Using my searchengine, I can find several pages that refer to "Python libraries" as "Python Bibliotheken".

I am however afraid that my hits are just auto-translated homepages. Can anyone who works in/with programming confirm which is the correct and most common use? Would my German Speaking colleague write a tutorial that says "lade die Bibliothek" or "lade die Library".

I know from experience that for Biotech (Sequencing) my German speaking colleagues did refer to "Library prep" with the anglicism, in their in-house manuals.

  • To be an engineer in Germany you have to have good English. Many textbooks are in English anyway. Your customers will understand most technical terms, in fact seeing the German word in an unexpected context might puzzle them. Also, in e.g. space and defence, projects may well be conducted in English and not all personnel will be German.
    – RedSonja
    Jun 2, 2022 at 7:24
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    "Python Bibliotheken" is wrong. Correct would be "Python-Bibliotheken".
    – xehpuk
    Jun 2, 2022 at 8:00
  • The answer may depend on whether you write about python libraries or Python libraries.
    – Carsten S
    Jun 3, 2022 at 10:53
  • In general, I've found Wikipedia's "Languages" tab useful for finding corresponding technical terms. For example, the enwiki article "Library (computing)" links to the dewiki article "Programmbibliothek". Of course, this only works for topics notable enough to have their own Wikipedia articles. Jun 4, 2022 at 2:07
  • @xehpuk ty. Could you provide a better source than this: duden.de/sprachwissen/sprachratgeber/… I mean I know "Universitätsbibliothek" is written in one word - so why not "Pythonbibliothek" (no hits in the duckduck.go). I would guess its mostly convention. Also: In all of the 3 search engines I use (ddg/qwant/google) I find both "Python Bibliotheken" & "Python-Bibliotheken" Eg "Python Bibliotheken" from lerneprogrammieren.de/python-bibliotheken "Python Standardbibliothek" python-lernen.de/python-standardbibliothek.htm
    – ilam engl
    Jun 8, 2022 at 9:52

3 Answers 3


"Library" is a very old word in software technology, it goes back to 1947 and John von Neumann if the Wikipedia article is to be believed. So people had a lot of time getting used to it (and its ridiculousness if you think of files of some KBytes size on early computers). The same is true for the translations in other languages, that are almost as old and have also been used way before English terms became the ubiquitous language of software development.

German: Bibliothek
French: bibliothèque
Spanish: biblioteca / librería
Italian: libreria
... (follow the Wikipedia language links to see it)

So yes, you can absolutely use it. It doesn't sound any more strange to a German developer than "library" does in English. You can use the English word if you want, but with a word as basic as this to software, there's no really good reason to do that.

It's different for many more modern or more technical concepts though. Nobody calls a promise "Versprechen", or responsive design "empfängliche Gestaltung". We often just go with the English terms or with English loan words like "responsives Design" ("responsiv" wasn't used in German before, certainly not in the same sense). This way, we avoid misunderstandings due to divergent translations. "Bibliothek" predates that notion.

  • 20
    "It's different for more modern concepts though." - it's actually not limited to modern concepts. IMHO, using terms like "Halde" for "heap" or "Kellerspeicher" for "stack" makes you sound quite antiquated. "Bibliothek" is in a different category, it sounds completely idiomatic. Jun 1, 2022 at 21:27
  • 5
    @HalvarF, omg, it may actually have been that bad K&R translation where I first encountered German compound nouns with spaces. I was so confused, I at first did not even understand what that was supposed to mean.
    – Carsten S
    Jun 2, 2022 at 6:38
  • 8
    @HalvarF: interestingly, the concept of a stack was in fact first published by two Germans, Klaus Samelson and Friedrich L. Bauer, using the term "Keller". Jun 2, 2022 at 6:54
  • 2
    When I first came to Germany in the 80s, I was alarmed to read docu from a well established German electronics firm. I had to ask "what is a Stapelzeiger?" Everyone laughed, because that is an extreme example of over-translating. Everyone else would write Stackpointer.
    – RedSonja
    Jun 2, 2022 at 7:21
  • 3
    That's the literal translation I suppose, in Spain, we (technicians/developers) say "Libreria(s)", not Biblioteca(s). But I lived in Germany too (working in other branch), and I think there's no word for a 1:1 translation
    – ieselisra
    Jun 2, 2022 at 11:54

In German texts on programming you can use both, the anglicism 'Library' is used frequently and understood in the programming community; however the proper German word is indeed 'die Bibliothek / die Bibliotheken', and is also commonly used.

However when talking about Python, IMHO the word 'library' is not used very often - also not in English. Often one speaks of packages (de 'das Paket / die Pakete) as a bigger collection of stuff and modules (de: das Modul / die Module) with a more limited scope; the other terms are less well-defined when talking about python code (e.g. see here: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/19198166/whats-the-difference-between-a-module-and-a-library-in-python

  • 1
    I feel your remarks about the word "library" in python context is wrong. I use python in my job all day and we do call our libraries libraries :) True, any library is also a package and also a module. But when you refer to code as to a "library", this implies a certain perspective on the code - this is code that is foreign to your application, an external dependency. Jun 1, 2022 at 23:38
  • 1
    @JonathanScholbach When the job ad calls for it: In a German CV would you list them under the bullet point "libraries: x,y,z" or "Bibliotheken: x,yz"?
    – ilam engl
    Jun 3, 2022 at 10:23
  • 2
    @ilamengl Whenever I applied for a python job, I wrote my application in English :) In a German CV, I would write Bibliotheken Jun 3, 2022 at 11:24

When (and if) to translate special terms of a certain trade - and, in general, when and if to use foreign words at all - is a very broad and ongoing discussion and i want to warn you up front that i can describe this topic only from my point of view - which is not neutral at all because i have an opinion myself about this.

But, first off, let us clarify: the discussion which takes place in IT is NOT about foreign words, it is solely about english words. The people insisting on the use of "Bibliothek" - which is greek ("η βιβλιοθήκη") - instead of "Library" (which is english of latin origin) won't use the real german "Bücherei" instead of "Bibliothek" at all.

Why to Translate Everything

Many times foreign words are not used because they have added meaning but because using them is somehow perceived "cool". I remember sitting in the ICE and overhearing a guy talking on the phone:

... und nach dem Breakfast Meeting da haben wir die Local Markets gepollt und diesen Input dann in den Spread Sheets processed...

Quite honestly: i heard that and asked myself what he tries to cover. This is a sort of language where one can't tell any truth and lying is the default.

But then, using words out of context because they are perceived as "cool" does not only happen to foreign terms. I live in a social cesspool and often hear "krass" and "konkret" being used like:

Weiß'du, Alda, hab isch krasse neue BMW, hat konkret zweihundatfuffsich PS, i schwör!

(In case you are wondering if i overdid it: this very sentence i heard about a week ago while waiting in a Kebab restaurant.)

Why Not to Translate At All

Every trade develops its own specific vocabulary. Often words are not used with the same meaning they have in everyday speech. These different meanings are often quite (narrowly) well-defined and translating them would take away from their special meaning. German physicians talk about a "Luxation" rather than a "Umrichtung" and a "Fraktur" rather than a "Bruch". The reason is that "Fraktur" and "Luxation" have very precise definitions every physiscian is aware of whereas "Bruch" and "Umrichtung" don't.

The same is true for IT and its - because of historical reasons english - termini technici. For instance, the usual translation of "device" is "Gerät" - because the german doorstopper magazine Computerbild created that "translation" and later Microsoft adopted it for their toy OS. But if you take a look into a dictionary (for instance: here) you will find for "device":

das Gerät
das Mittel
der Kunstgriff

...and so on. I once wrote an article in the german Wikipedia about /dev/null and called it a "device". The discussion went like this:

.../dev/null ist ein Device ....
Nein! Das heißt "Gerät"!
Aber es ja gar kein Gerät!
Na, wenn es kein Gerät ist, dann ist es ein virtuelles Gerät!

The reason is that creating an entry in the /dev tree and having methods of accessing the device like a file is indeed a "device" but the translation for such a feat of artistic brilliancy would rather be "Kunstgriff".

What to Do and When to Do it.

The austrian poet Karl Kraus - often attacked for his use of foreign words - once put it like this (i am paraphrasing here):

Man soll nicht von Kretins sprechen, wenn man es mit Trotteln zu tun hat [...] andererseits hat auch ein Fremdwort seinen Reiz und speziell die Farbe der Stupidität wird weder von der Einfalt noch der Dummheit vollgültig ersetzt.
One shouldn't call them cretins when dealing with putzes but on the other hand stupidity cannot be replaced in every nuance by neither the simple-mindedness nor the oafishness.

What he polemically suggests here is actually sound advice: don't bother to use foreign words if they do not add meaning to your language. Don't be shy to use them, though, if they do.

For your case of "library" in an IT-context that means: "library" is part of the the IT jargon and denominates a certain device. Its meaning is well established within IT folk. For the suggestion to use "Bibliothek" as translation: see above. You would just replace an english term with a greek term and the german "Bücherei" would not be understood in this context at all.

  • 2
    "Bibliothek" has been used in the German language since the early 16th century according to DWDS. I strongly disagree with the statement that "library" is more part of German IT jargon than "Bibliothek", the opposite is true. A library is also not a device, by any stretch.
    – HalvarF
    Jun 3, 2022 at 7:02
  • 1
    A library is a device for organizing precompiled functions - without any stretch. In fact i was playing with the meaning "Kunstgriff" i introduced above.
    – bakunin
    Jun 3, 2022 at 7:06
  • In IT jargon, both "device" and "library" are terms with an established meaning. Of course you can use "device" in a broader sense, ("a rhyme is a device of poetry") but that's very misleading here, especially when saying "a library is a certain device".
    – HalvarF
    Jun 3, 2022 at 7:12
  • 3
    While your answer is an interesting read and could do as an essay, yet I think it misses the question and (or even because) it is wrong on the presumption that "Bibliothek" is an uncommon and foreign-perceived word to the German language - the opposite is true. Jun 3, 2022 at 7:27
  • 3
    Exactly. But "Bibliothek" is not a foreign word. That's where the argument fails: the premise is already not true (anymore). We don't live in the 16th century anymore. The argument more generally is to introduce (new) foreign words because they add to understanding, or use an existing word (and possibly broaden or change its meaning in a particular context). The main consideration should always be: choose the word which serves best, both your audience's understanding and your purpose. Jun 3, 2022 at 7:34

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