The following is a definition of the verb "schaffen." I'm wondering if the comma means something like "oder." I'm curious about whether this is a feature of definitions or prose in general.

erfolgreich hinter sich bringen, beenden

  • 2
    The practice is common in dictionaries because dictionaries are huge. Using ',' in place of 'oder' saves only three characters, but across 70,000 definitions, that adds up. May 29, 2023 at 8:34
  • Is the comma use an exclusive feature of definitions?
    – Apollyon
    May 29, 2023 at 9:23

1 Answer 1


Yes, in definitions in a dictionary, a comma is a common way to separate alternative paraphrases.

See for example any entry in Grimm's Wörterbuch: https://woerterbuchnetz.de/?sigle=DWB

Wiktionary, DWDS and others also use this:



  • Thank you. I'm only a beginner. Could you cite a contemporary example?
    – Apollyon
    May 29, 2023 at 7:38
  • 1
    I have added links to "schaffen" in the modern dictionaries I mentioned, but you can basically take any dictionary for German, English, French, Spanisch, Italian and other European languages and find that use. It's very basic.
    – HalvarF
    May 29, 2023 at 7:50
  • English tends to use semicolons to separate paraphrases, and it wouldn't use commas with two juxtaposed synonymous verbs that each can be used to define an expression.
    – Apollyon
    May 29, 2023 at 8:20
  • It's a convention that seemingly depends more on the dictionary than the language. The printed English "Roget's thesaurus" I have here only uses commas. Oxford dictionaries tend to use semicolons, which makes a lot of sense, but I can also find the use of commas. OpenThesaurus uses the centered dot (·).
    – HalvarF
    May 29, 2023 at 14:04
  • 1
    Sorry, no, this is becoming ridiculous. As I mentioned, I saw it in a printed version of the Oxford dictionary, but I have no interest in convincing you, and this is offtopic in German language SE.
    – HalvarF
    May 29, 2023 at 16:54

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