I'm looking for German verbs with a bisyllabic root that have are stressed on their first syllable. But verbs like ändern or wechseln and also eignen don't count, which would be verb roots that end in -er, -el or -en. Compound verb roots and verb roots with a suffix don't count. Stressed separable prefixes clearly don't count either (e.g. anfangen).

Basically the two verbs arbeiten and heiraten seemed odd to me in that they are similar in sharing the above characteristics, but are unlike any other verb I tried to think of. Are there more verbs like those two?

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    regnen, leugnen and others that fit the pattern. More exceptional: weihnachten. I assume festigen is disqualified, but then what is a root here? Are we sure Arbeit and Heirat were not compounds? And the noun that was verbed to make feiern ends in -er but there is no fei, likewise many words ending in -el are from Romance languages. True also for inherited roots like Wasser. We can't use only grep to filter by etymology. May 17, 2019 at 19:57
  • Yeah, but none of those verbs fall exactly in the line I drew around arbeiten and heiraten in my head when I asked the question. I should have excluded all verb roots ending in -er, -el, -en outright (since I don't view them as special the same way I do the two original examples), the same with compound verb roots and those with suffixes. Should I maybe reframe the question, start with arbeiten and heiraten and then explain why they seem so special, yet similar to me? May 18, 2019 at 6:34
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    Sure, I asked what "root" means here. But it seems circular. From what I understand, if there were a new suffix -at (which in fact there sort of is, thanks to Latinisms and pseudo-Latinisms - Plagiat, Laminat, Cervelat...), then heiraten would be disqualified, despite the fact that it's etymology is totally independent! May 18, 2019 at 8:16
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    It seems like your candidate pool is mostly nouns that 1) have two syllables, with stress on first 2) have been verbed without an additional suffix (so no verabscheuen 3) have an opaque etymology. May 18, 2019 at 8:18
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    But it might actually be that there are only very few bisyllabic German noun roots. Other than Arbeit and Heirat there are Armut and Heimat for example (funny how they even match), but those can't be turned into verbs. I don't know how many more there are. I'd be curious to know if there is a list of such nouns somewhere and how many there are (as opposed to the verb version). May 18, 2019 at 19:15

4 Answers 4


Using the CELEX database, you can find some verbs that match your criteria. There aren't many, and as others have already said, these are mostly deadjectival or denominal verbs on -ig (ängstigen, bändigen, billigen, einigen, fertigen, festigen, huldigen, kräftigen, kreuzigen, kündigen, mäßigen, nächtigen, nötigen, peinigen, predigen, reinigen, sänftigen, sättigen, schädigen, steinigen, sündigen, tätigen, willigen, würdigen, zeitigen, züchtigen ...) and denominal verbs like antworten, arbeiten, argwöhnen, frühstücken, heiraten (no connection to heil, by the way -- there's an old Germanic word for 'household', 'family' in there), kennzeichnen, kiebitzen, langweilen, mutmaßen, ohrfeigen, urteilen, weihnachten, wirtschaften and some more.

Then there's also ehelichen and dolmetschen (borrowed from a Slavic language that got it from Turkish tilmaç).

  • Thanks! This looks comprehensive, do you think I should mark it as the right answer? May 22, 2019 at 8:28
  • That's up to you, I suppose! I don't know how comprehensive this list really is -- as far as I know, there aren't that many ressources that include information on syllables, stress patterns and morphemes, and those that do, like CELEX, usually aren't that large (CELEX only includes about 50k German lemmata). So some words are probably missing, especially low-frequency words and specialised vocabulary.
    – Cyreth
    May 22, 2019 at 11:32

There is batiken.

I think that German verb roots are mostly monosyllabic (that is, when we exclude prefixes, particles, and the first elements of compounds, and ignore the presence of second syllables that are merely "reduction syllables" like er or el). I don't know to what extent this is based on inheritance from Proto-Germanic vs. sound changes like syncope of unstressed vowels. Is it any easier to find examples of bisyllabic German verb roots with stress on the second syllable? I can't think of any right now.

All of the examples of verbs with more than one non-schwa vowel in the root seem to be denominal verbs: arbeiten from the noun Arbeit (or from its ancestor) and heiraten from Heirat (or from its ancestor). Likewise, batiken is from Batik. But I do not expect the class of verbs like this to be very large because I think German noun roots are also mostly monosyllabic.

As I mentioned in the answer to your follow-up question about nouns, there may be around a hundred disyllabic noun roots in German, of which some or most might be "nativized loans". The noun Käfig apparently was not inherited from Proto-Germanic, but borrowed from Latin at some point during the history of German. It is clearly an older and more nativized borrowing than my example of Batik, but neither seems to technically be a native German root.

  • That's kinda exactly what I was looking for? Still kind of a cheat, though. I get the other point, but verbs ending in -ern, -eln, -nen show up regularly. Compound verb roots are not that special either (although still far from what the majority of German verbs resemble, e.g. handhaben). But arbeiten and heiraten are pretty special in that way and I guess their etymology would shed some light on why that is and that makes me curious if there is any other similar to those. May 18, 2019 at 6:27
  • Sure, and batiken is a nice example, but Batik is a loanword, and that's what makes it look like a cheat. My intuition is also that German noun roots are mostly monosyllabic (or else bisyllabic with a schwa-like second syllable. Maybe I should be looking for bisyllabic German noun roots of Germanic origin similar to Heirat and Arbeit. May 18, 2019 at 7:30
  • Re: your recent edit(s). There are so few that I'd be glad to find more regardless of origin. I wouldn't have expected the answer to the question of how many bisyllabic German verb roots there are to be that low, or the number of ones that didn't originally belong to another root class to be zero (I just thought of fertigen, by the way, but the same thing applies there). May 20, 2019 at 6:50
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    @user3482545: There are a number of other verbs ending in -igen; I didn't look very deeply into them because Adam Bittlingmayer already mentioned festigen in his first comment. I don't know whether faulenzen also works for you? May 20, 2019 at 16:38
  • Yes, but those are suffixed (fertig is too, but at least only etymologically). I'd say flaunzen works perfectly. Just thought of empören and was happy it's even stressed on the second syllable, but actually it behaves as if the em- were an inseparable prefix, but prefix it is, again, only etymologically. I would've gone investigating wether any verb root unstressed in its first syllable behaves that way, but there may be just that one. May 20, 2019 at 18:04

A few more examples in addition to Cyreth's great answer:

malochen, roboten (another two words semantically close to arbeiten, both loans, the former from Yiddish and the latter from Czech or another Slavic language), haushalten, urlauben.

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    Thanks, the first example reminded me of schmarotzen, which I thought was a Yiddish loan, but Duden says its origin is unclear. From that I got suggested nassauern, which is also interesting. May 22, 2019 at 18:47

For simplicities sake you can assume "arbeit-en" and "heirat-en" are learned as derivatives from the respective nouns. Thus you can also find ... many verbs on "-ieren", e.g. "telefonieren", "persiflieren", "betonieren", "kastrieren" or "sortieren" (so much that it's a meme to attach it to any loan, e.g. "ban" > "bannieren", although "Bann, bannen" already exist and "-ieren" smacks more of French than English).

Further, with "Heirat" the root is "Rat, raten" (advice, council) with the suffix "Heil" (health, prosperity), high (cp "Hoch-Zeit"). So assuming the same holds for "Arbeit", the question would be, what's the root? It's obscure, tentativelly and rather grimmly linked to "orphan". "-eiten" is frequent rhyme for verbs, e.g. "weiten, reiten, schreiten, begleiten", corresponding to -it-, cp. respectively *weit, Weite" (far, width), Ritt (p.p. "rode"), "Schritt" (step, crotch), but "Geleit, leiten" (entourage, to lead), not "gleiten" (glide) and probably neither "leiden", preterite "litt-" (suffer), nor "lassen" (let), "losen" (lot), "lösen" (solve) [ok, bad example]. But this tells us nothing, really.

  • I'd be interested to know the etymology if Arbeit in detail. Still strange that there are only two verbs of the kind I described. May 18, 2019 at 7:33
  • @user3482545: Wiktionary has it here en.wiktionary.org/wiki/arbeiten May 22, 2019 at 14:45
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    There's no Heil in Heirat, guxtu here: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Heirat#German May 22, 2019 at 14:52
  • @jknappen, well, I did not make that up, but I do not remember where I read it years ago. Either way "Rat" is a component, just that Gerät etc is not what I had in mind.
    – vectory
    May 22, 2019 at 16:07
  • Regardin "Arbeit" if you click through you'll read "Apparently linked to", "probably", "kann" etc.
    – vectory
    May 22, 2019 at 16:09

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