2017 at 21:44

I would translate "Gerechtigkeit" as "justice," that is what is right under the law. I would translate "Billigkeit" as "fairness," that is, what is right with regard to common sensibilities. They are similar, but not the same.

  • 1
    On the other hand, lawyers often talk about "Recht" vs. "Gerechtigkeit", where "Recht" means written law and "Gerechtigkeit" means ethics and/or our sense of right and wrong.
    – nikie
    Oct 15, 2017 at 8:32

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