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When referring to the nineties (or decades in general), we say:

  1. Die neunziger Jahre
  2. Die Neunzigerjahre
  3. Die Neunziger

My question is, where did the "er" come from?

If the "neunzig" used here is an adjective, shouldn't the declension ending be "en"?

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  • It's a pattern for naming things. The same as it is a "Hamburger" instead of a "Hamburgen".
    – äüö
    Aug 21, 2021 at 17:22
  • @äüö is it the same as "Spieler", "Kugelschreiber", "Fußgänger"...usw.? Aug 21, 2021 at 18:05
  • @Hubert unfortunately it doesn't, and I actually searched here for any questions regarding "decades" before posting mine, but found nothing about where the "er" came from Aug 21, 2021 at 23:31

1 Answer 1

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'Die Neunziger' is short (an ellipse) for 'die neunziger Jahre', dropping the 'Jahre' for brevity.

If you are talking about numbers and refer to exact instances of the number 90 in a table etc., it is 'die Neunzig' and plural 'die Neunzigen'. If you refer to numbers in the range from 90 (inclusive) to 100 (exclusive), it's 'die Neunziger' which refers to a range similar to when you say "Die neunziger (Jahre)" which is also a range of years.

As such the usual usage will always 'die Neunziger' or 'die neunziger Jahre' as 'die Neunzigen' is not sensible usage when refering to years or time in general.

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  • What would "die neunzigen Jahre" mean in that case? Aug 21, 2021 at 23:35
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    It means nothing, since "neunzig" has no conventional meaning as an adjective. Its form may look as if it were the adjectival form of a noun *Neunz, but there is no such noun either. Aug 22, 2021 at 8:02
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    I have never heard die Neunzigen. While searching on Google, the very few hits I got were OCR errors.
    – David Vogt
    Aug 23, 2021 at 5:43
  • The second paragraph confused me for a while before I understood that you meant to speak of several instances of numbers "90". This just seems very rare (not to say artificial) for numbers except perhaps digits as in "Die Zahl 199000 ist eine Eins gefolgt von zwei Neunen und dann drei Nullen" Aug 23, 2021 at 5:43
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    @planetmaker Konnte es bis vor kurzem nirgends finden (und kenne es sprachgebruachlich einfach gar nicht) aber laut duden.de/rechtschreibung/Neunzig hast du Recht "Plural: die Neunzigen", mein Fehler!
    – user49310
    Aug 24, 2021 at 18:25

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