Here is an excerpt form the Book "German: An Essential Grammar":

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I was surprised to see the suffix -sal, of which I had never encountered.

What is the usage of this of this suffix?

  • 2
    Schicksal, Trübsal (blasen), ... I don't know more of the top of my head.
    – Em1
    Apr 14, 2013 at 15:27
  • +1 for umalautable :)
    – Carsten S
    Sep 18, 2013 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


The suffix -sal is derived from Middle High German "-sel" to build nouns from verbs. Resulting nouns can be of neuter or female gender.

Examples (Verb > Noun)

laben > das/die Labsal
scheuen > das Scheusal
trüben > die Trübsal
mühen > die Mühsal
rinnen > das Rinnsal

Curious side note: sometimes the resulting noun is again transformed back to a verb:

drängen > die Drangsal > drangsalieren

  • So how does "Schicksal" mean "fate"?
    – Tom Au
    Apr 14, 2013 at 18:40
  • 1
    @TomAu: The root 'schick' is no more directly related to the concept of fate in contemporary German. You might consult: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/schicken - in particular, "schick" as an adjective (pretty, suitable), the reflexive verb "sich schicken" (to be appropiate) and "Geschick" (roughly: ability) provide some hint to the origins of "Schicksal". You might note that "-sal" is no more a productive suffix in general.
    – shuhalo
    Apr 14, 2013 at 23:22
  • 1
    @Martin/@TomAu: Actually, with „Geschick“ you hit the bull's eye but got confused at the same time by its second meaning. Your translation "ability" comes from the adjectiv „geschickt“, meaning "quite skilled" or even "clever". But the much older noun „Geschick“ is nothing less than a synonym for „Schicksal“, ergo: "Destiny". I can even dare some sophistry in finding in „Geschick“ the verb „schicken“, meaning "to send" (along), "to forward". So it all makes sense in the end, as you arrive where you are sent to, in meating your destiny. ;-) All absurdity in my text is due to my being, actually,
    – user3433
    Sep 18, 2013 at 10:15
  • 1
    Grimm leitet Schicksal von schicken ab und schreibt zu letzterem: „in älterer sprache vorwiegend im sinne von ordnen, rüsten, bereiten, einrichten, fügen, ins werk setzen, bewirken, schaffen, wenden, richten“
    – Carsten S
    Sep 18, 2013 at 12:19
  • @Martin: I think that the adjective schick is not cognate with schicken anyway, but derived from chique.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 18, 2013 at 14:33

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