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

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