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I was trying to figure how to say "birthday book", i.e. a book or card made for someone's birthday. I tried using the rules of compounding words in German and came up with "Geburtstagebug". However, I'm wondering if that could be interpreted as "birthday diary" instead. What would be the right way to say this word?

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As you used card yourself, I want to clarify: If it is a (foldable) card of smaller format which you may insert in an envelope, the common German word is Geburtstagskarte or Glückwunschkarte (includes anniversaries, child births, etc.). You can buy them in places such as bookstores, stationeries or supermarkets.

Geburtstagsalbum sounds good, if the object is more book-like. Maybe you would need another word, if Album doesn't fit either.

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  • Yes, I was thinking more about a book-type thing. Geburtstagsalbum sounds great, thanks! – Skeleton Bow Mar 19 at 14:11
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It is a "Geburtstagsbuch" or "Geburtstagsalbum", if you mean the customs of making a book with photographies, stories, maybe some lyrics and so on from and about the life of the "Geburtstagskind" (a term not limited to childhood) so far. It may be in the form of a "Tagebuch" (diary or journal). But "Tagebuch" is more used for a very personal journal, often times kept hidden from the eyes of others by those who write one.

Goes without further links. I know that customs, but am unsure if it is practiced everywhere in Germany.

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  • That's interesting... I looked up rules to make compound plurals, and it told me to add an e which is why it turned out that way. My guess had been to use an s just like you did! – Skeleton Bow Mar 18 at 1:12
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    This is not a plural s. It is a Fugen-s, which has its own weird and not very systematic behaviour. (In fact, sometimes the Fugen-morph takes the form of an ending that isn't even in the word's declination table, such as "Liebe-s-brief".) – Kilian Foth Mar 18 at 7:47
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    @SkeletonBow: For me "Geburtstagsalbum" fits much better. Because it is a collection of personal pictures/ greetings/ etc. = an Album. A Buch is not such thing. Briefmarkenalbum, Poesiealbum, ... . One valid "excuse": Das Buch der Bücher = the bible is a collection as well – Shegit Brahm Mar 18 at 8:29
  • @ShegitBrahm: A book with a collection of personal (non-visual) greetings is an "Album" for you? That seems unusual to me. I'd never call a collection of stories "Album", which is why I wouldn't even remotely consider the bible to be possibly categorized as an "Album", either. – O. R. Mapper Mar 18 at 9:34
  • @O.R.Mapper: thanks for the hint, it shows me that my definition is not "fully thought-out" - and the usage in German might be at a similiar level of inconsistency like e.g. Kuchen and Torte. So I stand just with my example of Poesiealbum, while a collection of stories can be a book, like "50 best short stories of xxx" - they are usually not composed for an audience of 1-2 persona (and the stories itself are nonpersonal). And thus the bible is a book for me - and in detail a collection of books and letters of some personal degree. My point was focused on Geburtstagsalbum vs. -buch. – Shegit Brahm Mar 18 at 9:57
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As explained in a_donda's answer, "Geburtstagsbuch" should be the way to go. I would like to add some additional considerations about how native speakers might understand this, or related, words:

In general, compound nouns that comprise more than two individual parts can be parsed with different combinations of nouns. In the case of "Geburtstagsbuch", these possibilities would be:

  • Geburtstags-Buch
  • Geburts-Tagsbuch

In this case, the former is definitely more likely to be the one that comes to native speakers' minds, as "Geburtstag" is a set term, while "Tagsbuch" is not (at all).

With that said, note that just by using the word "Geburtstagsbuch", a host of possible interpretations comes to mind. It could be:

  • a book crafted for someone's birthday (as a gift)
  • a book reporting about someone's birthday (after the celebration or event)
  • a (purchased) book given as a birthday gift
  • a book with stories centering around birthdays
  • an encyclopedia of birthday customs around the world
  • a book with ideas on what to do for a birthday (party)
  • ...

Just by the word alone, each of these strikes me as equally likely, though context might clarify what you are talking about.

The compound you suggested, on the other hand - "Geburtstagebuch" -, has two equally likely ways to be resolved:

  • Geburtstage-Buch
  • Geburts-Tagebuch

Without the dash, the writing is the same, although the pronunciation might feature a subtly different stress.

Each of these options evokes a different mental picture:

A "Geburtstage-Buch" would be a book related to several birthdays, or birthdays in general. This could be:

  • a book where you keep memories from different birthdays (in this interpretation, "Geburtstagetagebuch" would indeed be a valid, if clumsy, name, as well)
  • a book where you keep a list of dates of birth
  • as above, a book that deals with birthdays in general in some way, i.e. the aforementioned encyclopedia or DIY guide

A "Geburts-Tagebuch", on the other hand, would indeed be some sort of a diary, related to (usually one) childbirth. It could, for instance, be a book where memories of the days right before and especially after a baby's birth are kept.


If it is, on the other hand, just a card (i.e. a single sheet of paper or thin cardboard, or one that is folded at most once), as also mentioned by you, it cannot be called "Buch" in German. In that case, it is simply a "Geburtstagskarte".

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    I've never heard Geburtstagsbuch being used anywhere. I advise against this. – infinitezero Mar 18 at 9:47
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    ... I agree "Geburtstagsbuch" is not a set term (as I already indicated by the multitude of valid interpretations), but it definitely is an idiomatic-sounding compound that could naturally be used by a native speaker for lack of a common term, and as all the links show, I'm apparently by far not the only native speaker to think so. – O. R. Mapper Mar 18 at 10:16
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    I have received a Geburtstagsalbum myself and helped fabricate at least 2 (Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemberg, international mix of people at work and university). They are real. They may, though, not be known everywhere. – a_donda Mar 18 at 10:33
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    I've only seen this being done once in my life (parents' present to a 18 year old, kinda disapproved), and they just called it Fotoalbum. Geburtstagsbuch strikes me as a terribly clumsy word (as if coming from Google translate), although of course that may indeed just be the correct word in some dialect. Some dialects have words that you've never heard of, you never know... – Damon Mar 18 at 11:12

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