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I recently encountered the word "Freigabeberechtigungen" in an email (specifically, an email offering me permission to view someone else's work calendar in Microsoft Outlook) and was struggling to understand its meaning and origin. According to Google Translate, this means "permissions," which makes sense in context. However, when I look in the Cambridge German-English dictionary, it states that the correct noun is "die Erlaubnis."

Can someone explain the correct meaning and use of "Freigabeberechtigungen"? Why did they use that word instead of "Erlaubnis"? Also, why does that word mean "Permissions"? I tried to figure out if it's a compound of other words. So far, I have "frei" for "free," "gabe" for "gifts," and "berechtigen" for "to qualify" or "to entitle." Is this right so far, or am I missing something?

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    Are we talking about a Microsoft product? Because “Freigabeberechtigung” has a distinct Microsoft vibe to it. For some reason they have a tendency towards clunky monster words in their German translations.
    – besc
    May 4, 2021 at 15:20
  • @besc Yes, Outlook. May 4, 2021 at 15:30
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    "It states that the correct noun is die Erlaubnis": No it doesn't! It only says that Erlaubnis is a possible translation of permission. It certainly doesn't imply that permission has no other valid translations. For instance, Google Translate prefers Genehmigung.
    – TonyK
    May 5, 2021 at 10:15
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    @amadeusamadeus "____ hat die Freigabeberechtigungen für einen mit Ihnen geteilten Outlook-Kalender geändert." May 6, 2021 at 16:21
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    Given that you can various permissions (read, change, delete etc) using "Erlaubnis" would be really awkward, since the plural "Erlaubnisse" is not used in everyday German. "Freigabeberechtigungen" is "one or more permissions" (Berechtigungen) "on a resource that is being shared" (Freigabe), and is both unambiguous and applies to a general concept, so I am not sure why this is being bashed as pompous etc. in the answers.
    – user2508
    May 6, 2021 at 18:48

6 Answers 6

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I'm afraid, that this is either sloppy phrasing or an attempt to sound impressive.

It seems you got the permission to see someone's else calendar (or even schedule events in it), and while the person granting you that access needs a privilege like Freigabeerlaubnis, you just got a simple Erlaubnis.

Things may be more complicated, if you also received the permission, to grant the same access to others. In that less likely case Freigabeerlaubnis could fit. Composite words like this are seldom listed in dictionaries, but not that difficult to understand after getting used to the word formation scheme.

An entirely different meaning can be seen here.

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    "[...] sloppy phrasing or an attempt to sound impressive" - I disagree with that one. Freigabeberechtigungen is just the IT term for access rights. You would hear that word regularly in an IT- or other office that uses software where one would need access rights for something (e.g. outlook calenders). In my worklife as a software developer I encounter that term a lot, propably every day.
    – coconut
    May 5, 2021 at 10:39
  • @coconut: Working in an IT company I can't confirm this, but may be, because I'm too far off the nuts and bolts or they use an English term here anyway.
    – guidot
    May 5, 2021 at 12:03
  • To add some context: "Berechtigung" and "Erlaubnis" are in everyday speech heavily overlapping in their meaning and can often be exchanged for one another without changing the meaning of the sentence. It sometimes slightly changes the tone, but hardly ever more than that
    – Hobbamok
    May 5, 2021 at 13:08
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    @Hobbamok hm although its kind of hard to put the difference in words, in everday speech there is one for sure, I am thinking of it more like this - "Erlaubnis" is what I would need if I ask my boss to take a day off. "Berechtigung" is what I would need if I want access to a certain system.
    – coconut
    May 5, 2021 at 13:14
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    @coconut true, for some reasons didn't think about IT systems, where Berechtigung indeed is the standard word and "Erlaubnis" would sound weird. The thing is: as a native speaker I cannot tell you why except "thats how its said", and if some foreign colleague would use Erlaubnis instead, I'd probably knew what he meant nevertheless. German is just weird sometimes
    – Hobbamok
    May 5, 2021 at 13:19
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In addition to guidot's answer, it might be helpful to note that "Freigabeberechtigungen" is more specific than "permission". A general "permission" would be a "Berechtigung" or an "Erlaubnis" (the difference between those two would probably warrant its own question). A compositum with "...berechtigung" typically describes what is permitted, occasionally what the permission refers to (what you're allowed to do something with).

Some examples: "Zugriffsberechtigung" means "Berechtigung zum Zugriff", "permission to access". "Pensionsberechtigung" means "Berechtigung zum Erhalt einer Pension", "permission / qualification to receive a pension". "Dateiberechtigung" means "Berechtigung, etwas mit einer Datei zu tun", "permission on a file".

So, "Freigabeberechtigung" can mean two things: The permission to "freigeben" something, meaning the permission to clear something or to give access to something to somebody. Or it can mean a permission on a "Freigabe". In IT contexts, a "Freigabe" means either the act of giving access or the thing that's given access to. If I give you access to a folder on my machine, that could be called a "Freigabe" (because I did "freigeben" it to you).

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    This. In the OPs case, the "Freigabe" refers to the "freigebener Kalender" - the "Freigabeberechtigungen" are the permissions granted on the shared calendar.
    – Bergi
    May 4, 2021 at 23:26
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    @Bergi * "frei-ge-gebener" ;) May 5, 2021 at 5:08
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    I think in the context of microsoft products it means "permission concerning a share". Because "share" is translated as "Freigabe", it is a "Berechtigung eine Freigabe betreffend", or shorter "eine Freigabeberechtigung", specifying what you can do with a file share on a server. Here, what's shared is calendar data, and somebody has changed the permissions concerning those shared data ("die Freigabe"), so that you can view them. We really should stick with English when we talk computers. May 5, 2021 at 13:58
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica About "We really should stick with English when we talk computers": that's probably opinion-based, but I think an appropiate, i.e. unambiguous and self-explanatory German term would lower the barrier for laypersons. On the other hand, Freigabeberechtigung is no such, unfortunately. Probably IT companies should employ more semioticians who are proficient in the respective language for stringent translations. May 6, 2021 at 15:53
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Why does “Freigabeberechtigungen” translate to “Permissions”

That you encountered the word in an Outlook e-mail explains it. Microsoft’s German translations are infamous for their ponderous language with lots of compound words used in weird and sometimes at least slightly wrong contexts.

“Freigabeberechtigung” is a great example. It’s a compound of “Freigabe” (approval, clearance) and “Berechtigung” (permission). But in Outlook it’s used in the context of actually granting access to a calender or receiving such access. It’s not about which things you can or cannot grant, so the word doesn’t quite fit.

Translating “permission” with “Erlaubnis” is fine in general. In this case “Berechtigung” (often shortened to “Recht”) works as well. It’s slightly more formal and carries a technical or bureaucratic connotation.

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    In Microsoft products, "Freigabe" shouldn't be translated with "approval" or "clearance" (although those generally are also valid translations of "Freigabe"), but with "sharing". So "Freigabeberchtigung" means "permission to share". May 5, 2021 at 5:46
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    Your translation of "Berechtigung" with "permission" is correct, but, at least in an IT context, the translation for "Freigabe" would be "share" (as in "network share"), not "approval" or "clearance". In other words, just like in English IT jargon, a "share" is the thing being shared, in German IT jargon, a "Freigabe" is the thing being "freigegeben". May 5, 2021 at 5:47
  • That he encountered the word in Outlook mainly means he was using a computer. Permissions (and their translation as "Berechtigung") predate MS by far (the usage is derived from the file permissions on early Unix systems, and in fact for many years the only connection between MS products and "permissions" was the criticism that DOS and early Windows, being single user systems, did not have permissions. Saying that this is wrong is like saying the aviation industry is wrong to talk about "propellers" instead of "the swishy swirly thing at the front", when this is the proper technical term.
    – user2508
    May 7, 2021 at 11:02
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Just like in English, or every language really, there are different jargons in German. I am using the term jargon here to mean something like "a shared language of specific, well-defined terms among a community of professionals".

Words can mean different things in different jargons. For example, in Stack Overflow jargon, a "poster" is the author of a "post" (question or answer), not a decorative piece of paper you hang on your wall.

In particular, the term you are asking about is from IT jargon, and even more precisely, Microsoft IT jargon.

This particular term is composed of two other jargon terms: Freigabe ("share") and Berechtigung ("permission").

Note that even in English, these two terms are not used exactly with their normal meanings, or their meanings they might have in a different jargon. E.g. a "share" in English IT jargon is something very different from a "share" in English financial jargon. A "share" is "something that is shared by (or to) multiple users". It is "the thing being shared".

How the term "permission" is used, is also slightly unusual. Normally, a permission is something that is granted to someone. It is the active subject that "has" the permission. For example, "I have permission to enter this building". It is me who has the permission, not the building.

However, in IT, we usually talk about an object having a certain set of permissions. E.g. we might say "this file has permissions rwxr-xr-x (aka 0755)". But the file is not the active subject. Instead, when I try to open the file, the Operating System will check whether I "have permission" (in the standard English sense of the term) by looking at what "permissions" (in the IT sense of the term) the file has.

So, in this particular case, the "Freigabe", i.e. the thing being shared is the other person's calendar, and in the process of sharing this calendar to you, the sharer has granted you certain "Berechtigungen". There are different kinds of permissions you can have, from absolutely none (which wouldn't make sense because why would that person share their calendar with you if you then couldn't do anything with it) to only being able to see when that person is free or blocked (but not being able to, see why they are blocked, for example), to also see why they are blocked (e.g. being able to see the titles of their appointments, or even the whole appointment), to being able to schedule meetings with them in their calendar, to even being able to freely move, delete, create, extend, shorten, and edit appointments at will (like an assistant might be doing for their boss).

To summarize, the two most important points to take away are:

  • The meaning of compound words does not necessarily have to be the sum of the meanings of their constituent words. (A butterfly is not a fly made out of butter.)
  • The meaning of words depends on context (think of "appendix" in literature and medicine, and specifically think about medical literature), in particular, jargon may introduce completely new words, assign new meanings to existing words ("computer" used to be a job title for a human), restrict (while in ancient times, in some sense, a "bookkeeper" was literally someone who kept books, this is not the part of their job that is actually described by this term) or expand the existing meanings of existing words, or any combination thereof.
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  • Also, due to being neither very aerodynamic nor very brittle, a Schmetterling is pretty difficult zu schmettern (hurl) or zu zerschmettern (shatter to pieces), and also does not have a habit of schmettern or zerschmettern :) May 7, 2021 at 0:44
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This is Microsoft-specific.

Freigabe is the name used in German Windows for the English word 'share', used as a noun - e.g. a network share or a shared folder. Whereas the Windows context menu in English contains a "share [this folder] ..." menu item, in German that is called "[Ordner] Freigeben ..."

So the translation is literally "permission to access a shared item", and you would use it when you're on the German localisation team for Microsoft products and nowhere else.

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This is simply a combination of two terms very commonly used in the german versions of Microsoft software.

Very likely, the english version of that product will literally have the wording "share permissions" in that place.

a "Freigabe" usually is used where "(a) share" would be used in english windows. Refers to any provision that allows sharing some resource (files, calenders...) over a network. It is based on "freigeben", which would be best translated as "release".

"Berechtigungen" is used in MS products whereever you would find "permissions". Like "permission" and unlike "Erlaubnis", it is a plural word. The reason for the plural is that you can assign multiple "permissions" to a "Freigabe", which are each valid for a different user or group of users. "berechtigen" is best translated as "authorize" in that context.

"Erlaubnis" has no commonly used plural, and has a stronger implication of a GRANTED permission. The latter also applies to "Genehmigung", which however has a commonly used plural. "Permissions" in IT jargon do not always apply a granted permission, they can actually describe permissions that are DENIED. Same goes for "Rechte" and "Berechtigungen" in german IT jargon.

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