Bodies of Water in German and their Prepositions

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Bodies of Water in German and their Prepositions

Today I went stand up paddling for my first time on Lake Zurich. The experience was a perfect balance to the Limmatschwimmen from yesterday, where some 4200 people swam and floated down the Limmat. What does this all have to do with German? It’s a great vocabulary and preposition learning opportunity. First vocabulary related to bodies of water and second, prepositions that we use bodies of water. So let’s get going and you’ll see how you can improve your German knowledge and spoken production by knowing this useful German vocabulary and getting the prepositions correct.

Bodies of Water: die Gewässer

  • stream: der Bach (Bäche)
  • pond: der Teich (Teiche)
  • river: der Fluss (Flüsse) | der Strom (Ströme)
  • lake: der See (Seen)
  • artificial lake: der Stausee (Stauseen) | der Speicher (Speicher)
  • fjord: der Fjord (Fjorde)
  • bay: die Bucht (Buchten)
  • harbour: der Hafen (Häfen)
  • gulf: der Golf (Golfe)
  • sea: die See (See)
  • ocean: das Meer (Meere) | der Ozean (Ozeane)

Related words:

  • low tide: die Ebbe (Ebben)
  • high tide: die Flut (Fluten)
  • coast: die Küste (Küsten)
  • beach: der Strand (Strände)
  • shore: das Ufer (Ufer)
  • island: die Insel (Insel)
  • tidal flat: das Watt (Watten)
  • tidal creek: der Priel (Priele)
  • boat: das Boot (Boote)
  • ship: das Schiff (Schiffe)

Expressions: Redewendungen

  • über den Bach springen, über den Bach gehen — to die
  • den Bach hinuntergehen — to lose something, especially value or quality
  • es fließt noch viel Wasser den Bach hinunter, bis … — there’s still a long time before…
  • grosser TeichAtlantic
  • den Fluss hinunter — to go down the river
  • gegen den Strom schwimmen — swim against the current
  • mit dem Strom schwimmen — to go with the current
  • in Strömen fliessen — to pour in buckets (rain)
  • eine Braut in jedem Hafen haben — to have a woman in every port
  • in den Hafen der Ehe einlaufen — to get married
  • Kleine Häfen laufen bald über. — Small containers overflow quickly. (In Swiss German Hafen is also used to mean toilette when potty training children)
  • auf hoher Seeon the high seas
  • in See stechen — to lift anchor and sail off
  • auf See bleiben — to stay at sea (expression for to die)
  • zur See fahren — to go to sea
  • wie Sand am Meerplentiful, something in abundance
  • Ebbe und Flutebb and flow
  • zu neuen Ufern aufbrechen — to make for new horizons (try something new)
  • vom anderen Ufer sein — to be gay

A few more things you should remember:

  • Rivers inside Europe are typically die, while those outside of Europe tend to be der
  • the last word in a compound noun dictates the gender, so if the word ends in Meer it is das even for Mittelmeer (Mediterranean Sea)
  • Oceans can either be refered to by a singular name or an adjective and noun combination. z.B. Pazifik oder Pazifischer Ozean

Water Prepositions:


  • boats (Boote / Schiffe) travel auf dem See / Meer / Wasser
  • if you’re going to an island, you’re going auf eine Insel
  • If you’re on an island, you’re auf einer Insel


  • if something is at the water’s edge, it’s am Wasser.
  • to be on the beach is am Strand sein
  • to go to the beach is an den Strand gehen
  • to be at the lake is am See sein
  • to go to the Lake is an den See gehen
  • an is used for on the side of, so things can be am Ufer, am Fluss, an der Küste


  • people can go rivers, beaches, coasts, and shores entlang (remember the preposition entlang typically comes after the thing you go along)


  • if things are actually in the water or body of water we use in + dative
  • if things are going / flowing into the water or body of water we use in + accusative
  • islands are also located in + dative bodies of water
  • you swim in + dative the water
  • if you were to swim from one body of water into another, you would swim in + accusative that body of water


  • generally we go über rivers, streams, oceans and other bodies of water when we go from one shore to the other


  • if something is unter dem Wasser, it’s below the surface
  • if something is submerging, it’s going unter das Wasser

Major bodies of Water and their German Names:

  • der Arktische Ozean (das Nordpolarmeer) — Arctic Ocean
  • der Altantische Ozean (der Atlantik) — Atlantic Ocean
  • der Indische Ozean (der Indik) — Indian Ocean
  • der Pazifische Ozean (der Pazifik) — Pacific Ocean
  • der Antarktische Ozean (das Südpolarmeer) — Southern Ocean
  • das Karibische Meer (die Karibik) — Caribbean
  • das MittelmeerMediterranean
  • das Gelbe Meer Yellow Sea
  • die Nordsee North Sea
  • die OstseeBaltic Sea
  • das Schwarze MeerBlack Sea
  • der Golf von MexikoGulf of Mexico

Important Rivers and their German Names:

  • der Rheinthe Rhine
  • die Rhonethe Rhone
  • die Donauthe Danube
  • die Limmatthe Limmat
  • die Aarethe Aar
  • der Nilthe Nile
  • der Amazonasthe Amazon River
  • der Mississippithe Mississippi River
  • der Gangesthe Ganges
  • der Sankt-Lorenz-Stromthe Saint Lawrence River

Gewässer Europas

Gewässer der Schweiz

Related Posts:

  1. AlokAlok11-17-2012

    rich, very useful and lovely site
    thank you for your efforts

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