The usual sources only say that "Stöpsel" was from "Low German", akin to "stop". I was wondering about the suffix.

The question arose wondering whether En "stop" is cognate, but it is interesting to me because of the several alternatives I have in mind:

  • The word is a doublette of "Stopfen", in which the f seems to be from the second consonant shift, in which Low German "Appel" did not participate; The s is probably not from f. Alas, I have no older material at hand to compare, and so, as the Original root is linked to PIE *stew- (cp e.g. "Stau") I wonder whether labial w was completely lost. A Stopfen is also something woven to fix holes in clothes, hence Stoff "textile" seems close.

    • That is a very unlikely avenue, in my book. w did not regularly fricate, nor was it subject to metathesis (wp > pw?), nor did f regularly become f in any case, that I know of.
  • -l also appears like a diminutive suffix, e.g. in "Madl" (Mädchen, Magd), "Bübele", that is popular in Bavarian, in Yiddish, but perhaps also Saxon, or anywhere.

    • This does not explain the s. I wonder also whether stub, stubbble, Stumpf, Stoppel belong here or below:
  • -l alpears as instrumental suffix in needle, paddle, and involved *-th, thus its deemed an explanation of the illusive *threshold. German s and z are allophone in Ablaut due to Auslautverhärtung, and z generally corresponds to *t (Zahn ~ tooth). pt is generally not phonemic in German, but cp eg "Klapptisch".

    • Nothing fits together in this one. The documentation in wiktionary isn't great ([[threshold]] still shows a redlink for the suffix), and my memory is even worse.

Since this is all very messy, I'd appreciate anyone who can give me a clearer picture.

  • 4
    It's basically a diminutive. Oct 10, 2019 at 20:56
  • Bübele doesn’t sound Bavarian at all. Maybe Swabian or Franconian.
    – Jan
    Oct 11, 2019 at 2:31
  • 1
    @Jan, ah yes, that would be the Bub'
    – vectory
    Oct 11, 2019 at 5:40
  • Now that we can know it comes from the "-sel" derivation, the more interesting question is: why did it become maskuline, when all other "-sel" words (that I know of) are neuter? Oct 11, 2019 at 8:08
  • @phipsgabler According to Duden, "Streusel" can be masculine or neuter.
    – Uwe
    Oct 11, 2019 at 8:45

1 Answer 1


The suffix is "-sel", which according to Grimm is a variant of "-sal". The German suffix "-sel" forms nouns from verbs, it is a cognate of Old English "-else" and Swedish "-else" [Wiktionary] and derived from Proto-Germanic "*-isliją" [Wiktionary].

  • A cognate to the English "dam-sel"?
    – Dan
    Oct 11, 2019 at 4:39
  • 1
    @Dan apparently not, following the links from mademoiselle we see PGem *-ilaz > Ger -el, with e.g. Schlüssel, Flügel, Wimpel, Wurzel, En. barrel, though the etymology is apparently uncertain. Which makes me wonder how certain this answer really is.
    – vectory
    Oct 11, 2019 at 5:53
  • 3
    @vectory But have also Mitbringsel < mitbringen, Anhängsel <- anhängen etc., so -sel is still productive.
    – dirkt
    Oct 11, 2019 at 7:13
  • 2
    @phipsgabler Note that the words formed with the suffix -sel are usually constructed quite transparently from a verb (mitbringen -> Mitbringsel, streuen -> Streusel, raten -> Rätsel, stoppen (Low German, corresponding to High German "stopfen") -> Stöpsel. One should not assume that every occurrence of "sel" can be traced back to the suffix -sel. In fact, in many cases, the "s" belongs to the root, rather than to a suffix.
    – Uwe
    Oct 11, 2019 at 8:40
  • 1
    And Esel relates to…? (SCNR, just kidding.)
    – glglgl
    Oct 11, 2019 at 9:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.