A question about “anatomy”: I am reading “Er legte seine Hand auf meine Schulter; ich duldete es und zog seine Hand weiter die Achsel hinauf“.

I understand that “Schulter“ is the most common term for shoulder, and that “Achsel” also may mean shoulder, but that it is more often used for armpit.

Therefore, how is it possible to pull the hand “weiter hinauf” (further up) from the shoulder to the armpit?

Could this be an issue of my poor understanding of the German language (please help), is it bad writing, or is it something else I am missing? 😊


Strictly speaking, the Achsel is the area between shoulder and chestwall. The armpit itself is called Achselhöhle, however, in everyday life Achsel is used as a short form for Achselhöhle.

Anatomically speaking, the shoulder itself is divided into four parts, one of which is the Achselhöhle.

While I don't think it is written in the most understandable way, I would interpret this as the person putting their hand either on the shoulder blade (if coming from behind) or on/near the chest (if coming from the front), where the fingers are reaching around the torso being placed under the arm pit. This would allow the person to pull the hand further up.

I'd suspect that this is a rather clumsy translation from a foreign language into German.

  • Thanks! I should probably have added that it is Austrian. I'm learning that it is more different from high German and standard German than I first would have thought.
    – Valpen
    Apr 10 at 23:01

While I may not be qualified to anatomically analyze the situation, I can tell you that as a native speaker I find this sentence to be confusing. If it would encounter it in a novel I would assess it as a mistake to be honest, regardless of whether it may be technically correct, it is colloquially misphrased. Achsel to me is just the armpit and Schulter is, well, the shoulder. I would call it questionable writing and can assure you that this is a strange phrase, at least to me from the northern region of Germany. Maybe it is locally more acceptable in other German speaking parts but it reads funny to me as well.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.