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Perusing through my Russian-German dictionary, I came across a word "ten-story" (in Russian, of course) as in "a ten-story building". The German translations were:

zehngeschossig and

neunstöckig

I was surprised that neunstöckig means ten-story. According to dict.cc, zehngeschossig means ten-story and neunstöckig means nine-story.

So, is it a mistake in my Russian-German dictionary or can neunstöckig indeed sometimes mean ten-story?

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    In some languages the ground floor is the first floor; in German the ground floor is Erdgeschoss. The one above is the first floor. Thus a zehngeschössiges house has floors one to nine – Bernhard Döbler Jan 5 at 18:41
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Yes, zehngeschossig and neunstöckig can mean the same building.

The reason is that

Geschoss means floor (everything that is on one level). There is, consequently, also an Erdgeschoss (ground floor), a Dachgeschoss (attic or so), Zwischengeschoss (some lesser floor intermediate level, e.g. for keeping auxiliary rooms), etc.

Stock always means a level of the building put on top of the ground level parts of the building. You may also say Stockwerk (synonym). So, as a consequence, if you say Stock you refer to one of the Obergeschosse, but not the Erdgeschoss. Der erste Stock always means the floor above ground level, der zweite Stock means floor Number 3 (if you count ground level as floor Number 1).

Notably, there is no Erdstock! (I made this word up here.)

Admittedly, in everyday German, people often confuse this. But architects and other experts should know the difference and use it correctly. It may happen that people say Komm mich besuchen. Meine Wohnung ist im zweiten Geschoss, where they actually mean im zweiten Stock, i.e. third floor. But you will probably more often hear Meine Wohnung ist im zweiten Stock (correctly used).

More confusion: there is also a problem with Etage, which actually should be synonym to Geschoss, but people sometimes falsely use it for Stock. Ich wohne in der ersten Etage can - in everyday life - mean both: "I am living on ground floor", or "I am living on second floor". The foggy use of Etage is recorded even in the Duden dictionary where we read: "Etage: Geschoss, besonders Obergeschoss."

Take-away conclusion: If you use the terms, try to use them correctly. If you find the terms used somewhere (in a description of an apartment to rent, or whereever) you have to judge by the environment (where is it published, how is the level of German used there, is it a publication with expert editors, or some everybody media...) what they could actually mean by zehngeschossig or zehnstöckig.

PS: Your dictionary seems to be a good one.

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    "Admittedly, in everyday German, people often confuse this." - in everyday German, the "Erdgeschoss" and all subterranean levels count as "Stockwerke", as well. The distinction is indeed only made in professional circles such as among architects. "im zweiten Geschoss, where they actually mean im zweiten Stock, i.e. third floor" - but "Stock" is a synonym of "Obergeschoss", which in turn may be shortened to "Geschoss". Seen like this, the wording "im zweiten Geschoss" sounds semantically correct, if possibly ambiguous. – O. R. Mapper Jan 5 at 20:54
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    And as an addendum to my above comment: The "-stöckig" usually expresses something with respect to the height of the building, which is why it typically only includes any levels above ground. Nonetheless, the "Erdgeschoss" is typically counted, as well - Google Images for "einstöckiges Haus", "zweistöckiges Haus", and "dreistöckiges Haus" gives quite a good impression of how widespread that interpretation of the term is, even though it may be considered incorrect in professional circles. – O. R. Mapper Jan 5 at 21:09
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    @O.R.Mapper Yes, that's right. People often say zweistöckig when they mean zweigeschossig, i.e. a house with ground floor and one upper floor. Anyway, it is bad usage, and everybody is well-advised to use terms correctly. – Christian Geiselmann Jan 6 at 7:45
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    @O.R.Mapper I cannot imagine even laymen call a building with 3 subterranean floors (drei Kelleretagen) and 3 above-surface floors a sechsstöckiges Haus. Won't happen, at least not in that part of the world where I am living. Such a house would most probably be adressed as a Haus mit sechs Etagen. Even though there may be considerable regional differences in using the various terms on laymen level. – Christian Geiselmann Jan 6 at 7:54
  • Certainly, as I wrote, that usually refers just to levels above ground. One caveat, though: Here in Southern Germany, buildings built on slopes are not unusual, and it is not always obvious where the Erdgeschoss is located (or whether there is even more than one). Also, having something that looks like a "Hochparterre" doesn't make counting easier, either. – O. R. Mapper Jan 7 at 6:28
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Please note that in some parts of Germany you use the "American" floor numbering:

The former GDR (eastern Germany) and parts of Baden in the south-west of Germany.

My family comes from a part of Baden where the "American" floor numbering system is traditionally used by families that live in that region for multiple generations.

Before reading this StackExchange question I understood "ground floor plus 8 more floors" when reading the word "neunstöckig" which is the same as "neungeschossig" and one floor less than "zehngeschossig".

It is possible that some person coming from eastern Germany would also understand the word "neunstöckig" that way!

So be careful when using these words.

  • I'm from the former GDR (was born after the reunification), and don't remember a building that used the "american" floor numbering. – ixolius Jan 14 at 14:43
  • @ixolius In another question on this site some user from Leipzig said that in many buildings there the lift buttons are "1" instead of "EG", "2" instead of "1. OG" and so on... – Martin Rosenau Jan 15 at 16:59
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I think this is most likely to be attributed to the difference in floor numbering systems. Russians, like Americans, call the floor above ground level второй этаж, literally 'second floor'. Germans, like the British, call it erste Stock, literally 'first floor'.

In any case, there isn't any difference in numbering between -geschossig and -stöckig.

  • There are many examples of zweigeschossig meaning ground floor and one upper floor. Some of these examples do have an attic, but this is, in my humble opinion, not usually considered a floor, the same way that a flat roof isn't considered an extra floor. – vectory Jan 6 at 22:58

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