amuse oneself with

Viennese German

Viennese German is the city dialect spoken in Vienna, the capital of Austria and is counted among the Austro-Bavarian dialects. Even in Lower Austria, the state surrounding the city, many of its expressions are not used, while farther to the west they are often not even understood.

Linguistic Peculiarities

Viennese is rather different from the Austrian form of Standard German as well as other dialects spoken in Austria (see also Austrian German and Austro-Bavarian).

At the beginning of the 20th century one could differentiate between four Viennese Dialects (named after the districts in which they were spoken): Favoritnerisch, Meidlingerisch, Ottakringerisch, and Floridsdorferisch. Today these labels are no longer applicable and one speaks of one Viennese dialect whose usage differentiates itself as one moves further away from the city.


Viennese phonology only found in Viennese German:

  • Monophthongization: Compared to Standard German and to other Bavarian dialects, diphthongs are often monophthongized.
    For example:
    • Standard German heiß – Bavarian hoaß – Viennese haaß [haːs]
    • Standard German weiß – Viennese wääß [væːs]
    • Standard German Haus – Viennese Håås [hɒːs]
  • It is typical to lengthen vowels somewhat, often at the end of a sentence. For example: Heeaasd, i bin do ned bleeed, wooos waaasn ii, wea des woooa (Standard German Hörst du, ich bin doch nicht blöd, was weiß denn ich, wer das war).
  • The "Meidlinger L": In the working class dialect, the pronunciation of the letter "l" reflects the Czech pronunciation. This is known as Meidlinger L.
  • Inserting vowels into consonant clusters (Epenthesis): Likewise depending on the social class, every now and then a speaker may insert a vowel (near-Schwa) between two following consonants. This usually results in an additional syllable, which "intensifies" the word and usually has a negative feeling to it.
    • Standard German Verschwinde! – Viennese Vaschwind! – intensified Vaschawind!
    • Standard German Verbrecher! – Viennese Vabrecha! – intensified Vabarecha!
    • Standard German abgebrannt – Viennese oobrennt – intensified oobarennt
    • Standard German Geradeaus! – Viennese Groodaus! – intensified Garoodaus!

Other characteristics are found in Viennese German as well as in Austro-Bavarian dialects:

  • Consonant tenseness: Voiceless fortis consonants become lenis-Consonants [p, t, k] become voiceless Lenis-consonants [b̥, d̥, g̊]. The [k], however, usually remains fortis when it follows a vowel.
  • Vocalizing of the [l] within a word after a vowel,
    e.g. alsooeso [ˈɔe̯so], SoldatSoedot [sɔe̯ˈdɔːt], fehlenföhn [fœːn], KälteKöödn [ˈkøːd̥n̩]
  • Vocalizing of the [l] at the end of a word, after a vowel,
    e.g. schnellschnöö [ʃnœː], vielvüü [fʏː]
  • Unrounding front vowels after palatal consonants,
    e.g. Glück [ˈglʏk] → Glick [ˈglɪk], schön [ˈʃøːn] → schee [ˈʃẽː]
  • Rounding unrounded vowels that come before palatal consonants [l],
    e.g. schnellerschnöller [ˈʃnœlɐ], vielleichtvülleicht [fʏˈlæːçt], wildwüüd [vyːd̥]


In the realm of grammar, one does not find many differences with other Austro-Bavarian dialects. The following are typical:

  • avoidance of the genitive case
  • use of the preposition ohne (without) with the dative case instead of the accusative
  • The replacement of "ihn" or "ihm" with "eam", for instance: "Hast du ihn gesehen?" ("Have you seen him?") would be in Viennese "Host eam gsehn?"
  • The avoidance of the personal pronouns in the second person singular, for instance "Bist deppert?" ("Are you a fool?") instead of High German "Bist DU blöd?"


It is in its vocabulary where Viennese is most distinct.

Influences on the Vocabulary

The Viennese vocabulary displays particular characteristics. Viennese retains many Middle High German and sometimes even Old High German roots. Furthermore, it integrated many expressions from other languages, particularly from other parts of the former Habsburg Monarchy, as Vienna served as a melting pot for its constituent populations in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The transcription of Viennese has not been standardized. Thus, the rendering of pronunciation here is incomplete:


  • from Old High German:
    • Zähnd (Standard German Zähne, English teeth, from zand)
    • Hemad (Hemd, = English shirt, from hemidi)
  • from Middle High German:
    • Greißler (=small grocer, from griuzel - diminutive of Gruz =grain)
    • Baaz (=slimy mass, from batzen=being sticky)
    • si ohfrettn (=to struggle, from vretten)
  • from Hebrew and Yiddish:
    • Masl (=luck, from masol)
    • Hawara (=friend, companion, from chaver)
    • Gannef (=crook, from ganav)
    • Beisl (=bar, pub, from bajser)
  • from Czech:
    • Motschga (=unappetizing mush, from mocka=residue in a pipe or macka=Sauce, Soup)
    • Pfrnak (=(big) nose)
    • Lepschi (Auf Lepschi gehen = to go out or to amuse oneself)
  • from Hungarian:
    • Maschekseitn (=the other side, from a másik)
    • Gattihosn (=long underpants, from gatya = trousers)
  • from Italian:
    • Gspusi (=girlfriend, from sposa)
    • Gstanzl (=Stanza of a humorous song, from stanza)
    • Gusta (=appetite for something, from gusto)
  • from French:
    • Trottoa (=sidewalk, from trottoir)
    • Lawua (=washbowl, from lavoir)
    • Loschi (from logis)


In Viennese one increasingly finds the following pragmatic peculiarities:

  • Frequently occurring ironic speech which is marked neither through intonation nor through gestures. This is – especially for foreigners – a source of misunderstandings.
  • Exaggeration: Hyperbole is the rule. For example: The sentence I bin an hoibn Dog ummadumgrennt, woa in hundert Gschäfter und hob nix gfundn literally means "I have run around for half a day, was in a hundred stores and found nothing to buy." However, this really means that the person was in about three stores for at best one hour and only bought a little bit.
  • “Opposite exaggeration,” the recognizable diminutive suffixes such as -l or -erl (as in Kaffeetscherl or Plauscherl).


In more recent times Viennese has become closer to Standard German; this has developed into a kind of Standard German spoken with a typical Viennese accent (for example, the original Viennese Wos host’n fir a Notn gschriebn? becomes modern Was hast’n für eine Note gschriebn?). The typical Viennese monophthongization, through which the dialect differentiates itself from the neighboring dialects, remains, but mostly in the form of a developing “Pseudo-Standard German” that many foreigners, particularly from other states, feel is ugly . For example: Wäääßt, wos mir heut in der Schule für än gråååsliches Fläääsch kriegt ham? (Standard German Weißt du, was für ein widerliches Fleisch wir heute in der Schule vorgesetzt bekamen?) The monopthongized Diphthongs, like ei ~ äää or au ~ ååå, are particularly stressed and lengthened.
The reason for the convergence of the typical Viennese Dialects, is the attitude, strengthened by the media, that Urwienerisch is to be considered something of the Proletariat. With the rising standard of living the original Viennese can further converge, as it is considered a sign of low-class origins, while the unique Viennese words (such as Zwutschgerl) however generally stay in use.

See also

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