A curious and nice property of German is that some nouns don't have, say, intrinsic names, but composed (German!) names according to the human use or perception. For instance:

Pusteblume (Löwenzahn) = pusten (blow) + Blume (flower).

The question is: is there a known name for this feature?

Remark. Dutch possesses the same characteristic. My favorite example there is the word (de) paddestoel. In this compound name pad means Kröte and stoel, Stuhl: together, paddestoel means Pilz (Fruchtkörper) — d.h. der Stuhl der Kröte.

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    Might this not be a general feature of the human psyche and of human languages in general? English: "Devil's Bite", "Healing Blade", "Thoudand Leaf". English may use more Latin/Greek/French based words, where the etymology is not obvious, but even the "common name dandelion (dændɨlaɪ.ən, from French dent-de-lion, means 'lion's tooth'). In Japanese, to name a few, there is 向日葵(sunflower), lit. "going with the sun"; or 仏の座(henbit), lit. "Buddha's seat". Also note the English names of these to plants. I don't know about other languages, but I would not be surprised if the situation were similar.
    – blutorange
    Aug 18, 2013 at 19:05
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    And I wonder, what exactly is an "intrinsic" name, is this a term that can be given a meaningful defintion? If you look deep enough (back in history), aren't many or most names (of plants, animals, but also other objects) based upon a certain feature of that object? Even the scientific name Taraxacum, while its etymology being lost in the mist of time, is explained as being derived from (a) taraxos(disorder)+achos(medicine) or (b) from the Persian "bitter-tasting weed sold at the bazaar. There are some other hypotheses, but what they've all got in common is that it's not an intrinsic name.
    – blutorange
    Aug 18, 2013 at 19:22
  • @blutorange Interesting. Yes, I know that intrinsic is ill-defined. But "intrinsic" is less ill-defined :). What I want to be discussed/answered are the etymologies, which have immediately an explicit (German!) composed name, based on human needs or perception. The question might have a simple answer like "No." But I think I need to know what's the name of this term -- if any. So I modified a little the question, according to your suggestion.
    – c.p.
    Aug 18, 2013 at 19:26
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    Talking of answers... the very nice and well elaborated comments of @blutorange should definitely be an answer. Here's my favorite English compound in this context: Jellyfish.
    – Takkat
    Aug 18, 2013 at 21:05
  • I agree that you might get better answers on linguistics. Perhaps there is some scientific term for this, but I don't think (=I have never heard of this as a native speaker) there's a common, popular, non-scientific name people often use, nor that this is a well-known or named phenomenon of our culture. What comes close to this is the tendency that many scientific names are compounds of easily recognized German(ic) words. Just compare wikipedia articles: Keuchhusten(Pertussis), Lungenentzündung(Pneumonia), Grashüpfer(Gomphocerinae), Frühgeschichte(Protohistory). It's what I like about German.
    – blutorange
    Aug 19, 2013 at 4:17

1 Answer 1


I think there is no specific linguistic name for this feature. It rather has a share in composition and metaphorics. By the time compounds lose their transparency, e.g. germ. Eimer ("bucket") < *ein-ber < PIE. *oino- "one" + root *bher- "carry". What you have spotted is the contrast of intransparent versus transparent morphology.

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