Die fünf Sinne Teil 1 der Sinn – The five senses in German

Die Fünf Sinne

Die fünf Sinne Teil 1 der Sinn – The five senses in German

Before we even learn to walk let alone speak we learn how to trust our senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing. Because our senses determine so much of how we perceive the world, it’s important for us to be able to express them linguistically. Being able to talk about them in German will help you increase your vocabulary and means of communication. Let’s get started.

Aristotle’s five senses (Die fünf Sinne des Menschen nach Aristoteles)

die 5 Sinne 

Below are the five senses that were first scientifically (wissenschaftlich) described by Aristotle. Note that in the German we have the substantivized verb z.B. das Sehen and then the more technical form of the ability that ends in “sinn” and literally translates into “sense of …”.

  • das Sehen / der Gesichtssinn (sight) — sehen (to see)
    • die visuelle Wahrnehmung mit den Augen
  • das Hören / der Gehörsinn (hearing) — hören (to hear)
    • die auditive Wahrnehmung mit den Ohren
  • das Riechen / der Geruchssinn (smell) — riechen (to smell)
    • die olfaktorische Wahrnehmung mit der Nase
  • das Schmecken / der Geschmackssinn (taste) – schmecken (to taste)
    • die gustatorische Wahrnehmung mit der Zunge
  • das Tasten / der Tastsinn (touch) – tasten (to touch)
    • die taktile Wahrnehmung mit der Haut

As you can see from above, many of the words for defining the senses are similar to the English words (visual, audio, olfactory, gustatory, tactile)

Sinn is German for sense

Before we get too much deeper in the five senses, let’s just cover the German word Sinn (sense). In many ways it too is quite similar to the English words in terms of its usage. From the ability to perceive something (Wahrnehmung) using the senses, to meaning of something (it’s sense), to the goal or target of an action (purpose). Sinn is a good German word to learn. Here are it’s five definitions and examples to highlight them taken from the Duden:

  1. Fähigkeit der Wahrnehmung und Empfindung (die in den Sinnesorganen ihren Sitz hat) (The ability to perceive and sense using ones sensory organs.)
    • Blinde haben oft sehr ausgeprägte andere Sinne wie ein feines Gehör. (The blind often have a very keen other senses such as acute hearing.)
  2. Gefühl, Verständnis für etwas; innere Beziehung zu etwas (Feeling, Understanding for something; inner relationship to something)
    • Sein Vater hat wirklich keinen Sinn für Humor. (His father really doesn’t have a sense of humor.)
  3. jemandes Gedanken, Denken; Sinnesart, Denkungsart (gehoben) (In an formal language: someone’s thoughts; their way of thinking.)
    • Was ist dir denn da in den Sinn gekommen, als du das Auto geliehen hast ohne zu fragen? (What were you thinking when you borrowed the car without asking?)
    • Den Plan kannst du dir gleich wieder aus dem Sinn schlagen. (You can forget the plan right now. (literally: strike the plan from your mind))
  4. gedanklicher Gehalt, Bedeutung, Sinngehalt (intellectual content, meaning; logical meaning)
    • Bei alten Gesetzen muss man oft überlegen, welchen Sinn sie ursprünglich hatten. (When it comes to old laws, one if often left asking what their original meaning (purpose) was.)
  5. Ziel und Zweck, Wert, der einer Sache innewohnt (goal and purpose, the value inherent in a thing)
    • Welchen Sinn verfolgt bitte Ihre Frage? (What’s the purpose of your question? (What are you trying to get at?))

One thing needs to be said here. German has translated the English phrase “That doesn’t make any sense.” as “Das macht keinen Sinn.” While you will often hear this, it’s grammatically incorrect. The correct form of this phrase is: “Das ergibt keinen Sinn.” You can read all about this linguistic faux pas on Bastien Sick’s Zwiebelfisch blog: Stop making sense!

Words often associated with Sinn:


Sinn Adjektive


Sinn Verben


Sinn Nomen

Erbsen auf halb 6

If you’re looking for a great German film about our senses, Erbsen auf halb 6 is a must watch. Here is the trailer.

Learn More German

This is the first post of six on the five senses in German. Click on the links below to read through them all, increase your German vocabulary, and find out which sense doesn’t exist in Swiss-German.

Related Posts:


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