In the context of downloading something from the Internet, e.g. Films, there are at least the three different verbs. What could be the difference between them?

I once used downloaden in my writing homework, but then my teacher corrected it with runterladen. However, the original verb was not struck out, meaning it is not totally wrong. When searching for the meaning of "runterladen", I also got herunterladen.

Reasonably, downloaden may be derived from the similar english verb "download".

The linguee dictionary is not much helpful:


  • 2
    What conceivable difference could there be?
    – David Vogt
    Jul 14, 2020 at 8:59
  • 1
    Apparently there is no such issue with 'upload'; you're only option is hochladen. Which makes me wonder if tiefladen should be an option for 'download'; it's not though. By the way, DWDS only has a computer generated entry for hochladen, though its usage database says it's commonly used currently.
    – RDBury
    Jul 14, 2020 at 15:45
  • 1
    For a long while, the official word for this in Apple UIs and documentation was just laden. The file transfer process and the transferred file stored locally are both called Download only, not *Runterladung or something like that. Ziehen can also be used in some situations, especially for large or illegal downloads. An outdated word with acronym is Datenfernübertragung (DFÜ), cf. EDV.
    – Crissov
    Jul 15, 2020 at 7:21
  • 2
    @RDBury "Hochladen" works because "hoch" can mean both an elevation (high) and a direction (upwards). "Tief" doesn't work the same way. It can mean "low", but not "downwards".
    – Andii
    Jul 15, 2020 at 13:59
  • @Andii -- The primary meaning of tief is deep, so there's another reason it wouldn't work. How about niederladen? (No need to answer that, I'm just poking a little fun. 'It is what it is," as they say.)
    – RDBury
    Jul 15, 2020 at 15:51

4 Answers 4


There is no difference in meaning.

  • "downloaden" is obviously borrowed from English ... however it's a proper loan word, i.e. it takes on forms that are allowed for a verb in German but that would be impossible in the original language
  • "runterladen" is the shortened, somewhat sloppy (stylistically speaking), form of "herunterladen"
  • "herunterladen" is a literal import of "download" (verb) into German
  • 9
    Regarding your first point, see also “Gedownloadet” vs “downgeloadet”?
    – Bergi
    Jul 14, 2020 at 18:24
  • 1
    @Bergi: Also, is it "ich loade down" or "ich downloade"?! Jul 15, 2020 at 7:05
  • 1
    @I'mwithMonica “Ich downloade” is way more common and sounds more natural to me, but both forms are used. This generalizes to all anglicism verbs with recognizable prefixes like “updaten” or “outsourcen”, with splitting being the rarer the more familiar the anglicism is. Splitting occurs most frequently within participles, as in “upgedatet” or “outgesourcet” – but even here nonsplit forms (“geupdatet”, “geoutsourcet”) predominate. People also frequently but incorrectly adopt the English ending “-ed” to inflect in German, which is especially wrong and hideous in the third person (“er updated”).
    – k.stm
    Jul 15, 2020 at 10:43
  1. "Herunterladen" is the actual German translation for "download".
  2. "Runterladen" is just colloquial speech, where "runter" is a lazy reduction of "herunter". Do not use it in official stuff.
  3. People often keep the English term "download" as loanword, and just give them the common German verb suffix "en", which turns to "downloaden" then, and it's also just for colloquial speech because it sounds more cool than official. But there is a problem with the integration in German grammar because it consists of "down" and "load". So there are two possibilities, and it's not clear which one will win in the end, both ones are used in similar commonness.
    • In variant 1, we keep "download" together as one word and put the German grammar around that, e.g. "gedownloadet" which wraps the English word with German prefix and suffix (for Partizip II).
    • In variant 2, we look at "download" as two words and split them to get them into German grammar, e.g. Partizip II: "[down]ge[load]et" equivalently to "[herunter]ge[laden]".
  • 1
    Although I agree with the facts laid out in the answer, runterladen is surprisingly non-colloquial. Hits for runtergeladen on government sites: 1 2 3 4.
    – David Vogt
    Jul 15, 2020 at 8:14
  • 2
    @DavidVogt: I'm not sure if runterladen is good style, and if my German teacher wouldn't criticise it. Although it's widely used... maybe an edge case between colloquial and offical speech? Anyway I rather use "herunterladen" for serious writing.
    – äüö
    Jul 15, 2020 at 8:28
  • The top answer calls runterladen sloppy. That's going too far. In my opinion, language learners should not be treated to a hypercorrect version of the language. So I would go along with OP's teacher, who seems to find runterladen acceptable. But that is of course subjective.
    – David Vogt
    Jul 15, 2020 at 8:33
  • 1
    @DavidVogt But language learners, in my experience, want to know about the "color" of a word -- and "runterladen" does have a definitive shade of colloquialism to me. (I was being scolded in my youth for lazy colloquialism when writing "runter" instead of "herunter" -- of course, that's 30 years in the past.)
    – orithena
    Jul 15, 2020 at 13:37
  • 1
    Anything with 'runter-' or for that matter 'rauf-' is colloquial as per Duden. Do not use in written German!
    – TaW
    Jul 16, 2020 at 8:49

As far as my experience goes, right now there is no distinction in the german language for that topic.

You have "runter" as a shortened version of "herunter".

Then you have the anglicism "downloaden".

That is all there is nowadays.

So for your case getting it corrected with "runterladen" - you could nitpick him with "herunterladen".


They three mean exactly the same.

"Herunterladen" (from "Herunter" -> Downwards and "Laden" -> Loading) is the straight german equivalent to "Downloading", although we use the english term with regard to anglicism as verb too when we say "Downloaden".

Both terms are equal frequently used so you can use the one for the other if you like to, although "Downloaden" is a little bit sloppier.

"Runterladen" is the abbreviation of "Herunterladen", more slang and should not be used in official and adequate speaking usually.

What you never should use is the term "Herunterholen" or the abbreviation "Runterholen" (-> Holen = take), which is german slang for male masturbating.


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