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I have been assigned to translate some german certificates and I observed that some of them (birth certificates for example) have Siegel written next to every institution's stamp while others (marriage certificates) don't display Siegel, which makes me wonder:

Does german make the difference between Siegel, Stempel and Paraphe?

When translating from english to german, would it be wrong to translate stamp as Stempel instead of Siegel or Paraphe?

Thanks for considering my questions.

  • German Wikipedia has separate articles on all three terms (modulo the a/e issue noted in my other comment) so the short answer is yes, they are different. I'm sure Wikipedia can fill in the details much better than I can. – RDBury Aug 30 at 5:33
  • @RDBury: One difference that may not become clear from Wikipedia is that "Stempel" and "Siegel" are both common words that virtually any native speaker will know (probably already as a child), whereas I had never heard of a "Paraphe" until reading this question. – O. R. Mapper Aug 31 at 15:09
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    @O. R. Mapper -- A nice feature of DWDS is it gives you a frequency rating on a word from 0 to 7. Stempel and Siegel are both 4/7 while Paraphe is 2/7. It seems to be a log base ten scale so 2/7 represents 1/100 the frequency of 4/7. – RDBury Aug 31 at 18:04
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A "Stempel" (not "Stampel") is a (rubber) stamp in general. The term doesn't signify what the stamp on the paper is showing.

A "Siegel" used to be a seal. A seal gets created with a "Petschaft" (signet), "Siegelring" (signet ring) or similar that's pressed into for example "Siegelwachs" (sealing wax). "Siegel" can also mean the symbol that's shown on the seal, like the Great Seal of the United States or the Bundessiegel.

Today, people rarely use actual seals like described above, with wax and the whole nine yards. The seal (as in the symbol) mostly gets rubberstamped onto a document. So, you might say, there's a "Stempel" in somebody's office to put a "Siegel" on documents.

"Paraphe" is something else entirely. That term means a shortened form of a signature, like your initals. You might find it on a document with multiple or many pages, where one page gets signed and all the others get initialed.

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    Offenkundige Fehler in der Frage sollte man stillschweigend korrigieren. Mit Bezug auf die Frage vermindert man die Chancen auf Heilung der Frage, weil man dann mit der Heilung auch die Antworten entwertet, die jetzt Inhalt enthalten, der sich ohne Geschichtsforschung nicht mehr erschließt. Im Falle, dass man sich nicht sicher ist, sollte man in den Kommentaren nachfragen. Man verspielt so vielleicht die Chance der erste zu sein, der die Frage richtig beantwortet und die Aufwertungen aberntet, aber innerlich kann man sich das heimliche Goldpunkte für Disziplin gutschreiben. ;) – user unknown Aug 30 at 20:38
  • To clarify this: Siegel nowadays mostly represents a function, i. e. proving authenticity. This may well be be performed using a rubber stamp (not longer a convincing choice for first-glance verification in the age of 3D printers, but Urkundenfälschung of course is still a serious offence). – guidot Aug 31 at 11:51
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    "The term doesn't signify what the stamp on the paper is showing." - I'm not sure this is correct, depending on what exactly is meant by this statement. "Stempel" refers to both the object that "prints" the graphic, as well as the graphic left by it on paper (or other materials). – O. R. Mapper Aug 31 at 15:01

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