I'm writing a thesis about German linguistic along with my 5 other friends. I need some help for some words and sometimes, I don't really know the differences.

"Klettern" means "to climb" and "wandern" means "to hike". These two words have the same common in meaning: doing activities or something like hiking or exploring a mountain.

Is there any different meaning besides for hiking or exploring a mountain?

Because these two have different meaning in the sentence's context. How do I know that these two words are different even though they sound the same?


"Klettern" always means you need to use your hands to go somewhere, "Wandern", even "Bergwandern", usually means to make a hike where you can go without support by your hands. (And please don't take this too literally, surely you need your feet for every "Kletterroute", and sometimes your hands on a "Wanderung", but I think you get the idea).

I was not aware that "hiking a mountain" could be seen as interchangeable with "climbing", I thought the distinction was almost the same in english as in german. Are you sure it is not?

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This is "klettern":

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"Wandern" is mainly walking (note the similarity with "to wander").

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You can wander almost anywhere. You can wander on a path near a river, through the streets of a town, and on a trail up a mountain.

All you need is shoes (some might not need them), time and a nice view. A Map, bandages for your heels and a drink might also be helpful.

The general direction is smooth to steep terrain. But you never "wander" up a wall.

Which brings us to climbing. To climb you need an obstacle. You climb on it (mountain, ...), over it (wall, rock, tree, ...). Under it (cavern ceiling, bridge, ...) or through it (hoops, caverns with bad flooring, ...).

All you need is shoes (climbing ones prefered), a secure rope to keep you from falling to death, a partner unless you are proficient enough to secure yourself, strong hands, good technique and a definitely no fear of heights.

In climbing you usually gain height, while wandering usually gains distance.

There is some middle-ground between wandering and climbing, which is labeled hiking.

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  • How would you translate wander as in "You can wander almost anywhere." to German? Spazieren gehen? – Iris Mar 5 '19 at 12:55
  • @Iris: I would consider spazieren gehen to be less challenging and less time intensive than wandering. Spazieren gehen would be as simple as "Taking a walk", while wandern would be a longer walk, where you might be walking from one winery to the next or travel through a mountain pass. But the transition is fluent, so you could also use "wandern" for "spazieren gehen", if you feel like it. – BestGuess Mar 5 '19 at 13:08
  • Even though everything in this answer is correct, I think, it misses the point as it explains the English instead of the German words. – Iris Mar 5 '19 at 13:22
  • @Iris: I used the english words, because to me they are synonymous. The OP was using "Hiking" as a translation for "wandern". This led him to get confused about the shared meaning of climbing and hiking. I was trying to point out the distinction which he did not see. – BestGuess Mar 5 '19 at 14:27
  • If OP doesn't understand the meaning of hiking or climbing, then the question should be ask at english.stackexchange.com or travel.stackexchange.com – Iris Mar 5 '19 at 15:04

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