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I'm translating lines from the musical "Tanz der Vampire", and I'm uncertain about the word "befingert". This is the context:

"Der Gedanke, dass ein geiler Lüstling sie befingert, weckt das Tier in mir."

Translation dictionaries translate it as simply "to finger" but I'm not sure if the sexual connotation this word can have is also in the German word. Otherwise, wouldn't "to touch" be an adequate translation?

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Yes, often (not always!) befingern is used with a sexual connotation.

In your example, the subject is ein geiler Lüstling -which is something like "a horny debauchee". This leaves no doubt about the sexual connotation in this case.

And yes, if it isn't used in a sexual way, "to touch" can be an option for translation.


The Duden entry for befingern describes the meaning as:

etwas [ungeniert] mit den Fingern berühren, betasten, um es zu untersuchen

i.e. something along:

to [unabashedly] touch something with the fingers, to feel something for investigation

Examples from the same entry are:

die schmerzende Nase befingern
prüfend eine Wurst befingern
musst du denn alles befingern?

All of them can be used in a non-sexual way - although one could make up ambiguous statements using the second and third.

User scienceponder provided another non-sexual example (thank you!):

Mit seinen fettigen Händen hat er die Glasscheibe befingert.

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    Do you have an example of a use without sexual connotation? I cannot think of any. – Iris Sep 12 '18 at 6:55
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    "Mit seinen fettigen Händen hat er die Glasscheibe befingert" would be an example for a use without sexual connotation. – scienceponder Sep 12 '18 at 7:31
  • @scienceponder, yes, good example. Thank you! – Iris Sep 12 '18 at 8:18
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A direct translation for "befingern" is

to finger = (touch or feel [something] with the fingers)

and like its english translation its sexual connotation depends on what you "finger".

a) to finger something / etwas befingern - usually has no or at least subliminal sexual connotation. For example:

I don't like eating food that's been fingered by someone else.

Ich mag nichts Essen, was jemand vorher befingert/angefasst hat.

Could be said with fruits at the grocery store without any sexual connotation.

b) to finger somebody/ jemanden befingern - usually has an sexual or molesting connotation

He fingered the skin of the young woman.

Er befingerte/berührte die Haut der jungen Frau.

Unfortunately nowadays "to finger someone" can be understood to perform the sexual act of fingering a woman. Which is in german "jemanden fingern". Therefore you could use "to touch" as @marzipanherz suggests, but for me that loses its "molesting" feature. Therefore i would suggest to translate befingern in this context with the more vulgar slang "to feel her up"

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    Exactly. The crucial point is what you befinger. If it is food it is not sexual. If it is a girl it is sexual. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 12 '18 at 9:41
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I agree with Marzipanherz' often, not always-statement. The main exception would be if you describe little children exploring their environment with their hands. In almost every other situation where you read the word "befingert", the first thought would be "sexual connotation", at rare occasions followed by a "wait, it's not"-realization after you fully caught the context.

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Befingern means to put your filthy fingers on it.

Jetzt hat er schon wieder die Tapeten befingert.

Meaning, there are now the toddler's fingerprints visible on the wallpaper.

If used with persons, it almost always has a sexual connotiation. The exception would be wearing white clothes.

Befinger sie doch nicht. Da dürfen keine Flecke auf dem Hochzeitskleid sein!


An common alternative is angrabbeln.

Grabbel doch nicht alles an.

  • oder "begrapschen" - "angrabbeln" wird im Berliner Raum zwar verstanden, aber eher selten benutzt – Volker Landgraf Sep 12 '18 at 9:25
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    I admit that befingern may imply filthy fingers, but it does not do so necessarily. The connotation is not so much of physical dirt, rather of the social inappropriateness of the touching. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 12 '18 at 9:43

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