Moby Dick Chapter 1 is titled

CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

probably an unconventional nominalisation of the verb “loom / looming”, indicating certain prospects appearing on the horizon, or foreboding something.

What is a good German translation of this word?

2 Answers 2


On Gutenberg you can find the English original version as well as a German translation

As you can see, the title of Chapter 1 is in English:

CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

And in German:

Erstes Kapitel

So, this doesn't help. But it shows how translators deal with this problem: They ignore it.

So, what do dictionaries say? My personal favorite is dict.leo.org, and it has a translation for looming:

  1. looming - die Luftspiegelung pl: die Luftspiegelungen
    German Luftspiegelung is literally "air mirroring". (English translations of Luftspiegelung are looming and mirage) This means an optical reflection on a surface that is made of air. This happens when a layer of cooler air hovers above a layer of hot air. If it happens in a desert you call it Fata Morgana, but a Luftspiegelung can happen anywhere, also in the air above an ocean.

  2. looming [tech.] - Einziehen der Kettfäden in Geschirr und Schaft
    This translation obviously has to do with weaving. The Englisch noun loom also means »Webstuhl« (weaving loom, weaving machine) in German. I'm not really familiar with the terminology of weaving, but Deepl told me, that »Einziehen der Kettfäden in Geschirr und Schaft« is in English »drawing in the warp threads into the harness and dobby«, but I can't guarantee that this translation is correct. (At least it seems plausible to me.)

But I don't think that any of both translation fits really well as title for the first chapter of Moby Dick. So we need to find a better translation, maybe one that addresses the fact that the noun looming is a nominalization of the verb to loom. When you consult dict.leo.org again, you get these suggestions (among others):

  • aufragen (to loom, to tower)
  • sich abzeichnen (to loom, to be on the horizon, to be in the offing, to become apparent, to emerge)
  • drohend auftauchen (to appear minatory, to emerge threatening, to arise impendingly)
  • sich in der Ferne auftun (to appear in the distance, to loom from afar)
  • undeutlich sichtbar werden (to become indistinctly visible, to become apparent faintly)

This list describes better, what looming could be, but packing it into just one German noun is difficult. Here are some words and phrases that came into my mind:

  • drohendes Unheil (threat of disaster, threatening fate)
  • Vorahnung (foreshadowing, premonition, precognition)
  • Schemen (shadows, silhouettes, shadowy figures)
  • Anzeichen (signs, indications)

But maybe it is really the best, to just use »Erstes Kapitel« as title.

  • 1
    That’s a very good answer! I think I prefer Schemen or Luftspiegelung because they both have a similarly poetic, imagistic quality. And the connotation in the book is not negative, as in threatening; merely hinting at the development of new opportunities. Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 8:32

The German chapter is called Schemen. Kapitel 1 | Schemen | Hanser E-Library

Loom/Loomings is difficult to translate as a single word. Certrain prospects appearing on the horizon is a good fit for Schemen (see above). Foreboding something could be translated as Omen or simply Anzeichen. You can even go full mythical and say ominöse Schemen but that almost seems like a bit of overkill, does carry both sentiments though.

  • »Schemen« is not so bad, but where did you find it? I only found a translation where the title of chapter 1 is just »Erstes Kapitel«. Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 7:33
  • 1
    @HubertSchölnast I included a link Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 8:19
  • I own a translation published by Ueberreuter 1977, tranlated by Ilona Paar (and branded as "Neubearbeitung" - new adaptation). Its first chapter bears the heading "Die Ferne des Meeres lockt".
    – ccprog
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 22:03

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