The title says it all: are the words Obmann and Ombudsmann synonyms in the German language? The contexts in which they are used seem to overlap.

Even if not, are they related (e.g. one derived from the other)?



German "Ombudsmann" is the same as English "ombudsman":

An ombudsman is an official, usually appointed by the government or by parliament but with a significant degree of independence

Obmann can cover cover Schiedsrichter as Ombudsmann, but mainly will mean "Vorsitzender, Präsident oder Anführer einer Fraktion" which will mean there is NO significant degree of independence

Obmann oder Obfrau (veraltet für Obfrau auch: Obmännin1, geschlechtsneutrale Pluralform: Obleute) ist sowohl eine andere Bezeichnung für Vorsitzender, Präsident oder Anführer einer Fraktion, Sektion als auch die Bezeichnung für einen von zwei Parteien ernannten Schiedsrichter.


They don't seem to be related other than the overlapping meaning of "Schiedsrichter".

  • The origin of Ombudsmann being Old Norse umboð. Modern Icelandic which unlike other related languages developed independently and changed less in the 1100 years since the settlement, umboð means "Agentur, Vertretung, Vollmacht" (according to Hans-Ulrich Schmid, Wörterbuch Isländisch Deutsch, 2001, Buske Verlag, ISBN 3-87548-240-9). Whereas umboðsmaður (maður == Mensch, Mann) means "Vertreter".
  • The origin of Obmann is given differently, i.e. debatable,

    • in Duden:

      mittelhochdeutsch obeman = Schiedsrichter, aus: obe (↑ob 2) und man, ↑Mann*

    • and in (German) Wikipedia, Permalink:

      Der Begriff stammt von den frühneuzeitlichen „Obermännern“, die mit zusätzlichen Aufsichts- und Leitungsfunktionen betraut waren.


They are in no way the same! An Ombudsmann is an official who typically has an open ear for problems regarding a certain (social) problem. There are i.e Ombudsmänner who help to protect minority rights or who have been installed for the victims of churches child abuse. Usually there is a hotline to call (if you interpret Ombudsmann more like an institution). The Ombudsmann (as the person) can be seen as an high official with great indepence from other political institutions but a certain purpose (e.g. gender equality ).

Obmann is a synonym of Vorsitzender, as in Obmann des Parlamentklubs, Obmann eines Vereins.

EDIT: just wanted to add: an Ombudsmann is usualy also an Obmann, but not the other way round. Please note that Ombudsmann can be both an Institution and a person (especially in media).


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