So, I'm a noob at German, but I'm trying to read a book on Nietzsche and in some part the author characterizes Nietzsche as "ein ... Sprachkünstler und Sprachartist". What is the difference between a Künstler and an Artist? How could I interpret this?

  • 7
    Have you looked up the meaning of Künstler and Artist? What did you find?
    – Stephie
    Oct 6, 2021 at 5:14
  • If you can understand a book about Nietzsche written in your native language, you're doing better than me. Understanding a book written in a language you're less familiar with is, let me say, ambitious! Oct 8, 2021 at 7:38

2 Answers 2


You may have tripped over the different meanings of “artist” (e.g. English) and “Artist”.

In German, the word for anyone expressing themselves through or creating art is “Künstler“ (as art = Kunst).

An Artist ist an artist using his body, e.g. an acrobat. (So Artist is a subset of Künstler.) A second meaning of Artist, especially in compound nouns, is „a master of his or her profession and tools“, figuratively doing handstands and somersaults with them.

So Nietzsche is characterized as someone who created art from and with language and was a master in using language.

  • 2
    Your explanation is generally correct, but Artist in German does have the secondary meaning of someone producing pieces of art. See, for example, the DWDS entry: "1. (Geschicklichkeitsübungen vorführender) Künstler in Zirkus und Varieté 2. [seltener] Darstellungsmittel und -formen souverän beherrschender Künstler"
    – Schmuddi
    Oct 6, 2021 at 13:29
  • 6
    @Schmuddi hence the bit starting with „A second meaning…“
    – Stephie
    Oct 6, 2021 at 15:59
  • 5
    I want to emphasize that the 2 words say rather different things. "Sprachkuenstler" alludes more to beauty, while "Sprachartist" alludes more to the fact that he does more difficult things which average users can't do.
    – R. Schmitz
    Oct 7, 2021 at 11:36
  • Künstler := Artist, one who uses imagination to create aesthetics.

  • Artist := Performer, esp. in a circus; Artisan, one who is skilled at a craft.

The passage describes Nietzsche as being both able to create vivid scenes with words (the first sense, Künstler), as well as expressing those well and concisely (the second sense, Artist, like a wordsmith).

  • 1
    You know that you can type Umlauts without a German keyboard, right? For example on Stackexchange you can use HTML syntax ä -> ä, ö -> ö, ü -> ü, ß -> ß. Oct 7, 2021 at 16:59

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.