What's the main difference between Wortschatz and Lexikon?

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    They are entirely different words. Wortschatz = "word treasure", i.e. a set of words someone learned. Lexikon is... a lexicon. – peterh - Reinstate Monica Sep 12 '19 at 15:41
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    @peterh Lexikon bedeutet auch Wortschatz. Siehe die Begriffserklärung bei Wikipedia (link in meiner Antwort). – Philipp Sep 12 '19 at 18:07
  • While Wortschatz is only about a person's knowledge of words, Lexicon can mean also a book listing words. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 13 '19 at 8:51

You are of course not referring to Lexikon as in encyclopedia, but as in the English word lexicon that also exists in German.

Wortschatz and Lexikon seem to be identical in meaning in that respect. However, you can see from the comment to your question and from the other answer that in German (outside linguistic circles), Lexikon is mostly used as encyclopedia.

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    Interessant, diese Bedeutung kannte ich tatsächlich nicht. - Damit ist dann aber auch klar, dass diese Frage nicht off topic ist. – Volker Landgraf Sep 12 '19 at 20:01
  • Yes, that was the reference of my question. – Icaro Kossmann Sep 13 '19 at 12:03

Wortschatz are all the words you know. Lexikon is a book that explains words, usually in the same language.
A Wörterbuch often offers a translation from Language 1 <> Language 2 but also same language Wörterbücher exist.

edit: As mentioned in other answers and comments (I myself was unaware of this), Lexikon may also be a synonym to Wortschatz, however, the average German will picture the Lexikon as the encyclopedia.

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    And Wortschatz can - especially when talking about someone's knowledge of a foreign language - be sub-divided into aktiver and passiver Wortschatz. Passiver Wortschatz is the totality of all words you know and understand when you hear or read them, while aktiver Wortschatz contains the words you know well enough to use them when speaking or writing. – Volker Landgraf Sep 12 '19 at 13:22
  • You should note, however, that Lexikon can well be used as a synomym of Wortschatz, i.e. for the entirety of words somebody knows, not for a book or other object. At least in higher registers of speech. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 13 '19 at 8:46
  • Der Duden does not list a meaning equivalent to Wortschatz in its definition of Lexikon. It might be a neologism taken from English. There is Lexik, however. – Sebastian Redl Sep 13 '19 at 13:02
  • de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexikon mentions it. – infinitezero Sep 13 '19 at 13:33

I’m not an expert in that field, but as a native speaker I would suggest the following. A lexicon (often similar to an encyclopedia) is a tangible asset. Usually a book that you can hold in your hand. You use it as a source of help if you want an explanation to a word. ‘Wortschatz’ is more an intangible asset. It refers to your or to someone else’s knowledge. You can train it by learning a language and memorizing more words. Similarly to computer science, programming or chat bots, they are only as intelligent as the (limited) ‘Wortschatz’ they’ve been trained with.

Hope this helps :)

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  • This is correct so far, and still a bit misleading, because you left out the crucial information that Lexikon can also be used as a full synonym of Wortschatz, at least in scientific communication. Paul verfügt über ein umfangreiches Lexikon does rather not refer to a book but to his ability to use words. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 13 '19 at 8:49
  • @ChristianGeiselmann as I said: I’m not an expert. But honestly, as a native speaker I would even say that those two words DONT have the same meaning and I would never ever use them this way. No matter what official sources indicate. – Matthias Sep 13 '19 at 10:07


English: encyclopedia, lexicon

A book or a website with descriptions of many terms. Each section starts with a headword that will be explained and after it comes the explanation of this term. If the Lexicon is printed (i.e. a book) then the sections are sorted alphabetically by the headwords.

This posting here is a sort of a Mini-Lexikon

Wikipedia is a Lexikon.


English: vocabulary, lexicon, word pool

  1. A set of words that is known by a single person (Wortschatz einer Person; a person's vocabulary).

    The set of all words that this person can understand (by reading and listening) is called "passiver Wortschatz" (passive vocabulary). The set of all words that this person really uses for writing and speaking is called "aktiver Wortschatz" (active vocabulary).

  2. The set of all words that belong to a language (Wortschatz einer Sprache; a language's vocabulary.

    The Wörterverzeichnis des Rats für deutsche Rechtschreibung is the aim to list the German Wortschatz. But a Wortschatz is just an unordered set.


engl: dictionary, lexicon, wordbook

  1. A list of word-to-word translations from one language to another, sometimes also with short explanations, but much shorter than in a Lexikon (encyclopedia).

    dict.leo.org is such a Wörterbuch

  2. A list of all (or the most important) words of a language together with short explanation about the usage in the context of the language.

    Wiktionary is such a Wörterbuch

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  • Du scheinst Philips Hinweis übersehen zu haben, dass unter Linguistikern auch im Deutschen das Wort "Lexikon" mit der Bedeutung "Wortschatz" verwendet wird. – Volker Landgraf Sep 13 '19 at 13:47

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