This week, I have seen a shop sign1 that basically ran as:

Am Montag, den 4. Mai 2020 sind wir in alter Frische wieder für Sie da.

I understand that “in alter Frische“ could mean “fully operational”, “fresh as ever” etc and would like to know how this interesting phrase came into being.

EDIT: Also found this text on Google Images, which seems to appear in many humorous formats.

enter image description here

Source: (1) Paraphrased from Linguee

  • 2
    Interestingly, the Website redensarten-index.de does in this case not suggest an origin but resorts to a lazy "colloquial expression" pseudo explanation. So I would be curious too, if something like a source or a place of first occurrence can be found. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 8:18
  • I found it used in a letter from Erich Schmidt and Theodor Storm January 1883 here.
    – guidot
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 8:44
  • 3
    Further match in Jenaer Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung from 1836 here.
    – guidot
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 8:54

1 Answer 1


The meaning of the phrase is not idiomatic, i.e. it is semantically transparent: Frische means vigour and alt means former. Phrases of this kind can be formed ad hoc; they have no special genesis.

https://www.dwds.de/wb/alt#d-1-6 paraphrases alt with früher, vorherig and gives the example:

etw. befindet sich am alten Fleck, Platz

https://www.dwds.de/wb/Frische#d-1-1 paraphrases Frische as Lebhaftigkeit, volle körperliche und geistige Kraft.

  • 4
    Hm... yes and no. You are right that theoretically everybody can create this up ad hoc. But... would he? Still in alter Frische has an oxymoronic hue to it which makes it seem purposefully created, not accidentally. A less poetic and more everyday way to combine "vigour" and "former" would be: frisch wie am Morgen or something like that. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 12:43
  • 1
    it is fully idiomatic, as alt and frisch are basicly antonyms, to the point that I'm tempted to compare Lat. ult[ima], PIE *h2el- "to grow" to suggest reif "ripe" (short of mature) ... but have nothing to show for it (i.e. no comparative evidence I'm aware)
    – vectory
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 5:15
  • @David Vogt: Thanks for the update, now this makes perfect sense. Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 7:14
  • I am not convinced that in this context "alt" means something like "old" or "previous". In the first link to dwds we find completely different interpretions under 7., but I think also these do not fit here. In my opinion it should be understood als "in gewohnter Frische" or "in bekannter Frische".
    – Paul Frost
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 17:24
  • @PaulFrost Der alte Platz could definitely imply der bekannte Platz.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 18:44

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