As a Swiss guy, I always thought the proper German word is Fahrstuhl (and always remembering the song Liebe im Fahrstuhl from Die Prinzen when using the word).

However, recently I have read a blog post from a (native I guess) German speaker (from the Berlin area) actually using the word Aufzug, which always had a “Swiss” connotation to me.

Is there a difference in usage of Fahrstuhl and Aufzug in Germany, probably by region?

  • What do you mean by "Swiss", mainly in contrast to Swiss? Ich sage übrigens auch gerne Lift. :) – user unknown Mar 29 at 11:56
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    Was sagen denn die Wörterbücher? Wir erwarten, dass Besucher erst versuchen die Frage selbst zu beantworten. Wenn Wörterbücher nicht weiterhelfen, wäre es hilfreich zu sagen, wieso nicht. – user unknown Mar 29 at 12:04
  • As a fellow swiss guy with close ties to Germany, I'd like to point out something strange I figured out: The further north in Germany you go, the more likely people will understand swiss-german and also use some words that for me have a very swiss connotation. It's strange because you'd expect that people living in in the border region (southern Germany) would better understand the language being spoken in the neighbouring country. Great example for this is @userunknown, I assume they're from Berlin due to their profile, using "Lift" something I've personally only heard swiss people say – MindSwipe Mar 29 at 13:42
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    @MindSwipe Die Verwendung von Lift, Aufzug, Fahrstuhl hat, denke ich, nichts mit der Region in Deutschland zu tun. Alle drei Wörter werden verwendet. Unterschiede gibt es vielleicht beim Textform-Kontext. In offiziellen Papieren wird man eher von Aufzug sprechen, in legerer mündlicher Sprache eher von Lift. - Ich bin übrigens im Einzugsbereich des Schweizer Rundfunks aufgewachsen, lebe jetzt aber im Einzugsbereich des niederländischen. – Christian Geiselmann Mar 29 at 16:51
  • Ja, wir haben in Deutschland nationale Medien wie Fernsehen, Zeitungen, Bücher - daher ist der Großteil der Sprache überall gleich - auch mit Österreich und der deutschsprachigen Schweiz weitgehend. Leute, die ausschließlich Mundart sprechen, sind hier kaum oder gar nicht. Außerdem bin ich nord-süd-mäßig in der Mitte Deutschlands aufgewachsen, im moselfränkischen, allerdings mit einer Mutter aus Ostpreußen, die aber strikt hochdeutsch mit uns sprach. Aber man liest auch viel, von Kafka über Bernhard, von Kraus über Dürrenmatt, von Brinkmann bis Dodua Otoo. – user unknown Mar 29 at 20:12

Aufzug is the more formal, technical term. For example, this wikipedia page contains references to technical and regulatory documents concerning elevators. None of them uses Fahrstuhl; in fact, the word does not appear on the page.

The two are semantically largely equivalent. This page claims that Fahrstuhl is more commonly used when referring to the actual cabin, but the example den Fahrstuhl kommen lassen would work with Aufzug as well.

Since it is not a technical term like Aufzug, Fahrstuhl is more colloquial.

Edit: Some commenters disagree in particular with the statement that Fahrstuhl is more colloquial. I don't have any reference for that. It was based on the use of Aufzug in formal contexts and my personal experience. It appears that others' experiences differ. Whether there is a correlation with region, social group or age is not clear yet (I'm a 54 years old college educated guy from the Hannover region). I'd welcome more comments with more information.

  • I think this is the correct answer. – leftaroundabout Mar 29 at 17:55
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    I think it's very technical, if considering that Stuhl is chiefly "chair", but also archaic for "frame, suport", e.g. Dachstuhl, while Webstuhl may be a crossing of both. And it's better than the Aufzug without a corresponding Abzug. – vectory Mar 30 at 11:57
  • No, this is not correct imo. Fahrstuhl is the slightly more formal term but the difference is not of any imprtance. Lift, Fahrstuhl and Aufzug all are the same and completely interchangable. Aufzug is slightly more general e.g. Lastenaufzug, though.. – TaW Mar 31 at 11:18
  • @TaW I backed my opinion with references. Can you? – Peter A. Schneider Mar 31 at 11:49
  • I don't need any references to know that 'Fahrstuhl' is not more but less coloquial than 'Aufzug'. Not sure about each region in Germany but in the south this is most certainly true. OP was not about technical documents but about regional usage. Here nobody at all would speak about using a 'Fahrstuhl'. – TaW Mar 31 at 12:29

In addition to the other answers:

At least I assume transportation of persons when I hear the word "Fahrstuhl".

The word "Aufzug" is definitely also used with things ("Lastenaufzug", "Schrägaufzug").

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    Not to mention Aufzug is also used as a synonym of (weird) outfit. – πάντα ῥεῖ Mar 29 at 17:34
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    The word "Personenaufzug" is a synonymous to Fahrstuhl. – harper Mar 30 at 7:38
  • People around me say usually "Nimm doch den Aufzug" when they want to suggest visitors of our building to use the lift. And they do not mean the cargo one. It is a normal word. – Christian Geiselmann Mar 30 at 20:33
  • To connect this to the other answers: "Fahrstuhl" is an informal term for an elevator for persons, "Aufzug" being the technical term, it can of course be applied to any type of elevator. And a "Schrägaufzug" (Inclined elevator) can definitely also be an elevator for persons. – rob74 Mar 30 at 22:00

No and yes:

Regarding the Fahrstuhl. an Aufzug is the same, no difference here.

Regarding Aufzug in general, there is a difference – because Aufzug can have different meanings depending on context. Most common other meaning is people's dress, see DWDS for more meanings.


I would argue that a Fahrstuhl does not necessarily have to transport its contents vertically. It can also move horizontally or at the very least diagonally. Aufzug seems to clearly indicate a vertical movement.

Additionally a Fahrstuhl does not hint the means of movements (it could be on ropes, gears, tracks, horse-driven, etc.). An Aufzug (at least when judging by the words) indicates that it is pulled upwards.

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    In einem "Schrägaufzug" werden Lasten diagonal transportiert. – Martin Rosenau Mar 29 at 10:05
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    Obwohl der Aufzug ja unbestreitbar auch abwärts fährt... – user unknown Mar 29 at 12:02
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    Do you have any evidence that this generic meaning of "Fahrstuhl" is actually used anywhere? I only know the word as a synonym of "Aufzug". Also, I am not sure a purely word-based analysis about movement directions can lead anywhere, given that a "Fahrstuhl" also rarely ever contains a chair. – O. R. Mapper Mar 29 at 12:04
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    @ShegitBrahm Usually, the user of an "Aufzug" does neither know nor care whether the cabin is pulled (using a rope) or pushed (hydraulically). – Uwe Mar 29 at 12:21
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    Bloody natural languages! It's not pulled but it's not a chair either. It goes down as well but then it also doesn't move on wheels. It's all nonsense ;-). – Peter A. Schneider Mar 29 at 23:17

An aspect not covered by other answers: There is an overlap of the term Fahrstuhl with a wheel chair, see especially the compound word Krankenfahrstuhl. This supports BestGuess' claim, that the movement does not need to be vertical for a Fahrstuhl.

I have to admit, that this is mostly found in questions for getting the driving license, but rarely encountered in conversation.

  • interesting point because here there is literally a chair that drives ("move sick") [people] - unless the more common Fahrstuhl where the chair went missing (I guess together with the cabin dricer in user36774's answer) – Shegit Brahm Apr 1 at 12:14

In earlier times Fahrstuehle used to be Fahr-Stuehle, having places to sit. So when used today it's merely "vornehme" Sprache.

(Note: it's not given for trade, exchange and stacks to bind one but to be able to escape)


There may be a slight semantic difference that is getting lost. A paternoster would be termed "Aufzug" but not "Fahrstuhl". It would be my guess that "Fahrstuhl" originally referred to directable elevator cabins (which were originally "driven" by an operator) whereas "Aufzug" was more generally employed for towing people or stuff vertically. It's not more than a guess, and with paternosters going the way of the dodo and operated person elevators having done so long ago, any prospective semantic difference will share their fate. I doubt that what feels correct to me old geezer would still match general language usage.


They have the same meaning but Aufzug is more common to use in Germany

  • Is that just your impression? Which parts of Germany are we talking about? – Philipp Mar 30 at 9:23
  • @Philipp I live in Bavaria (southern Germany) and there Aufzug is the more common word. Only older people say Fahrstuhl here. – Seb Mar 30 at 9:41
  • Interesting. In Hamburg, I don't feel there's such a clear distribution. – Philipp Mar 30 at 9:55
  • @Philipp ok, it's interesting indeed, so it depends one which part in Germany, but well it doesn't matter which word oyu use – Seb Mar 30 at 10:19

Both words have the same meaning but Aufzug is the technical correct term and Fahrstuhl is a colloquial term.

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    Do you have any backup for this theory? – Iris Mar 29 at 14:11
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    Kann es sein, dass Sie den Begriff Slang mit dem Begriff Umgangssprache verwechseln? – Björn Friedrich Mar 29 at 20:09
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    @BjörnFriedrich möglich. Englisch ist nicht meine beste Sprache ;-) – anion Mar 30 at 8:21
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    @Iris I have no written reference/source for this statement (otherwise i had posted it). I am working in a big german company which is doing safety inspection of lifts. I talked to some of our engineers in the last years and all of them emphasize again and again that if you say "Fahrstuhl" then it is not correct and therefore you should say "Aufzug". – anion Mar 30 at 8:27

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