For writing purposes I am looking for a collection of archaic german words, or words that have gone out of fashion.

I've had some success with the german text archives or this simple lexikon. I am using the classical thesaurus as well, but I am only looking for older versions of words right now.

Do you know of any book / website etc. which would allow me to lookup archaic versions of german words?

My current plan if everything else fails is to keep on reading Nietzsche and Schiller etc. as a source of those words, but a concentrated source would be so much more effective!

4 Answers 4


I can think of two approaches using dwds (Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache).

If you are looking for old/archaic versions of todays words you can type in the modern word and dwds will give you a few alternatives in the thesarus section at the end of the page. The words labeled as "veraltet" are what you are looking for.


(sich) unterhalten -> konversieren

If you are looking for any archaic words, you can combine a google search with dwds.

Search for

site:dwds.de "veraltet"

and you will get tons of old words. Unordered ... but well :)

  • 1
    Works with the Duden as well: site:duden.de "veraltend" / site:duden.de "veraltet"
    – Pollitzer
    Aug 26, 2019 at 9:37
  • You can combine this search with other terms as well. Thanks a lot!
    – user39610
    Aug 26, 2019 at 10:29

Since I have some understanding of the German language I think that this might be of interest


  • A lot of these words aren't common but not uncommon either. For example verplappern is used sometimes, and Knilch is a new youth word.
    – Janka
    Aug 25, 2019 at 15:06
  • 2
    Knilch according to "Kluge Etymologisches Wörterbuch 1999" is "< 20. Jh." Knilch was already old when I was young ;)
    – xebeche
    Aug 25, 2019 at 16:34
  • 1
    Still, archaic words may be reintegrated in the language and this lose their archaic status Aug 25, 2019 at 18:45
  • But Rolf Zuckowski dug out Knilch for his notoric Weihnachtsbäckerei song, and the millions of people tortured with that song before Christmas couldn't resist using it again.
    – Janka
    Aug 25, 2019 at 21:46

I'm not entirely convinced, that archaic is the most appropriate word when referring to 19th century.

I would have suggested authentic period references, as Brockhaus 1894, but I suspect that what you are after is a mapping

New term -> old term

which those won't provide.

  • Well it's certainly worth a shot, as there is a search option aswell. Thanks!
    – user39610
    Aug 26, 2019 at 10:34

You might find old words here:

and last but really not least (!)

https://ediss.uni-goettingen.de/bitstream/handle/11858/00-1735-0000-0006-AEE5-2/jang.pdf?sequence=1, pages 37 - 145

and many others.

I think the last one is the best to start with. It contains 2000 'old words' (called "veraltet" in DUW) and it provides a rough rendering into standard German.

None of the other listings is 'bilingual' (old <-> new), nor exhaustive, nor consistent, nor based on substantially defined criteria. They are a bit like 'whatever one can stumble upon and what he doesn't know from nowadays German'.

The best resource for older and very old (Early) Modern High German ist the Brothers' Grimm dictionary:

Here you'll find an infinite number of words that no one knows today, including their syntactic 'behavior' and an enormous number of quotations across the centuries. But of course it's just for looking up, not for reading all 34.824 pages.

Don't forget that even the most common words in current German had a different meaning and syntax in bygone times.

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