What is the difference between a Wand and a Mauer?

What is the difference between a Wand and a Mauer?


Last week within two days I was asked about the difference between a “Wand” and a “Mauer”, and a quick google showed me that many German learners struggle with this. Here’s my answer:

If you look in a dictionary you’ll see that both translate as “wall”, but which wall is a Wand and which wall is a Mauer?

Let’s have a look at die Wand:

A Wand (feminine) is mainly indoors and is a part of a building.

  • the wall of a building =  Hauswand
  • the wall of  a room = Zimmerwand
  • a partition = Trennwand
  • the side of a ship or container, or the side panel of a shower or item of furniture = Seitenwand.
  • A Wandschrank (masculine)  is a wardrobe or cupboard which is designed to be attached to a wall, a wall cabinet.

Looking at the whole words, these terms make a lot of sense, Zimmerwand is the wall (Zimmer) of a room (Wand), but most times we don’t bother with the first part and just call it Wand. Fort example, if I stand in a room and like a painting on the wall I wouldn’t bother saying ‘ich mag das Bild an der Zimmerwand’ because it’s pretty obvious that I mean the wall of the room.
But for German learners who just come across Wand or Mauer it does make it a bit harder.

A few idioms:

  • gegen eine Wand anrennen = hitting one’s head against a brick wall
  • gegen eine Wand reden = talk to a brick wall
  • weiß wie eine Wand = white as a sheet
  • jemanden an die Wand spielen = to upstage / outplay somebody
  • Mal den Teufel nicht an die Wand! = Speak of the devil…

Now let’s look at die Mauer:

A Mauer is a structure made of stones, bricks etc, but it doesn’t enclose anything like a house or room.

  • Die Chinesische Mauer – the Great Wall of China
  • die Berliner Mauer – the Berlin Wall
  • eine Mauer = a defensive wall (in football during a free kick)
  • eine Mauer = an obstacle in equestrian jumping competition

Das Mauerblümchen = wall flower
Die Mauerbiene = mason bee
Der Mauerbrecher = battering ram
Eine Mauer aus Vorurteilen = wall of prejudice

Now for a little confusion ☺

A firewall is a Brandwand … or a Brandmauer!
An English wand is a Zauberstab in German, and  a German Wall is a bank or ridge.

And, before you go, a little lighthearted fun with two videos. The first one is about a very famous “Wand”. The second one is a German nursery song about a bug on a wall. Enjoy ☺

But before you watch the videos, a question (answer below the videos)


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