Sometimes, my Swiss colleagues will use "abmachen" to express "abmelden", for instance:

Frage: "Kommt Thorsten am Mittagessen?"; Antwort: "Nein, er hat abgemacht."

I have looked in the Duden, in the Wiktionary and in Linguee, but I have not found this usage for "abmachen". Therefore, is this usage legitimate or is it an error ?

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    For Swiss German, you might want to use the Idiotikon: digital.idiotikon.ch/idtkn/id4.htm#!page/40035/mode/1up - But for your example, there's apparently no matching entry.
    – tofro
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 14:06
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    Are you certain they said "abgemacht"? Was this conversation in standard German or are you translating Swiss German? I think you might be mishearing something.
    – idmean
    Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 14:29
  • Thanks very much for the comments and for the Swiss source! Yes, the sentence was in standard German and not in Swiss German. Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 11:33

3 Answers 3


Native Swiss German speaker here: The verb "abmachen" in standard German means something like "to agree on", "to negotiate" or similar, as described here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/abmachen. In Swiss German, we also colloquially use it along the lines of "to set an appointment", "to schedule a meeting", "to make plans". So, the OP's example could be roughly translated as:

"Is Thorsten coming for lunch?" - "No, he's already made plans [with someone else]".

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    Native Swiss speaker here as well. This is the correct answer. I actually was not aware that this is not understood/used outside of Switzerland, good to know.
    – kscherrer
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 11:18
  • Thanks very much for your answers !! Yes, that makes totally sense now. So I thought "abmachen" was used to say "to cancel", but it rather meant "to make plans". Great ! Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 11:35
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    The question is "Therefore, is this usage legitimate or is it an error?" I think It depends on the region. In standard German it is not all clear what the phrase could mean, but your answer indicates that it has a definite meaning in Switzerland (or perhaps in some Swiss cantons). I think you understand it as "Nein, er hat schon eine andere Verabredung". Indeed "verabreden"and "abmachen" are closely related. Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 20:50

It could be a Swiss version of "sich abmachen" which means to go away. In Germany one would say "Nein, er hat sich abgemacht."

The phrase "sich abmachen" is not listed in the Duden and the discussion here shows that it is not standard German. Nevertheless it is used in some German regions. I guess it is well-known in Central German.

Often it occurs in the exclamation Mach Dich ab! which is a synonym for Hau ab! or Geh fort! Persons can also say Ich mach mich mal ab when they are leaving.

See for example the Rheingauer Wörterbuch:

ab mache
ab gemacht, kurze Vokale, ab betont, allg. für weggehen, verschwinden, flüchten, sterben. Entspricht all ma­che, fort mache, per mache (s.d.). Ich mach mich ab: ich gehe jetzt; Die ald Millern hot sich abgemacht: die alte Frau Müller ist verstorben (oder geflüchtet). Natürlich kann man auch Wehrdienst oder Knast abmache, also absolvieren; vgl. mache.

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    I'm a native German speaker from Vienna and I can only guess what the meaning of "Nein, er hat sich abgemacht." could be. Therefore I don't think this is standard German. Or did you mean "Nein, er hat sich aufgemacht."?
    – Sonyfreak
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 9:16
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    Living in Switzerland, I've also never heard "(sich) abmachen" used like this before. I think the OP is mishearing something.
    – idmean
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 9:44
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    @Sonyfreak You are right, a little research convinced my that it is not standard German. The phrase is used in Hesse and that is the reason why I know it. See my update.
    – Paul Frost
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 9:45
  • Thanks for the answers and the comments ! For my question I am sure it was not used as "sich abmachen" but used directly as "abmachen", as in the example that I have given. But yes, maybe it is an old derivation from "sich abmachen". Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 11:38

The official verb is absagen; I can't exclude that somewhere "abmachen" is a locally understood colloquial phrase (I never heard it, however), but I would not recommend to use it in general or in writing.

Abmelden is more official term e. g. used in a legal context, like cancelling a car registration, having your phone disconnected, see DWDS

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    Maybe abmachen has to be thought as the opposite of ausmachen in this context? Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 10:04
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    @phipsgabler if anything, in certain context the word abmachen can be understood as a synonym of ausmachen/ausschalten -> "Mach bitte deinen PC ab über Nacht."
    – kscherrer
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 11:28
  • Thanks for the answer and the comment ! Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 11:36
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    @kscherrer I actually was thinking of the usage as in er hat (einen Termin ausgemacht/abgemacht and hypothesized the latter means to revert the former, like abbauen. Probably the lack of an object in the OP's example confused me -- can you literally say er hat abgemacht in Swiss German? (I only know abmachen, dass ... in the sense of vereinbaren, but the subjugate clause therein is obligatory.) Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 15:48
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    @phipsgabler can you literally say 'er hat abgemacht.' in Swiss German? - Yes. Thats a full sentence in Switzerland.
    – kscherrer
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 18:03

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