"I've wasted so much time just scrolling through/on Instagram"...

How can I express this in German?

To scroll = to move text or other information on a computer screen in order to see a different part of it.

A friend of mine told me to say "herumwischen" but honestly... I cannot believe it. It sounds very strange to me. I know these expressions are rather new and there is probably no standardized way of saying it. Anyhow... I'm looking what people say.

Do you maybe say "scrollen"? Can anyone help me out?

  • What does then "herumwischen" mean and can you give a example in context to understand its actual usage?
    – E.V.
    Apr 26, 2019 at 8:58
  • I suppose „herumwischen“ refers to the smartphone, because there you don't scroll, but swipe back and forth on the display, and „herumwischen“ matches very well this boring time wasting situation in the given text, but as I said, „herumwischen“ rather for smartphones, and if you want to emphasise the devaluation so to say, the loosely doing of things Jan 11 at 14:55

5 Answers 5


You use the anglicism scrollen which is declined as the verb rollen.

In your case of wasting time you could use the prefix rum- (short form of herum-) which is generally used for verbs which express idling, so your sentence

I've wasted so much time just scrolling through/on Instagram

could be translated to

Ich habe so viel Zeit damit verschwendet, auf Instagram rumzuscrollen.

herumwischen is not used and would sound strange. wischen is sometimes used for the matching actions performed on tinder, though. I guess, this is because they are in the right-left-direction (in english this is called to swipe). For moving in the up-down-direction, you use scrollen.

  • You are right. "Nach links/rechts wischen" is mostly used for "to swipe left/right" or similar other actions. Not for scrolling. Well ... one will get the the meaning depending on context, but it's not common.
    – mtwde
    Apr 26, 2019 at 9:35
  • 1
    I usually avoid scrollen (too difficult a word for me) and use sinply: Geh mal runter. / Geh mal rauf. That's when I want to show a colleague something on his screen. Without that clear situative context, raufgehen, runtergehen would of course be too unspecific. Apr 26, 2019 at 10:16

One often hears "runterscrollen", "hochscrollen" and various other variations. The word is listed by Duden as one of the 100,000 most frequently used German words with a complete conjugation table. It's perfectly okay to use this word in German.

If I had to write some official document, I might still want to avoid this word either as an anglicism or because it sounds too technical. However, there is no chance that I would consider "herumwischen" an alternative. "herumwischen" is absolutely colloquial and does not have the same meaning.

  • 1
    AFAIK, in old German Windows, scrollbars are called RollBalken (or Bildlaufleisten). Perhaps that is a more (semi-)official Term: rollen, without the leading sc. How do you call a scroll wheel on a mouse? Yeah, I guess it is Scrollrad or Mausrad. I have also seen Bildschirmrollen, but that is far too long to become popular, IMO. Apr 26, 2019 at 13:08
  • @RudyVelthuis: I don't think that Rollbalken is widely used. It had been used in some manuals, but people have never adopted it. die Bildlaufleiste nach unten verschieben is a common alternative to "herunterscrollen" which sounds more German, but at the price of conciseness. Apr 26, 2019 at 13:20
  • I know. But that was a translation in a Microsoft doucment (long time ago, but it was one of the reasons I never wanted to install a local Windows -- I always install the English version of any software I use). Apr 26, 2019 at 13:26

I'd like to point out that your original English sentence is ambiguous/figurative to some degree, which I feel is more obvious when inserting "on" instead of "through".

I've wasted so much time just scrolling on Instagram.

This could very literally mean that it took me a lot of time to perform the act of scrolling itself (e.g. if there is some malfunction that causes scrolling to be veeeery slow), but what I most likely actually want to say is that I aimlessly browsed the app, which happens to involve a lot of scrolling.

A verb that naturally (way more than "herumwischen" which sounds weird to me too) catches the second meaning in German is "(durch-/herum-)stöbern" (can be translated by "to browse"). It's a term that's also used for doing basically the same thing in a library, invoking the mental image of picking up a lot of things in short order and examining them only superficially, which I think is exactly what you want to express.

Thus I'd say:

Ich habe viel Zeit damit verschwendet, auf Instagram rumzustöbern.

  • +1 for taking the potential broader scope of the question into account!
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Apr 26, 2019 at 12:22

Usually people would use the English loanword scrollen, unless they are a language purist and deliberately want to avoid loanwords in general and anglicisms in particular, in wich case they would use some construction like den Text hoch- und runterschieben. Herumwischen is a bit pejorative and/or very colloquial.

  • 2
    I have never heard one of those avoidance constructions. Do you have an example of their use? I have hard times to believe they are used.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Apr 26, 2019 at 7:44
  • 1
    I haven't heard an avoidance construction in this particular case, that's why I had to guess. By I know people who say Weltnetz instead of Internet and Elektronische Post instead of E-Mail, so it is rather an extrapolation than a blind guess... Apr 26, 2019 at 7:48
  • I always thought Weltnetz was a pun on Iron Sky.
    – Janka
    Apr 26, 2019 at 8:06
  • @Janka - that might or might not be the origin of the term (I don't know), but it is definitely not the sole usage. Apr 26, 2019 at 8:11
  • It's used to drive people crazy who see "Nazis" everywhere. That's the idea.
    – Janka
    Apr 26, 2019 at 8:15

Wie schon von vielen gesagt empfiehlt es sich, auch im Deutschen scrollen zu verwenden. Wenn der Anglizismus vermieden werden soll, dann kann man aber getrost rollen (durchzurollen) verwenden. Auf deutschen Tastaturen findet sich auch häufig die Eindeutschung Rollen für Scroll.

  • Als Umschreibung: Meine abgewetzte Rolltaste steht als Beweis für die Menge Zeit, die ich auf Instagram vergeudet habe. May 2 at 9:12

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