I understand 'ausbaden' means to suffer/pay the consequences for something/somebody, or similarly to take the rap/blame for something/somebody.

But broken down to 'aus' + 'baden', it suggests "to bath outwardly". So my question is, for native German speakers does this word have any bathing imagery or metaphors associated with it?

  • 1
    This is going to be highly subjective, with any answer by one native speaker likely to draw a contradiction by another speaker. That said - my personal experience is "no, no imagery in my thought process at all". Jan 1, 2019 at 0:44
  • If you're interested in metaphoricity, I suggest you look into the works by Lakoff & Johnson, by Max Black and into Metaphorically speaking by Patti Nogales. The former two also write about dead metaphors.
    – Philipp
    Jan 1, 2019 at 10:35

4 Answers 4


This idiom stems from times when water and energy to heat it were scarce - people shared their bath in the order of social hierarchy - and the last one lowest on the social ladder got to bath last, in water already dirty from the others and had to empty and clean the tub.

er musste es ausbaden

  • 2
    … and almost cold. – And there's also auslöffeln with a likely similar picture.
    – Janka
    Dec 31, 2018 at 20:28
  • 3
    This is a folk etymology.
    – fdb
    Dec 31, 2018 at 22:48
  • 1
    For the word history: dwds.de/wb/dwb/ausbaden Nothing about cleaning bath tubs.
    – fdb
    Dec 31, 2018 at 22:49
  • 4
    @fdb Your link says "davon dasz, während die andern mitbadenden frei entrinnen, der letzte bleibende angehalten wird, das badwasser auszutragen oder zu trinken."
    – tofro
    Jan 1, 2019 at 10:38
  • 1
    @fdb: ... as one of two suggestions. Jan 3, 2019 at 14:53

I'd only like to give you an answer for the following part of the question:

So my question is, for native German speakers does this word have any ... imagery or metaphors associated with it?

If I understand this part of the question correctly, you want to know if native speakers living today even notice that the verb "baden" is a part of the verb "ausbaden".

I can only know about myself, but I think the answer is "no" for nearly every native speaker.

German native speakers normally don't even notice that the verb "baden" is a part of the verb "ausbaden".

Most native speakers don't know the etymology of the separable verb, so they don't know the connection between the two verbs.

The same is true for many (but not all) other separable verbs.

  • 1
    I thought aushalten, aussitzen are pretty transparent and without doubt, ausbaden will be lexicalized close to these, the word stem still transparent, even if it doesn't inspire a vivid picture. Going from ausschalten a natural, if paradox translation would be off, not out, however "auslöffeln" got me thinking.
    – vectory
    Jan 25, 2019 at 0:15
  • Especially abbüszen, ausbüßen are notable.
    – vectory
    Jan 25, 2019 at 0:26

Speaking of my experience as native speaker you do not imagine a picture or metapher when using words unconciously. We use words as given. Only if you -also children do this, when learning words or connect the meaning of words- are conciously using words, there is a inner reflection on the original meaning (as source or as words are combined of syllables, pre and pos affixes etc. and word roots,->etymology). There is more hidden in language than just letters and ascribed meaning, it is the sound and the reflection within, which creates patterns of recognition with actual experience (which language tries to describe). In my opinion this reflection of its original meaning and vibration is a key to understand languange as a (limited but powerful) tool. It is a profond help to express the thoughts and experience into living language, even if it sounds strange ;) When I use "ausbaden" conciously (and I do not know its etymology) then there is a more playful feeling behind, going deeper I would imaging it comes from cleansing the dirt or karma which I would gather if I choose to do the decision which leads to "ausbaden". Cleansing in way of remove burden is not always a nice or easy or pleasant procedure, children know ;)


I think the word "ausbaden" refers to a kind of sarcasm in German today. In this context, the speaker does not want to trade with the intended person.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.