I don't really have much German but I'm very interested in this word. Schrödinger used it to describe entanglement, also providing the English.

I was wondering if it might relate to versch. (various?)

  • Interested both in the German words Verschränkung is based on, and also the etymology of those words all the way back to the PIE if possible.

Links to any online Germanic lexical resources would also be appreciated!


2 Answers 2


I sense that versch (various?), but that's as far as I've gotten.

I'm assuming you're thinking of verschieden here. You didn't analyze that quite correctly. Ver- is a very common German verbal prefix that has a multitude of different meanings as you can see here. In the case of (Quanten)-Verschränkung, we have a nominalized version of the verb verschränken (to cross your arms), which is in itself derived from the noun Schranke (gate, barrier).

  • 1
    To add to this: verschieden is related to (unter-)scheiden which means to separate, to differentiate. Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 13:10
  • And the meaning has left the realm of gate, barrier of course and went into the realm of arms tied to each other.
    – Janka
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 14:27
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    @DukeZhou: No, the meaning is entangled. Overcoming a barrier or entanglement would be entschränkt. You won't find this word in a dictionary — but beschränkt, and as be- and ent- are in opposition, people would understand what entschränkt should mean.
    – Janka
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 21:55
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    Wiktionary is a good place to start, it links its sources: de.wiktionary.org/wiki/verschr%C3%A4nken
    – Janka
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 22:22
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    @DukeZhou, dwds.de/wb/Schrank#et-1, but you would have to know some German.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 22:53

Verschränkung is derived from the noun Schranke, which means barrier or limit. The often red and white bar blocking passage over trains rails is also called Schranke.

With the picture of the railroad crossing in mind, when you cross your arms over your belly, we call it "die Arme verschränken".

The bridge to Verschränkung in quantum physics comes from the idea, that 2 things are entangeled in a way so that you can't operate on one, without influencing the other. In the case of crossed arms you notice that you will never find a single arm the same position, when the other arm is not involved.

Another possible english translation for Verschränkung is interlocking, which could have been another english name for the phenomenon, except that the entangled particles in quantum physics can be locally separated.

According to https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/verschraenken it goes back to forscrenchan in Old High German, which means something like to surround with a barrier or lock in.

  • Beautiful answer. Do you know if goes back further than Middle High German?
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Dec 22, 2018 at 1:06

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