The phrase I am trying to translate is for a project with an internet powered device to do its programmed purpose. For example, A pressing the button will cause a light source to illuminate or a sprinkler to begin dispersing water.

I need to translate the phrase which will be a label on a button

Trigger Device

I found one translation in a dictionary for trigger auslösen, but I think perhaps starten may be a better equivalent for the verb of trigger in English which means that it causes something. My concern is that there is another use for the word "trigger" which means a part of a firearm.

My concern would be with the grammar of the entire phrase, I do not want to have something like device trigger which would describe a component on a device.

  • Where do you think the verb comes from? I guess from the trigger of a gun. Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 23:47
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    @RudyVelthuis That's unlikely. Trigger should go back to some germanic origin where also the german word drücken comes from.
    – Javatasse
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 23:57
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    @Javatasse: The noun trigger probably goes back to the Dutch word trekker, from the Dutch verb trekken (to pull). And the verb to trigger is very likely derived from the noun (originally meaning pulling the trigger). So, not unlikely at all. And not drücken but the opposite: trekken = ziehen. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 0:38
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    You are concerned about the entire phrase, you say. In this case it might be a good idea to quote the entire phrase. This will help us give you good solutions. Selection of words and expressions depends to large extent on the proper context. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 8:05
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    Please clarify your quoted phrase: is trigger a verb in there, as in “[to] trigger [the] device”, or is it a noun as in “[the] trigger[ing] device”? Since you keep asking about verbs, I assume the former, but just reading the quote at first I would have assumed the latter.
    – MvG
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 19:22

10 Answers 10


In a technical context like yours, it is perfectly fine to use the translation


"Trigger" is a noun,
increasingly appearing in texts since the year 2000 to be understood,
and there is a history of using the compound "Triggereinrichtung" in patents and other sources.

After your last edit, what I wrote above is still true but it does not apply to the question any more. To label a button "Trigger Device" is ambiguous even in English. Consider asking this on the UX stack to get some expert suggestions for that.

I would go with Starten, Einschalten or Aktivieren, then. The last one is the least specific. Energie! only if your users are nerds.

Auslösen is not the verb associated with switching on a light source or turning on the sprinkler you mentioned in your examples. I would expect something more spectacular to happen on Auslösen (or a shipment from the online pawn shop, as @janka has so humorously remarked earlier).

  • This was the best fit from what I saw when researching the word and it's recent use in electrical engineering.
    – JGallardo
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 17:19
  • I don't control the copy, i am just trying to translate from what already exists.
    – JGallardo
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 20:15
  • "triggern" has likely been a common loan word amongst oscilloscope users for decades :) Every attempt to use a classic german word for it would only cause confusion. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 21:05
  • "Triggereinrichtung" autsch!
    – alk
    Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 21:53
  • the first part of this answer is now obsolete. it had been accepted before OP added their context, which asks for something quite different. I do not have sufficient rep here on this stack to delete it as long as it is accepted.
    – dlatikay
    Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 21:57

The problem is not so much the trigger part, but the device part. You cannot trigger an arbitrary thing in German, and I wonder if you should be able to do it in English either. You can trigger a function however.

Eingestellte Funktion auslösen

Trigger selected function

That's what I recommend. An example in a sentence:

Küchendunst löste den Fehlalarm aus.

Kitchen haze triggered the false alarm.

It's a bit of a grey area sometimes:

Da hat die Falle ausgelöst.

Then the trap was triggered.

I think starten is a really poor translation, because it could mean anything. Most people would think is power-ups the device or reboots it.

Triggering a gun is abfeuern in German, and the trigger is called der Abzug. No connection to auslösen.

  • All good points. With that said, would it make sense to perhaps say Gerät einleiten to "Initiate Device" as opposed to triggering a device, since really we would be triggering an action?
    – JGallardo
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 23:38
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    AFAICT, "trigger device" does not mean "triggering a device", it means "a device that triggers". Cf. linguee.de/englisch-deutsch/uebersetzung/trigger+device.html and I would call it "Auslösevorrichtung". Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 23:48
  • @JGallardo No, Gerät einleiten doesn't work in german. To initiate a device in the sense of prepare is vorbereiten, to initiate in the sense of reset it would be zurücksetzen.
    – Javatasse
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 23:55
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    Einleiten has the same problem as auslösen. It's needs an action or at least an item which is commonly connected with a specific action. Gerät is completely unspecific. What should Gerät auslösen or Gerät einleiten mean? I would think one of the other meanings of the verbs matched – get the device back from a pawn shop for Gerät auslösen and flush the device down the sewage for Gerät einleiten.
    – Janka
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 0:09
  • I agree with all that you mentioned, i forgot to mention however that I am using it as a label on a button, so I needed something shorter for my use case.
    – JGallardo
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 17:22

The verb connected to this is indeed auslösen. Hence, how about Auslöser for the device?

  • This is the only correct answer, feel free to remove the question mark. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 18:56
  • Ich verstehe die Frage so, dass der Trigger ein Device auslöst, nicht, dass der Trigger das Device ist. Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 19:44

It seems you are looking for a noun (like trigger device). Without knowing the proper context it is not possible to give a good solution. Here are some words that may or may not fit, depending on context

  • Auslöseeinrichtung
  • Startvorrichtung (somehow evokes the image of a motor or engine being started... but could be used also for other appliances)
  • Einschaltvorrichtung (to start an electrical device; could fit for your application)
  • Trigger (sometimes used in informal speech not least due to the word being short)
  • Abzug (only with guns)
  • Auslöser (can be used in variuos mechanical devices)
  • Schalter (not least in software)
  • Signalgeber (where action is not mechanical but rather based on a signal, usually in form of electricity)
  • Geber (as above; the term will usually be used only by engineers, not in everyday life; by the way, a Geber could also be strictly mechanical, e.g. measuring the water gauge somewhere and then triggering some action of a device)

It really depends on the specific device you want to address...

  • I have a question on "Auslöseeinrichtung" I think that describes the device does it not? a triggering device?
    – JGallardo
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 17:12

Several options. The most literal translation to "trigger device" would be

Gerät auslösen

Since you want to be fairly unspecific about what the device will do, once "triggered" you could also use

Gerät triggern

For once "Jemanden triggern" is somewhat common with a lot of younger people in Germany - and even in English you are using the word as an abstract placeholder for "The device will do something" - so an abstract word with minimal connotation will probably fit best.

  • Yes I originally went with the literal translation, but I like how "Gerät triggern" can be used more generally.
    – JGallardo
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 17:16
  • @JGallardo in general, German tends to be less general and more specific, therefore one cannot tell which term would suit best, unless knowing the type of device, which is being triggered. or how would you translate "to pull the trigger on someone" (which cannot be literally translated)? it might not even be certain, if we would call it a "trigger device".
    – user15822
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 6:58

would call it Auslösevorrichtung / Auslöseeinrichtung ...

or simply Auslöser - or even literally Auslösegerät or an Impulsgeber.


In the IT sphere we often use the word


for actions, that have to be triggered and that will go on for a while.

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    However, most everyone in IT and EE will find "triggern" a pretty normal word. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 21:04
  • @rackandboneman: Yes, this is also true. We also say "antriggern".
    – Igor O.
    Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 7:02

If you'd like to avoid auslösen at any cost, I'd translate

Trigger Device




I'd say Auslöser, which was the designation for a button on older Photocameras for example. Gun Triggers are called "Abzug", but this word rather refers to the act of pulling. Auslösen is more like dispatching something like a signal or triggering a mechanism, causing an event to happen. Startknopf is just a composite word of start and button. Simply, if you do not wanna use start button, do not use Startknopf. :-)


It is

Ein Gerät auslösen

or if you want to mean "trigger an event" it would be

Ein Ereignis auslösen.

  • 1
    Yes, "trigger" means "auslösen", but "Ein Gerät auslösen" is not correct usage. Commented Oct 11, 2018 at 9:05

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