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I’ve heard of people saying Mineralwasser; should it automatically be understood as sparking water? Also, I heard (some) people saying Wasser mit Gas or Gaswasser, however, I don’t think I was always understood correctly. So, what should I say, if I want to be almost always understood that I would like to order sparkling (carbonated) water?

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    Are you sure "Wasser mit Gas" and "Gaswasser" weren't actually "Wasser im Glas" and "[ein] Glas Wasser"? – O. R. Mapper Apr 8 at 5:50
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    My own experience with this was in the restaurant car on a train in Austria. In my very rusty German I asked the guy behind the counter for "Zwei Cola und ein Mineralwasser, bitte". Without missing a beat, he said in perfect English, "still or sparkling?" :D – Muzer Apr 8 at 9:52
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    You've just started the war of the regional variations of German :-) Looks like "mit Gas" is very divisive, with some saying "nobody in their right mind would say that" while Swiss people say it all the time... – jcaron Apr 9 at 15:11
  • @jcaron I mean… can we really be sure that the Swiss are in their right minds? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 10 at 11:35
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    @Tom: Seems somewhat irrelevant, as different languages use similar-sounding words in different ways. Note, for instance, that to an American, "gas" also denotes petrol used to fuel a vehicle. In German, in contrast, when we say a vehicle runs on "Gas", it does specifically not use conventional petrol, but natural gas. Likewise, at least regionally, "Gas" in general is colloquially understood as something used to heat your house or run a stove, but not something you'd want to ingest. – O. R. Mapper Apr 12 at 11:06

16 Answers 16

28

There are so many ways to express this and so many degrees and notions of what makes a sparkling water sparkling. When I first used the term "mit Gas" in German it was a humorous copy of how to express it during the vacation I had before (Spanish- "con gas"). Maybe the term "mit Gas" generally was imported into German, because "Gas" is usually not used for "Kohlensäure" (CO2) alone, but also for combustibles like propane, etc. (valid until correction ...)

The most understandable way in genuine German and my suggestion to express the order would be "Wasser mit Kohlensäure". Other expressions like e.g. "Sprudelwasser" are imaginable.

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    I've seen clauses in menus stating "An order of mineral water without further specification defaults to [default] if not explicitly stated otherwise" :-) – a_donda Apr 7 at 12:12
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    I think many bottles I saw in Austria used "prickelnd" on the label. Rather obvious to me as a Dutch native speaker. – Paul Palmpje Apr 7 at 20:17
  • @PaulPalmpje: könnte das in der Community-Wiki-Antwort mit erfasst werden? german.stackexchange.com/a/58077/36160 – Shegit Brahm Apr 8 at 10:38
  • In Austria, the term "Sodawasser" is common. Be careful with "Mineralwasser", as it doesn't necessitate sparkling water. – MechMK1 Apr 8 at 11:25
  • @ShegitBrahm Sure, done. It's just something I remembered from my many ski-trips. – Paul Palmpje Apr 8 at 11:29
34

In Germany, Mineralwasser typically refers to carbonated sparkling water. Many people, including me, who were raised in Eastern Germany, would call all carbonated sparkling waters Selters, even though Selterswasser is a brand of a particular water from a mineral spring in the Taunus region.

If only water is mentioned, you can specify, whether it should be sparkling or not, by saying something like:

Wasser mit / ohne …

  • … Sprudel
  • … Kohlensäure

Water that does not sparkle is also called

stilles Wasser

For me, the specification … mit / ohne Gas sounds weird. It may be a direct translation from the English with / without gas or the Spanish con / sin gas. I have only heard this from non-native fellow students and colleagues.

Nowadays, there are also water bottles with the imprint

Wasser medium

This is sparkling water that sparkles less than typical sparkling water.

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    Klar, alles möglich. – Carsten S Apr 7 at 11:44
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    Sparkling water might also be "Tafelwasser" (factory bottled tap water, basically). The defining characteristic of "Mineralwasser" is not the sparkle, but that it has minerals in it. However the only people who care about this are people who check food labels, I think in common parlance "Mineralwasser" and carbonated water are pretty much equivalent. – Eike Pierstorff Apr 7 at 20:12
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    +1, just one remark: At least for me, living in southern Germany, "Wasser mit Sprudel" sounds a bit weird. Here people would just say "Sprudel". – luator Apr 8 at 7:36
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    @StephanKolassa, von den ersten 10 gelisteten Seiten, auf denen die Kombination Wasser mit Gas vorkommt, geht es in nur 3 tatsächlich um Mineralwasser. Der Rest beschäftigt sich mit Sanitär, Erdgas, Gashydraten usw. Und von den 3 relevanten haben wiederum 2 eklatante Schreibfehler, sodass man davon ausgehen muss, dass dort sprachliche Aspekte eine untergeordnete Rolle spielen. Das genügt mir nicht als Indiz für absolute Gängigkeit. Davon abgesehen habe ich den relevanten Absatz mit den Worten Für mich ... eingeleitet. – Björn Friedrich Apr 8 at 10:08
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    Naja, ich arbeite seit 16 Jahren in der Schweiz, und wenn ich im Restaurant "ein Mineral" bestelle (Betonung auf dem i!), dann werde ich gefragt "mit Gas?", und die Bedienungen sind sicher keine non-natives. Das ist täglicher Gebrauch, der sich im WWW möglicherweise nicht niederschlägt. – Stephan Kolassa Apr 8 at 10:22
14

Collection of regional usage

For sparkling water there are various terms in German, and the common use in everyday life varies considerably in the various regions of the German speaking part of the world.

Therefore I offer here a community Wiki to collect the popular usage.

Think of how you would most shortly and clearly tell a waitress that you would like to have a glass of sparkling water, and don't forget to state your region.

  • North Rhine-Westphalia: einen Sprudel
  • Swabia: Saurer Sprudel / einen sauren Sprudel bitte
  • Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: ein(e) Selter, Selters
  • Brandenburg: Selter, Selters
  • Switzerland:
    • ein Mineralwasser mit Kohlensäure (formal)
    • ein Mineralwasser mit Gas
    • ein Henniez
    • ein Blöterliwasser (informal, dialectal)
    • ein Chrüseliwasser (informal, dialectal)
  • Austria:
    • ein prickelndes Mineralwasser
    • ein Sodawasser (if you don't care about minerals)
  • Schleswig-Holstein: ein Mineralwasser
  • Berlin: at restaurant: Mineralwasser (in private Selter(s) can also be heard)
  • Yep, a nice list. I grew up at the banks of the river Lahn, Selters lies just upstream. And I've lived >30 years in south-western Germany and there I rarely heard "Selters" as an order for sparkling water. As you say, "saurer Sprudel" is the local expression there. – a_donda Apr 8 at 12:34
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    As a Swiss, I would not say "ein Mineral mit Gas". I would use the word Kohlensäure. Also another word would be "Blöterliwasser", though that I would not use to order at a restaurant. – NateMS Apr 8 at 12:43
  • Sprudel will most certainly also work in Rhineland Palatine, Saarland and likely Baden Württemberg. – Frank Hopkins Apr 8 at 21:02
  • Definitely will in Baden Württemberg, yes. Not all of it is swabian, but enough ;) – Syndic Apr 9 at 5:56
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    In Austria, I would recommend "Mineralwasser" or "Sodawasser". While "prickeld" is the correct description for sparkling water, it is used as a distinction between "prickelnd" (lots of gas), "mild" (a bit of gas) and "still" (no gas, usually for mineral water) – MechMK1 Apr 10 at 13:02
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In Germany, sparkling water is pretty much ubiquitous. I personally dislike all sparkling beverages and I found out that if I just ordered water (Wasser) it would be sparkling water. I would almost go as far as saying that any order for simply water will get you sparkling water but that will probably be disproved by that one single restaurant sitting right on a non-sparkling mineral water fountain locally prized for its tasty water which will interpret Wasser as non-sparkling water. However, in 99.9 % of cases you will get sparkling water when simply ordering water.

If you want to make it absolutely unambiguously clear that you want the sparkling type, your options are:

  • Sprudel or Selters – these two brands are understood all over the country as referring to a generic sparkling water. I tend to connect Selters more with my relatives from Berlin while Sprudel seems to be more common in most parts of former West Germany (it is often the case that there is an East/West divide with genericised brand names although it is not as common to see West Berlin following the East German name).

  • Wasser mit Kohlensäure – the long and fully correct way of saying it. But, I would probably suggest sticking to Wasser until asked whether you want it with or without.

I advise against using Wasser mit Gas. It will most likely be understood but in my humble opinion it is not the most idiomatic way of expressing sparkling water. Gaswasser does not work. In fact, reading it my brain first associated it with Gas/Wasser/Scheiße, a tongue-in-cheek generic name for any municipal utility supplier and waste remover (water and gas supply, sewage removal).

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    This should be the accepted answer, based on my experience growing up in Germany 1973-2002 – jdog Apr 8 at 6:05
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    To complete this answer: Explicitely asking for non-sparkling water can be done with "Wasser ohne Kohlensäure", "stilles Wasser" -- or if you don't even care for the minerals: "Leitungswasser" (tap water -- which, in germany, is as clean and drinkable as bottled water. Only the local calcium level is responsible for different tap water taste in different regions.) – orithena Apr 8 at 11:42
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    as a (southwestern - might vary based on the tribe of germans you're interacting with :P) german, I'm upvoting this one. "Sprudel" will get you what you want. Some people will call it "saurer Sprudel", not because it's actually sour but to differentiate it from "süßer Sprudel" (which would be lemonade) – Syndic Apr 8 at 11:54
  • Came here to say this.... just order water. You will never get tap water and so it's never free, but I wouldn't expect to ever get water without carbonation without being asked – xyious Apr 8 at 16:22
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    Is "Sprudel" really a brand name? I thought it was a generic (although maybe colloquial) term to begin with. – das-g Apr 8 at 22:02
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I'm from Germany and while I guess most people would understand "Wasser mit Gas", it definitely sounds very odd to a native German speaking person.

Actually, water with gas is the default in Germany. I myself usually just order "ein Wasser bitte". 99.99% of the time it will default to water with gas or you will be asked whether you want it with gas ("mit Kohlensäure").

If you want to make absolutely sure, just order "ein Wasser mit Kohlensäure". You can also say "ein Mineralwasser", which (similarly to "ein Wasser") will default to water with gas.

Because of these defaults, an order for water without gas must be different: Make sure to say e.g. "ein stilles Wasser" / "ein Wasser ohne Kohlensäure".

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For utmost brevity, you might say "mit", and hope to be understood, at least if asked "mit oder ohne?"

Otherwise, the other answers apply. Kohlensäure would be my first guess. Sprudel is well acceptable. The bottle I'm looking at right now says classic, which is not even German, but shows a trend which I wouldn't have guessed existed, if it wasn't mentioned in a comment. Gas is outright wrong. Stilles doesn't help here, insofar the opposite nicht still, kein Stilles is suboptimal, whereas *Stilles is not being asked about (nor does it work with mit/ohne). Neither of these might have the right ring to it, as a matter of subjectivity, so I'm adding another one.

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  • While I appreciate your adding "mit oder ohne" - now any answer option in my mind is covered. I'd like to insist that your mentioned trend is unexplained/left open for further questionmarks. So I'd rather write it differently to point out "there seems to be a trend to call it ...". And I'd appreciate to read it the other way round about "Stilles" - that this is the version without CO2 and due to ... "kein Stilles" is suboptimal to express "mit". Your answer, you decision. – Shegit Brahm Apr 7 at 15:19
  • Ii'm really just referring to an exchange I had with an immigrant the other day. – vectory Apr 7 at 15:27
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    "Gas is outright wrong" - that depends on where you are. In Switzerland, this is completely standard. – Stephan Kolassa Apr 8 at 9:54
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For the least troublesome experience, I would simply go with "Mineralwasser". You are -- rough guess -- about 50% likely to either be asked "mit oder ohne Kohlensäure?", or by default just given sparkling water.

If asked "mit oder ohne", tell them "mit". Done.

There is an additional thing to watch out for, which is Tafelwasser. No, Tafelwasser is not tap water in a caraffe, as you would expect e.g. in France. If only it was! It is not particularly exquisite water either, as the word "Tafel" (which is a more courtly version of "table") would suggest.
Tafelwasser is the same as Mineralwasser (and costs similar) except for the tiny detail that Mineralwasser has a rather low minimun quality standard (indeed worse than tap water), and Tafelwasser has next to no quality standard at all. Tafelwasser is the worst, most inferior thing that you are legally allowed fill in bottles and sell -- way too expensive -- with the designation "for human consumption". While there may exist some Tafelwasser which is actually drinkable, I'd personally rather drink from the tap.

There's a lot of other words that one could use instead of Mineralwasser, but not all are easy to pronounce, understood everywhere, or rather colloquial, or trouble-free otherwise.
For example, Selters is normally understood just fine (if for no other reason because of "Sekt oder Selters") but technically it's a brand name like Tempo or Jaccuzi. While "Gib mir ein Tempo" will -- almost guaranteed -- never be a source of discussion with anyone, ordering Selters in a Restaurant may very well get you "Wir haben nur Appolinaris/Adelholzner/Wasauchimmer". So, rather than sitting there and wondering what the hell an Adelholzner (what kind of wood? I wanted water...) may be, you might as well just say Mineralwasser.
Or, say, Bizzelwasser? Well, it should be Bitzelwasser in the first place, again, Bizzel is a (deliberately misspelled) brandname. But ordering a Bizzelwasser kinda makes you sound like a 5 year old (or a 75 year old talking to a 5 year old). Sure, you will likely still get what you want, only just it may not deliver the exact impression that you want.
Sprudel? I'm guessing you will be OK with that in Bavaria (that is indeed the only word for Mineralwasser that my grandmother knows). Somewhere in the north? They'll probably still understand, but... not sure. 40 years ago, I got puzzled looks when I used the only word that I knew for that thing. Might have changed. Things do change. Sometimes.

Now, Wasser mit Gas is... just... weird. Don't say that, it's not German (not in a de-DE way, anyway). Not sure where this comes from, maybe Austria? They seem to have a lot of funny words like that. Schlagoberst? No soldiers will be beaten. Verlängerter? It's not as obscene a thing as you might think. Palatschinken? No ham involved, sorry. Doppler? Would you be surprised if that referred to a a bottle?

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  • no we don't say mit Gas either. That's Switzerland. Schlagoberst (very funny...), is actually Schlagobers, whipped cream. – dlatikay Apr 9 at 19:21
  • Nice answer. @dlatikay Maybe the French "eau gazeuse" / "adjonction de gaz carbonique" makes some more people say "mit Gas" in Switzerland, more than OP observes in Germany. But that is just the same roman "con gaz" spill-over, and a bit weird. As a Swiss I am relieved to see that these "Real German" words like Sprudel and Selters (USA: Seltzers!) are not an easy solution. – rastafile Apr 10 at 6:13
  • LOL the way you hit the sack (South-eastern German:-) and mean the donkey ("mit Gas"). – rastafile Apr 10 at 7:02
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To add one observation: Mineralwasser will get you a sparkling water in almost all cases, but some waiters will not double check with you and might give you a flat water. I suppose that this is a regional quirk. I'm from the western region but the waiter/waitress might be socialized anywhere, so I can only guess why Mineralwasser sometimes didn't give me the desired drink.

As this happened to me a few times (an avid sparkling water orderer who used to eat out in restaurants almost daily), I started using Mineralwasser mit Sprudel to emphasize that I desire sparkling water. The term however is a little clunky and not the norm and may sound awkward.

As always with choice of words, it depends on the occasion and speaker. Saying Wasser mit Sprudel is fine and pretty informal. If I was eating out in a formal setting, I would use Wasser mit Kohlensäure. Both terms will ensure that the waiting staff does not have to ask you whether you want gas or not. If you use Mineralwasser, there is a relatively small but real chance that you end up with a flat water or that you have to go through the minor ordeal of clarification (At least in the west and the north). Since I want to avoid that, I do not use Mineralwasser without adding mit Sprudel anymore.

Do not say mit Gas. It is not used in Germany. It's a one-to-one translation from romance languages. It will most likely be understood, especially in restaurants but it is not the correct term and will at best sound weird.

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  • there is also gazowany und niegazowany in polish, used as an adjective to the noun - and used alone with the question: gazowany i niegazowany? – Shegit Brahm Apr 8 at 9:31
  • Ah thanks for that info! I only knew it from the romance languages. – Toto Apr 8 at 10:18
  • "Do not say mit Gas. It is not used in Germany." But definitely used in Switzerland, where the automatic reaction to "Mineralwasser" is quite often "Mit or ohne Gas"? Though of course it may depend on which part of Switzerland... – jcaron Apr 9 at 15:08
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If you want to be universally understood, I believe you have to go with «Mineralwasser mit Kohlensäure».

A nice overview of regional variation, including several ones not mentioned here so far, can be found at Die Getränke-Studie: Teil 2 – Kohlensäurehaltiges Mineralwasser on Kristian Baltruweit’s blog “Mapes Colorides”. He made a proper online survey in the style of the Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache and has evaluated 1523 answers.

Here is Baltruweit’s overview map, but his discussion of the results is definitly worth reading (and so are his results for Zitronenlimonade, Cola-Orangenlimonade-Mischung, and Bier-Limonade-Mischung, and do not miss Die Getränke-Studie: Teil 1 – Einführung):

Wort 1: Kohlensäurehaltiges Mineralwasser

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2

If you just want to be understood you might also say

  • (Wasser) mit Zisch
  • Kribbelwasser
  • Brizzelwasser
  • nervöses Wasser
  • bitte (in) sprudelig

and so on. Those words are more or less figurative, and any good German speaker should understand them. (Sorry to say that the service personnel in restaurants and bars quite often are not good German speakers.) Those expressions are not really colloquial in the sense of 'widely used', but one can come across them from time to time.

Once upon a time there was a long discussion about it on dict.leo.org. There you can learn details from different regional expressions for 'Mineralwasser mit'.

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  • What about Blubberwasser? – Christian Geiselmann Apr 8 at 12:34
  • I don't think this is good advice for non-natives. Listeners unconsciously attune their linguistic expectation to the language variant used by the speaker. This means if a native speaker orders a Brizzelwasser, they will infer that the speaker knows the word, that it's an existing word, and that it's appropriate to use the word in a restaurant context, which helps to narrow down the meaning to "water with gas". If a non-native speaker uses the same word, they can't make the same inference as easily, and are likely to ask a clarifying question – which is exactly what the OP wants to avoid. – Schmuddi Apr 9 at 9:35
  • Im Hessischen - besonders im Raum Frankfurt - ist auch "Bitzelwasser" geläufig. Vgl. lagis-hessen.de/de/subjects/browse/pageSize/30/page/342/rsq//sn/… und erlebnisraum-frankfurt.de/kunst-kultur/sehenswuerdigkeiten/…. – Paul Frost May 9 at 23:21
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As different dialects abound in Germany (making communications difficult) as as they tend to often be quite different form one-another the first advice would be to stick to Hochdeutsch. There it becomes a matter then of saying "Ich möchte bitte Sprudelwasser". You might also just ask for water "Ich möchte bitte Wasser" and might then be asked "mit oder ohne Sprudel" (with or without bubbles) to which you would reply "mit" (with).

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Since nobody mentioned it yet: If you only care about the carbonated part and not about the mineral part (i.e., if carbonated tap water is fine for you), you can just order Sodawasser.

If carbonated tap water is not available for some reason, the waiter will usually suggest carbonated mineral water instead, and you only have to agree.


Note: Duden describes Sodawasser as "mit Kohlensäure versetztes Mineralwasser", but, in my personal experience (Austria), restaurants make a difference between Sodawasser (carbonated tap water) and Mineralwasser (bottled mineral water).

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You just order "ein Wasser". That's sparkling by default, though you may get the question "mit oder ohne Kohlensäure?" to which you reply "mit, bitte". The definite article is important: just asking for "Wasser" means potable water rather than an orderable item. While it would be rather unusual in Germany to get that (you'd never get it without the server making sure that you indeed mean "Leitungswasser"), the definite article makes clear that you order a regular beverage.

So don't leave off "ein" in "Kann ich ein Wasser dazu bekommen?" oder "Ich hätte gerne ein Wasser."

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Sparkling water is called "Wasser mit Gas", or "Wasser mit Kohlensäure". For normal water one says "stilles Wasser" whereby one could also say "unruhiges Wasser" for sparkling water, but nobody say this!

So I would use "Wasser mit Kohlensäure" for sparkling water in German.

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  • Do you think it is useful to restructure your answer a bit to clarify what is common and what would be logical yet is uncommon? I'd say your answer contains what I would answer (despite "mit Gas"). I just find it a bit hard to differentiate and make right reference. – Shegit Brahm Apr 7 at 12:18
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    okei, but I have clearly written what I would recommend (Wasser mit Kohlensäure) and have listed different options (for normal water and sparkling water), so I don't know what your problem is ... – SwissCodeMen Apr 7 at 14:07
  • My suggestion: > Sparkling water is called Wasser mit Gas or Wasser mit Kohlensäure. For normal water one says stilles Wasser. So I would use **Wasser mit Kohlensäure** for sparkling water in German. Whereby it looks logical one could also say unruhiges Wasser for sparkling water - but nobody says this! < (Here my question stays: you mention two wordings just would use only one - what happens to "mit Gas" for usage? And I left your wording as close as possible, it is your answer. I see mixture of how to call, what to use, the range and the impossibilities) – Shegit Brahm Apr 7 at 14:18
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    Nobody in his right mind says Wasser mit Gas. Or, if somebody uses it, then just by using a term heared somewhere during holidays in a foreign country where a waiter asked "With gas?". It is however not (yet?) the proper way of expression in German. – Christian Geiselmann Apr 7 at 14:20
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    @ShegitBrahm I generally use Sprudelwasser for sparkling water, that is not a way to order it at a restaurant, though. – Chieron Apr 7 at 20:22
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Short answer:

Wasser mit Kohlensäure

At least in Germany this will be understood everywhere.

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  • This has been said a hundret times now and does not add anything new. – Björn Friedrich May 4 at 5:50
  • @BjörnFriedrich it hasn't been said in one or two sentences. That's new – amadeusamadeus May 4 at 15:05
-2

"Ein Mineral, mit"

...followed by an eye contact (the waiter will be nodding while noting/entering) should be enough.

You already seem to have found out that Gas does not even clarify (and worse, sadly). Of course you can ask the manufacturer: "Wie kommt das Gas in die Flaschen?". This is gas in its physical sense. Also "Gas geben" is OK when it is about an engine.

If the waiter does not understand, but looks at you expectingly, you have two choices.

Kohlensäure (coal acid...yummy! but Ce-Oh-Zwei: no)

The standard word.


Bläschen (small bubbles)

This is pronounced S and CH, not SCH. From die Blase. The -chen is important here.

It might sound a bit childish, and not actually for ordering.

I just want to add that "mit Blöterli", or "Blöterliwasser" is well known but rarely used in Swiss German. Has a social criticism connotation, somehow. Note bladder - Blotere - Blase, but the anatomical Blase is Blose.

duden.de only has Schaumbläschen, and defines Champagner and Sekt as Schaumwein. Bläschen by itself is missing, I think this is a gap. But it has both

Schaumbläschen - als Bestandteil von Schaum vorhandenes Bläschen

Schaumblase - Blase, die Teil eines Schaums ist

(my beard is not long enough to analyze the difference between Besandteil von and Teil eines)

Wie prickelnde Bläschen in den Champagner kommen. (welt.de)


Sekt oder Selters

Schaumwein oder ?Bläschenwasser


What was the Q?

to order sparkling (carbonated) water

I am afraid the missing context made me digress a bit with Bläschen.

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  • supposed to be funny? well, this is German.SE, there is only serious business ;-) – Shegit Brahm Apr 8 at 11:50
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    @ShegitBrahm Bläschen instead of Gas is funny, serious and sexy at the same time. And the comparison of water and wine...elementary. – rastafile Apr 8 at 12:04

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