Glossary Project

Glossary of Old German Words

These are words that rarely appear in modern German-English dictionaries or that appear there with different meanings today. I established the glossary for my own use, to keep track of information I had to dig for. If you landed on this page in search of a word not listed, please contact me. If I don’t know the meaning, I’ll research it for you (a limited free service). Additions and corrections are also welcome.

A-D | E-J | K-R | S-Z

Key to Sources

(A) “Alte Münzen, Masse und Gewichte” in: Geschichte von Münster a.N. by Ludwig Vogelmann, Heimatausschuß Stuttgart-Münster, 1965.

(C) Cassel’s New German and English Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York and London, 1906 (C1968 refers to the 1968 edition of the same work)

(D) Duden, Das große Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, Dudenverlag, Bibliographisches Institut Mannheim, Wien, Zürich, 1979

(FW) Familienkundliches Wörterbuch, by Fritz Verdenhalven, Verlag Degener & Co., Neustadt an der Aisch, 1969

(H) Heath’s New German Dictionary, by Elizabeth Weir; D.C. Heath & Co., Publishers, Boston, New York, and Chicago, 1888

(HW) Hilfswörterbuch für Historiker by Eugen Haberkern and Joseph Friedrich Wallach, Francke Verlag, Tübingen, 6th edition, 1980 (definitions greatly abridged; for detailed explanations, I highly recommend this work if you read German)

(M) Meyers Großes Konversationslexikon, Leipzig and Vienna 1903, Vol. 3, pp. 620–621

(T) Taschenbuch für Familiengeschichtsforshung, by Wolfgang Ribbe and Eckart Henning, Verlag Degener & Co., Neustadt an der Aisch, 1980

If no source is given, I may have inferred the meaning from context, found it explained in an unidentified German source (e.g. photocopy from client), or simply neglected to record the source.


Aigenveldt see Eigenfeld
see Allmende
Allmende commons, common land of a community, also called Losacker (HW)
Allod(ium) small hereditary proprietorship (HW)
Anwand place where the farmer turned around when plowing; gradually it developed into a strip of land between two fields, which was often leased separately or turned over to a concern such as a school (HW)
Arrha symbolic counterpayment to the consideration in a contract, which made the contract legally binding; used mainly with marriage contracts and property transfers, also called Weinkauf (wine purchase), Bierkauf (beer purchase), Imbiß (snack) etc., when it took the form of food or drink consumed communally by the contracting parties and witnesses after the signing (HW)
Ausbürger see Pfahlbürger
Ausgedinger(in) see Leibzüchter(in)



Bärker, Berker tanner (FW)
Bauerschaft cluster of farms, agricultural village (HW)
befreundet akin, related (H)
Beisasse see Schutzverwandter
Beisitzer see Schutzverwandter
besetzt (in personal description, as in passport) stocky, heavyset (=untersetzt) (source: letter from German researcher)
Bierkauf see Arrha
Blutzehnt blood tithe — tax of or on livestock (H)
Brink undeveloped area on the outskirts of a village; originally the Brink was a woods, but later the term came to mean any undeveloped land. (HW)
Brinksitzer isolated settler in the Brink. The Brinksitzer would eventually acquire land and rights. (HW)
Bürger burgher; click here for fuller explanation (M)
Butheler nailsmith (FW)
Butteler cellarer (FW)



Cubiterin new mother, woman in childbed



Dimissoriale (in marriage record) affidavit by which a pastor grants consent for one of his parishioners to be married by another pastor (HW)
godfather/godmother (Swabian)
Drubbel central part of a farm community, where houses were clustered



Eichelmast right to drive pigs or other livestock into the (oak) forest to feed (see Mast) (HW, inferred)
Eigenfeld field farmed by the owner himself, with the help of day laborers, rather than by a tenant farmer; privately owned land, as opposed to land owned by the crown (inferred from entries in HW for Eigenbau, Eigengut, etc.)
Einwohner resident of a community with fewer rights than a Bürger, also called Schutzverwandter
Erbrecht form of landholding whereby the holder can turn the land over to another (who can, in turn, bequeath it to his heirs) in return for an annual rent, without the holder’s having direct ownership himself; he owns only the right to use the land (HW)
Excapitulant military enlistee


Feldschütz field guard (H)
Fronden, Fronen socage, manual labor rendered by a tenant to his landlord under the feudal system (HW)



Genoßsame community of vassals belonging to a feudal estate (HW)
Geschwei sister-in-law, mother-in-law (FW)
Glevenbürger see Pfahlbürger (HW) and Bürger
merchant, trader
Grometh newmown hay or grass
grundbar subject to land rent
Grundbeere potato



Handlohn honorarium paid to the landlord for his consent when a lease changes hands; also called Laudemium (HW)
Häusler see Heuerling
Heuerling hireling; or contract farm worker who receives a house and small plot of land on the farm in return for labor and an annual fee (HW). Also see Söldner.
Hofbeständer see Genoßsame (HW)
Hüsselte see Heuerling



Imbiß see Arrha
ingehend first [of a month]
Inmann, Inwohner see Schutzverwandter




Kan(d)elgießer see Kannengießer
Kandler see Kannengießer
Kannenbäcker potter (see Krugbäcker; inferred, since both Kanne and Krug mean “tankard, jug, or pot”
Kannengießer pewterer (H)
Ke(e)srecht right to let livestock feed in the forest; see Mast (H/W)
Krugbäcker potter (T)



Laudemium see Handlohn
Lei(h)kauf see Weinkauf (HW)
Leibzüchter(in) life-annuitant (H); person living on a Leibzucht or life estate (-in is feminine suffix)
Losacker see Allmende
ludeigen free and unencumbered [land] (HW)



Mast(recht) (before stall feeding was introduced) the right to drive livestock, especially pigs, into the forest for fattening on acorns, beechnuts, etc. (HW); Mast (English mast) also refers to fattening or the feed itself (H)
Merino minor official [Spain] (HW)
Metze old unit of measure that varied in size, used mainly for grain (D)





Observanda midwife



Pfahlbürger person living outside a city who enjoyed burgher rights in return for military service to the city (HW); also see link at Bürger
Pfleg(e)amt district of of a Bavarian provincial court, administered by a Pfleger or provincial judge (HW)
Pfründe benefice, living; prebend (H)
Podestat see Merino





Rauchgeld hearth tax (HW)
Ruggericht peasants’ court


Säckelmeister cashier, treasurer (H) — not to be confused with Säcklermeister, master pursemaker)
Säckler pursemaker (FW)
Scharwerk(e) see Fronden (HW)
Scharwerk-Geld socage fee, paid in lieu of manual labor
Schober box- or barrel-shaped pile of hay, straw, or grain kept outdoors and covered (D)
Schock 60, threescore (H)
Schutzverwandter person entitled under state law to live in a community but who could not own land and had limited rights (M, HW); also called Beisasse, Beisitzer, Einwohner, Inmann, Inwohner, etc. (HW); for more information, see Bürger
Seckelmeister see Säckelmeister
Siebner one of seven village officials appointed to watch field boundaries and arbitrate in boundary disputes (HW)
Simri old grain measure = 22.15 liter (A)
hireling; also see Schutzverwandter.
NOTE: German-English dictionaries translate this word as “mercenary”, a term that today is associated with soldiers hired by a foreign government or with anyone doing something just for the money. But HW defines Söldner as 1) Häusler; 2) Schützverwandter.  Both work for pay, but not in the greedy sense of “mercenary” in today’s English.



Tag(e)werk old land measure, approximately equivalent to a Morgen (D), which ranged from 0.6 to 0.9 acres (C1968). Some dictionaries translate Morgen as “acre.”
Terminen cramps, especially epilepsy (FW)
Thie, Thye, Tie, assembly place in a farm village, or the assembly itself and its proceedings (HW)
Tripfhäusl, Tropfhäusl small house to which belongs only the ground directly beneath the roof and eaves



Untergänger judges in border disputes





Weinkauf see Arrha
Weißbeck, Weißbäcker fancy baker, baker of wheaten bread (H); baker and confectioner (C1968)
Werkhschuh foot (linear measure)



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