The official name of Hamburg is Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg. The und in the name sticks out to me. I would've expected either Freie und Hanse Stadt Hamburg, similar to the English translation, or Freie Hansestadt Hamburg. (I know you can't freely transform a compound word into its parts, but I'm just trying to understand the grammar pattern.)

Are there any other cases where one can use adjective + und in front of compound nouns as if they were separate words? Or is this just a historical quirk and/or an archaic structure?


2 Answers 2


It works in the form of an ellipsis:

Freie [Stadt] und Hansestadt Hamburg

  • Bremen carries the title: "Freie Hansestadt Bremen". Hamburg uses "Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg" - Both mean essentially the same. I think the difference between the two is the core of the question.
    – tofro
    Apr 15, 2021 at 18:47
  • The structure of Freie Hansestadt XY seems pretty clear to the questioner since he writes he expected it, so I guess the core is, as the heading puts it, How does “Freie und Hansestadt” work grammatically?, cf. the tag grammar-identification. Apr 15, 2021 at 20:41

This is in fact a sort of Zeugma (conglomeration of words that won't fit well), like in

Er schlug die Scheibe und den Weg nach Hause ein.

Ich heiße Heinz Erhardt und sie herzlich willkommen.

"Große und Hauptstadt Berlin" or "bayrische und Bierstadt München" would be of the same form, but barely acceptable by native speakers. The only reason why Hamburg (i guess) still carries that title (with pride) is it's long-standing tradition and it's traceability to the middle ages, back when lower German (Niederdeutsch) was spoken ("Friee un Hansestadt Hamborg"). I can only assume it was acceptable in lower German and was carried on to Hochdeutsch.

It's interesting to note that Bremen, with a very similar history in the same region, carries the slightly different title "Freie Hansestadt Bremen", which means the same but is completely grammatical.

In case you're asking for the "frei" - This was a specific city privilege from the middle ages for large or specifically wealthy cities that were independent from the local souvereign, and rather direct subordinates of the German Emperor.

  • I quite disagree with this. “Freie Stadt” and “Hansestadt” both refer to the political status of the town and combining it as “Freie und Hansestadt” is appropriate.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 26, 2021 at 6:23

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