Cheat Sheet: German Terminology

Here are some basic terms you will encounter in German art books or plate listings. If you can pick out at least these terms you should have the basics.


Textil/Textilen – Textile/Textiles
Seide = Silk
Leinen – Linen
Wolle = Wool
Baumwolle = Cotton
Metall = Metal
Edelmetall = Precious Metal
Silber = Silver
Geld/Gold = Gold
Holz = Wood (as in made of, a “wooden” object)
Baum = Tree
Korallen = Coral
Email, Emaille = Enamel
Kette = Chain
Bein = Bone
Elfenbein = Elephant Ivory
Glas = Glass
Kristall = Crystal (Glass)
Bergkristall = Crystal (Quartz)

Perle/Perlen = synonymous for beads and pearls of all kinds.
Glasperlen = specifically beads made of glass
Flußperlen = “Water perles”/Freshwater Pearls. Only seen occassionally.

Schmuck = many meanings… jewelry, ornament, embellishment, trinket… sparklies!

Schmuckbrakteaten = decorative coinlike discs, usually gold. These are a thin stamped highly detailed and decorative gold discs of foil usually sewn onto altar hangings or liturgical ceremonial wear. Sometimes seen applied to paintings as well. Usually seems to be interchangable with Plättchen. The same as us calling the fake round shiny metal things on belly dance scarves “coins”. They look like them, sorta, but aren’t.

Plättchen = discs or plates (known as bezants in sca)
Goldplattchen = Gold discs (known as bezants in sca)

Stäbchen = Sticks, also refers both to knitting and crochet needles as well as chopsticks, and bugle-shaped beads.

Item Terminology

Stickerei = Embroidery
Perlenstickerei = Beaded Embroidery
Gestickt = Embroidered
Gewebt = Woven
Reliquien, Reliquiare = Reliquary
Ziborium = Container for the Holy Host (Communion wafer)

Farben = Color, coloring

Rot = Red
Gelb = yellow
Grün = Green
Blau = Blue
Purpur = purple
Schwarz = Black
Weiß = White

Musuem, Art and Location terms

Kunst = Art
Künstler = Artist

Sammlungen, Sammlung = Collection
Museumsführer = Musuem Guide (brochure)
Ausstellungen = Exhibitions
Ausstellungskatalog = Exhibitions Catalog
Landesmuseum = State Museum
Orte = Places, location
Stadt = City, municipality
Staat, Staaten = State (region/province)
Öffentliche = Public, as in publically owned or operated.
Halböffentlich, Halböffentlicher = Semi-public
Privatbesitz = Private Hands (Private Collection/Collector)

Historisches = Historical
Geschichte = History
Kunstgewerbe = Arts and crafts, applied arts
Sonstiges = Miscellaneous, assorted, various

Kirche/Kirchen = Church (Parish)
Dom = Cathedral
Dommuseum = Cathedral Musuem
Domschatz = Cathedral Treasure
Kunstschatz = Art Treasure
Schatz = Treasury

Kloster = Monastery, friary, cloistered religious order (singular)
Klöster = Monasteries, friaries, cloistered religious orders (plural)
Frauenkloster = Convent, nunnery (singular)
Frauenklöster = Convents, nunneries (plural

Time and Numbers

Jahr/Jahren = Year/Years
Abbreviated is “j”
Useage: 1635 jahren or jahr 1478

Jahrhundert – Century
Abbreviated is “jh”
Useage: 16. jahrhundert is 16th century – not 1600′s.

Centuries are always in numerals, followed by a dot (example “14. Jh”). They are never spelled out as we do in English, like the words “fourteen” or “fourteenth”.

Handwritten number 1′s can look like a ^ possibly dotted as a letter “i” would be, so they can be very confusing on some handwritten records if you don’t know what you are looking at.


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