I try currently to translate a German article written before 1920 by mathematician Helmert.

I have translated some words, such as der Werth to der Wert or complicirt as kompliziert, and Function as Funktion.

But, I don't know how to translate from old German to current German the following words in the following sentences:

Man kann in angegebener Weise die Frage successive für n=3,4,… weiter behandeln, falls nur die jedesmal vorausgehende Integration möglich ist.

Microsoft Word underlines successive and jedesmal in red!

How can I translate these two words in new German?

Für den zweiten Theil der Formeln (11) genügt (da hier wesentlich nur dir spätere Curvenconstruction ins Auge gefasst ist) die direkte Reihenentwicklung


Ist n nur einigermassen groß, so hat man nach der Formel


Schon Poisson hat bei einer ähnlichen Untersuchung (mit m=1) gezeigt, dass jedenfalls eine Beschränkung auf denkbare Fehlergesetze nöthig ist und φ(+ε) nicht jede denkbare Funktion von ε sein darf.

  • 3
    I'm puzzled. You are using Microsoft Word and it's spelling correction doesn't suggest the right words? Except for Curvenconstruction maybe
    – mtwde
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 22:23
  • 14
    The only good place for Microsoft Word spellchecking for German is the dust bin. (Okay, you can make it work by entering, over years of editing German texts, all the words it does not know or does wrongly report as wrong, but if you are able to do this, you are obviously superiour to this fool-tool anyway.) Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 22:52
  • 16
    This is not "old" German, though... just that the spelling has changed a bit. Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 9:14
  • 5
    @schlebe I think that change is a bit older; I moved to the UK in 1994 and "missed" the 1996 reform (in fact, I'm pretty much ignoring it). There was a conference in 1901 (de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthographische_Konferenz_von_1901), but that was probably a bit too early for your text -- unless the author (like me!) grew up beforehand and continued in his use of orthography. Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 13:34
  • 3
    It's old German, but not Old (High or Low) German.
    – chepner
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 14:19

4 Answers 4


I'm not sure I understand the question. Every single one of your tokens merely deviates orthographically from current norms -- in other words, everything could be expressed exactly the same way today, only the spelling would differ. I don't quite see how applying current orthographic norms constitutes a "translation". Be that as it may:

  • successive - now: sukzessive
  • jedesmal - now: jedes Mal
  • Curvenconstruction - now: Kurvenkonstruktion
  • einigermassen - now: einigermaßen (Germany/Austria) or einigermassen (Switzerland)
  • nöthig - now: nötig
  • Thanks for this answer. This seems now very simple. Somes 'c' are remplaced with 'k' (Curven/Reduction)), somes 'th" by only 't' (Werth/nöthig), some 's' by 'z' and some 'ss' by 'ß'. Only successive is specific but can be explained ! It would be interesting to have some explanations about this spelling reform that (certainly) has simplified orthograhy of words (we write as we pronounce) but has lost his origin (English/French/Latin) ! But this is perhaps for another question ;-)
    – schlebe
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 7:28
  • 6
    @schlebe Indeed. Several of the changes that you mention (eg the abandonment of th, the "Germanisation" of words like Curve, the need for ß rather than ſs in einigermaßen) were "made official" at the Second Orthographic Conference of 1901 (the resulting rules can be found here: archive.org/details/Regeln-fuer-die-deutsche-Rechtschreibung; the Duden (8th edn 1908) has a chapter explaining some of the changes: archive.org/details/…).
    – johnl
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 12:11
  • @schlebe By the way, there are two common replacements for “c”, namely “k” and “z”. They (mostly?) appear in words imported from Latin and most of these words have also been imported into English. If you recognize the English equivalent, you can normally figure out the right replacement: It is “k” if (and only if) the “c” in the English word is pronounced like “k”. Otherwise, the right replacement is “z”. So, for example “Circus” becomes “Zirkus” as only the second “c” is pronounced like “k”. (Word can probably tell you whether you’ve got it right.) Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 14:49

While we could assist for any specific word, I'm afraid, that you are asking for a dictionary German(1920) to German (2020).

Some patterns may be observed by looking at reference works of that time as retrobibliothek, but I'm not aware of a web resource providing the compilation which would help you.

I think I once had an aspell dictionary for a significantly older German than before last orthography change, but that would not help for MS-Word.

Known patterns (from old to new):

  • c -> k or z
  • th -> t
  • ie <-> i (both directions appear, see complicirt but also giebt)
  • Comparatives had no inserted e, so größern was correct.
  • y -> i (Crystall -> Kristall), also in the diphthong combination ey->ei

All the previous answers are very good, but I would like to add an other a bit more general way to "decipher" older writings and to an extend writen Mundart(dialect).

The trick is to read them out loud and look for words in current speech that sound familiar. With this and looking at the context of the sentence you can work out what is ment.

With this technique you could read even older texts (I have tried it on a approximately 16. century text and it worked surprising well)


The main problem I see, is that your source predates at least 3 revolutions in german orthography. The first one happened after WW1, 2 others in late 90's early 2000's and I'm not sure if the influence of allied administration lead to another one taking part after WW2.

Adding to guidot's short list of known patterns, I remember

  • ae / oe / ue -> ä ö ü
  • overworking of comma-rules
  • adjustments how well known "imported words" are written especially during the last 2 overworkings (Portemonaie -> Portmonee)

For a short time it was even debated if we should give up orthography rules and allow writing like it sounds

  • 2
    @Martin Zeitler: This ("made worse") is a highly opinionated point of view. -- Your comment about refugees and the alleged lowering of standards is completely unnecessary here (to say it carefully)
    – ohno
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 10:52
  • @ohno please read carefully before commenting - instead of voicing understatements. your political "correctness" is probably just as unnecessary, since you only read what you want to read, not what I've written (even if this does not match the US propaganda localized to German language)... my point simply is, that any culture is defined by language, food, music, etc. - and these all were degenerated since the EU takeover, while some are proud of that. In the US, this is simply called "crap culture".
    – user15822
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 18:10

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