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All three of the full-German dictionaries that I typically consult - Duden, DWDS, Wiktionary - suggest that the word geringfügig is an adjective that means "unbedeutend" or "belanglos". They don't provide any separate meaning for geringfügig when used as an adverb, which is of course to be expected, since, as I've learned by now, a German adjective will typically have a directly corresponding meaning when used as an adverb.

However, when I look up the word in one of my main German/English dictionaries - dict.cc - the first choice for an English translation of geringfügig is, by a wide margin, the adverb "slightly." In English, when you compare A to B, and say that A is, for example, slightly better than B, there is not necessarily an implication that the difference is meaningless or trivial/unbedeutend or belanglos (although that may of course be the case).

My question is: is the connotation of meaninglessness/triviality preserved in the adverb form? For example, if you said, "Unser neues Haus ist geringfügig größer als unser altes," are you saying that the difference is so small that you don't really care?

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In der Regel sind geringfügige Unterschiede von geringer Bedeutung, und soweit ich das überblicke unabhängig davon, ob das Wort adverbial oder adjektivisch eingesetzt wird.

So oder so kann es aber geringfügige Unterschiede geben, die keinen geringen Effekt haben.

Eine geringfügige Änderung an einer Datei bewirkt schon eine komplett andere MD5-Summe.

Eine geringfügig geänderte Datei bewirkt schon eine komplett andere MD5-Summe.

Der Fokus auf den speziellen Effekt, hier die MD5-Summe, bewirkt, dass der Unterschied als gar nicht so geringfügig wahrgenommen wird.

Würde man das geringfügig unterschiedliche Alter zweier Zwillingsschwestern betrachten, von denen eine um 22:00 Uhr die Tanzveranstaltung verlassen muss, während die andere bleiben darf, so hätte man es vielleicht mit einem Rätsel zu tun, oder würde sich die zusätzliche Information wünschen, dass die eine um 23:57, die andere um 0:02 Uhr zur Welt kam, und das Datum der Veranstaltung just der Geburtstag der Älteren war.

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    As the question was asked in English, it would be nice to provide the answer in English.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    May 15 at 20:16
  • As the topic here is the German language, and the question was risen with pretty German fluent looking examples, I guess my answer was understood. May 16 at 17:27
  • It is not just about the person asking the question, but also about future readers of the thread.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    May 17 at 8:31
  • @JonathanHerrera: Ich gehe nicht davon aus, dass die Mehrheit dieser besser Englisch kann, als Deutsch, was meinst Du? 2 days ago
  • Diese Diskussion ist auf Meta schonmal geführt worden, da gehört sie auch hin.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    2 days ago
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"geringfügig" conveys - to me as a native speaker anyway, no formal studies of our language - a meaning of "yeah, it's there, but it's minor. It's noticeable, but not in a big way."

For example, if you said, "Unser neues Haus ist geringfügig größer als unser altes," are you saying that the difference is so small that you don't really care?

"don't really care" is... a bit stronger than I'd understand it from this sentence. The new house is bigger, and in a measurable and indeed noticeable way - the "geringfügig" here conveys more a meaning of "this is not why we chose this new house". It's a side note, not the main thing you want to talk about regarding this new house.

"not relevant" would be a closer fit for the meaning, I think. It works for both of your examples - the new house is bigger, yes, but not in a relevant way. And the change to those files is so small as to be irrelevant to the file itself (misspell one word, add a dot to the end of a sentence for proper grammar, maybe change the color of one pixel) so it's interesting that it results in a completely different MD5 sum.

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As a German native speaker, my feeling is that "unbedeutend" and "belanglos" mean the same, but "geringfügig" has another meaning. I agree with dict.cc that "gerinfügig" translates to "slightly".

Moreover, "unbedeutend" can be analysed to "un-" and "bedeutend". The prefix "un-" is a negation. "bedeutend" means "meaningful", so it is about not being meaningful, negligible.

IMHO: Just because there is a slight difference between two things does not necessarily mean that this difference is negligible. This depends much on the context and is not inherent to these words.

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