Long words is one of my favorite features in German. Is there a criterion, "eine grammatische Empfehlung!, to know when we can put nouns together?

I'm not talking about creating significant words like "Glühbirne" or "Pusteblumen", don't even care if they are going to be used. I just want to know when it is correct, and when it is better than using Genitiv, prepositions or Relativsätze instead.

  1. Importbananen instead of Bananen zu importieren, Bananen, die man importiert.
  2. Erziehungcampseinrichtung instead of Einrichtung der Erziehungcamps or Einrichtung von Erziehungcamps.

Does the answer rely on how often they are going to be used in the text?

Context: (read this text if the question wasn't clear enough.) I was writing a text, a little essay without other value than exercising German. I had to mention some "Verhütungsmaßnahmen gegen Jugendkriminalität". I have a very good teacher, and she always corrects minimal details and improves sentences whenever there is a better way to write. I was surprised when my word "Jugendkriminalitätsverhütungsmaßnahme" was not rejected after she read my text. I don't know if she overlooked it, she didn't even understand, or if I was indeed allowed to write that nonexistent word. In any case, I think that the question makes sense.

  • Zusammengesetzte Wörter sind genauso erlaubt wie Zahlen, die aus Ziffern zusammengesetzt sind, auch wenn nirgends explizit erlaubt wird die Zahl 234534709803098059981 zu benutzn. Dass diese nicht existent sei kann man nicht sagen, und so kann man nicht sagen, dass die Jugendkriminalitätsverhütungsmaßnahme nicht existent sei. Aber Bananen, die man importiert sind Importbananen, während der Vorgang Bananenimport heißt. Commented Jul 20, 2013 at 15:39
  • @userunknown danke, ich habe schon es geändert.
    – c.p.
    Commented Jul 20, 2013 at 17:59
  • Ja, aber nun ist es in die andere Richtung falsch. Der Import ist, genauer betrachtet, ein Bananenimport, aber das importierte Obst ist, mangels besseren Klimas, eine Importbanane. Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 10:34
  • Oberaffengeil. Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaft etc.
    – mvw
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 10:53
  • The question What is the longest German word (that is used)? has been closed as not constructive but the comments might give you an idea of what, in theory, is possible in the German language.
    – Em1
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 7:26

1 Answer 1


You can build “zusammengesetzte Nomen” which are as long as you want. One example for that (we played around with that in elementary school) is the “Oberweserdampfschifffahrtskapitänskajütentür”. So your “Jugendkriminalitätsverhütungsmaßnahme” is perfectly fine.

That said, as a native German speaker, I would probably not use this word. It is too long and too hard to grasp on first glance. At least, I would use a hyphen to “mark” the two parts of the word (“Jugendkriminalitäts-Verhütungsmaßnahme”) but more likely I would split it into “Verhütungsmaßnahmen gegen Jugendkriminalität”.

So in the end, it is definitely correct and you can use it. It's just that the other variant is easier to read and grasp.

  • 2
    I can perfectly imagine the word in a legal document... but in daily life I agree... people wouldn't really write that
    – Emanuel
    Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 20:56
  • 1
    Yes, that is probably true. But the language used in legal documents is a different language anyway ;-) Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 21:55
  • Just a small addition: technically, it is good style to use a hyphen if the compound noun exceeds ten syllables, as well as in any of the situations in §45 AmtlRR.
    – Chris vCB
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 13:58

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