Does the German word of "Angelmaker" mean someone who helps with abortions? How did that come about historically.

If so, how would this word classify, specifically. Double entendre, idiom, or slang word?

  • 6
    Did you look into Wikipedia? de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engelmacher Jan 25, 2022 at 20:41
  • 3
    What did you find in dictionaries?
    – Carsten S
    Jan 26, 2022 at 11:26
  • Never knew about it in English-speaking countries
    – user610620
    Jan 26, 2022 at 13:00
  • The French Wikipedia entry says a definition was proposed by Émile Littré, en 1877, giving the impression that she has coined the term "Faiseuse d'Anges". I find it difficult to confirm that had she had not simply addopted a preexisting idiom from argot. Since ing would be a regular reflex of PIE *neḱ- "to disappear, perrish", and there is no biblical precedent of the dead becoming angels (that's an apocryphal narrative as far as I know) I think this topic is very dubious.
    – vectory
    Dec 8, 2022 at 5:44

2 Answers 2


It's a euphemism

Some people believe, that when you die you go to heaven and become an angel.

Originally Engelmacherin was used to describe women, who took children in their care (e.g. orphans) but did not or could not feed them sufficiently, so the children subsequently starved to death (=became angels, prematurely). This expression then was expanded (in slang) to denote people that conducted abortions.

Source: wiktionary and sources therein

  • Wow. I didn't know the first meaning. That's terrible. Jan 27, 2022 at 9:33
  • Are there other similar German euphemisms with a biblical bent?
    – user610620
    Dec 7, 2022 at 15:42
  • @user610620: there's the related himmeln, see duden.de/rechtschreibung/himmeln no. 2 and 3. I've heard of himmeln as Euphemism for infanticide (I have no source, but it's basically the combination of those 2 meanings), along the lines: "Das Kind wurde gehimmelt" (possibly by the Engelmacherin of this answer). Dec 8, 2022 at 15:06

I meet this terminology on 3 languages, incl. German, and it has meant abortionists or infanticide on all of them. The terminology was more common in the Europe of the first half of the previous century, where abortion was banned and contraceptives did not exist yet. It was an euphemism even at the time.

It is because if children die, they die without committing sins. Sins can be committed only intentionally in the Christianity, and children can not (yet) do that. Thus, they go into the Heaven. All of them. If they will become angels, probably no one knows it on Earth for sure.

However, killing children, for this purpose, or for any other purpose, is a deadly sin itself and not an acceptable way to send someone into the Heaven. The only acceptable way to that if you help them to grow up, and to live a life with few sins, acceptable for the divine grace. Killing children is an unimaginable crime, and "Engelmacher/in" is an euphemism for children murderers, included the abortionists.

  • 5
    Could you specify the languages where you encountered this? And: Is the idea that sins can be committed only intentionally limited to a certain historic and confessional context? If so, it would make sense to add this piece of information. I think, "killing children [...] purpose, is a deadly sin itself " might be a little unclear. I think you want to explain how "Engelmacherin" was a euphemism and express that this was a position of Christianity at that time. The way you wrote it, it could be interpreted as stating your personal opinion. That could spark a debate, and this is not the place. Jan 26, 2022 at 10:57
  • 1
    Yes I do it after Kernarbeitszeit
    – peterh
    Jan 26, 2022 at 12:14
  • @jonathan.scholbach The German Wikipedia page for Engelmacher links to a French page which seems to confirm that the equivalent term exists there. There are also Swedish and Norwegian pages for similar terms, but they are only used in the original meaning described by infinitezero, referring to women taking care of orphan's (and possibly mistreating them to the point of death).
    – jkej
    Jan 26, 2022 at 12:41
  • 1
    @jonathan.scholbach English, German, Hungarian. It is mirror translation on all of them. On the last, the terminology is very likely German import from the era of the Monarchie. Note, the current political era promotes lenience toward abortions and this affects the available public content. I am thinking on, how to inject this into the post.
    – peterh
    Jan 27, 2022 at 4:05
  • 1
    @CarstenS I could reformulate the answer to a neutral point of view, and I wish to do so. However, I am not sure that it will be enough. Problem is that history, Christianity and the social situation of the previous centuries are essential part of the etimology of the word.
    – peterh
    Jan 27, 2022 at 17:37

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