"Gucken means to look or to peek and schauen means to see. Both meanings are almost the same.

For example, consider the sentence:

Ich würde gern eine DVD gucken.

Can I use schauen instead of gucken here? And what’s the difference?

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    Also related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/22676/…
    – raznagul
    Mar 1 '19 at 10:33
  • Imo 'gucken' is almost baby-talk and not appropriate for something as lengthy as a DVD.
    – TaW
    Mar 2 '19 at 23:13
  • @TaW; if you got this impression you certainly never went to a region where gucken is common (see map in my answer). Also, with all respect, using "baby-talk", or "inappropriate language" is actually quite rude to people who speak dialect.
    – Takkat
    Mar 3 '19 at 7:20
  • Your map is not relevant for this question. 'Eine DVD angucken' would mean to have a glimpe at the cover, not to spend 1-2h watching it. And dialect is obviously irrelevant as well as OP doesn't ask about it. But of course I didn't mean to be rude, just keeping things straight. I speak dialect as well but would not advice learners of German to adopt our local oddities.
    – TaW
    Mar 3 '19 at 8:25

There is no difference in meaning but gucken is used colloquially in the south-west or kucken in the north. Bavarian or Alemannic dialects do not use it.

For the regional distribution see the Atlas der Altagssprache:

enter image description here

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    This map doesn’t really match my (limited) personal experience: being from North Germany, “gucken” strikes me as mostly obsolete, and “schauen” or “sehen” as much more common. Mar 1 '19 at 11:37
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    @KonradRudolph: this map depicts the results of a questionnaire answered by 20.000 people in 2013. More background here.
    – Takkat
    Mar 1 '19 at 11:42
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    @Konrad I think “als Aufforderung” and (on the page linked to) “jemanden auf etwas aufmerksam machen” is important here. I’m not German, and not even particularly proficient in German, but while I can’t recall hearing people using kucken/gucken as a regular verb very often, I have definitely heard both Kuck mal hier and Schau mal hier quite commonly in regular conversation. Mar 1 '19 at 16:33
  • Die Aufforderung ist aber gar nicht die Frage!
    – TaW
    Mar 2 '19 at 23:14
  • @TaW: und genau deshalb mein erster Satz! Wenn Du eine bessere Quelle zur regionalen Verteilung von gucken, kucken, schauen, schaugen, luege,... hast, dann würde ich mich auf Deine Antwort sehr freuen.
    – Takkat
    Mar 3 '19 at 7:06

The meaning is the same, but the two verbs are used in different frequency in different regions.

I live in the south of the German spoken area, in Austria, not far away from Vienna. And here nobody who grew up here would use the word "gucken". When ever you hear someone using this word in Austria, you know this person is either a German tourist or a German immigrant.

This is not absolutely true for people younger than 25 who live in bigger towns like Vienna, Graz and Linz. Lots of them also use "gucken" when talking with their friends, but "schauen" when talking with older people.

In the north of Germany the verb "gucken" is used much more frequent. I believe (without knowing for sure), that in Köln, Hamburg and Berlin "gucken" is used even more often than "schauen" (by speaker of any age).

  • I believe (without knowing for sure), that in (...) Berlin "gucken" is used even more often than "schauen" Your belief is right, yet not strong enough. It is not exactly the opposite from Austria, but "schauen" is quite rarely used. If someone says "schauen", it is probably a tourist, an immigrant - or (s)he is influenced by hearing it from many immigrants. Mar 1 '19 at 9:01
  • @VolkerLandgraf: in Berlin there also is kieken, which supposedly is not related to kucken
    – Takkat
    Mar 1 '19 at 9:10
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    @Takkat: Da haste in jewisser Weise recht, aba ooch ick als jebürt'jer Berlina empfinde "kieken" nur als Dialekt-Aussprache von det hochdeutsche "gucken" und nich als völlich andret Wort wie "schauen" ;-) Mar 1 '19 at 9:16
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    The fact that "gucken" becomes common in Austria arises from television, Internet and - last but not least - children's books. Austria's contribution to children's books is close to zero, so whenever I read a book to my children, I use "gucken", because all these books are written in Germany. In everyday usage, I would never use "gucken", always "schauen". Mar 1 '19 at 11:36
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    @rexkogitans Try looking up Thomas Brezina or Christine Nöstlinger and rethink your statement.
    – idmean
    Aug 9 '20 at 18:35

As it was pointed out, the use of schauen/gucken is dialect-dependant. Yet in your specific sentence I would use "ansehen" or "anschauen" if you mean that you want to watch the movie that is on the DVD.

I'm not german, though. I might be wrong...

Stimmt's oder habe ich recht, Leute? :-)

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    You could use ansehen or anschauen as well, but the other verbs are more commonly used with friends. Mar 1 '19 at 10:39
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    I think "Eine DVD schauen" is fine and unambiguous. "Eine DVD anschauen/ansehen" is correct but could also mean looking at the DVD depending on the context.
    – kapex
    Mar 1 '19 at 17:06

In some regions of Germany it is the same. But here “Schauen” is more cultivated than gucken. Gucken would rather fit for a simple cartoon or entertaining movie like a soap, but not for a sensitive film like Schindler’s list. That’s why it’s called Tagesschau, I wouldn’t say: Ich gucke die “Tagesschau” but: Ich gucke die “Wochenshow” in ZDF as it is a show.


I know no difference in the meaning. Your example: you could do so.

The difference comes in the percentage of usage. The people I talk to seem to use "schauen" instead of "gucken" (not always, just most time).

So I assume it is somewhat area specific, because "sch" and the hard "g" fit differently well into a dialect.

There is also the idiom "schau mal einer guck" - which simply means that the speaker is (positivly) surprised what is visible and uses a pleonasm.

  • "schau mal einer guck" fehlt da nicht ein t bei guckt? Ich bin mir nicht sicher, da ich die Redewendung nicht kenne.
    – Iris
    Mar 1 '19 at 8:57
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    Ich kenne sie witzigerweise genau andersherum: "guck mal einer schau" - aber auch hier ohne "t" am Ende, da es sich um den Imperativ handelt. Mar 1 '19 at 9:03
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    @Iris Nein, das t gehört da gar nicht rein. Das ist eine feste Redewendung, die nicht unbedingt grammatikalisch 100% den Regeln entsprechen muss.
    – harper
    Mar 1 '19 at 18:46

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