When studying German, you might encounter words like “z.B.” or “bzw.” while reading a text. These words are abbreviations, and we have many of them in German. Get to know the essential shortcuts in this article!


German abbreviations

Though many do not understand the meaning of “evtl.” or “bspw.”, they often assume that they might not be really relevant and therefore, they do not pay further attention to their meaning. However, it is pertinent to understand their meaning because you might miss the purpose of the whole sentence. And as we all know, this often ends in misunderstandings.

As in many other languages, also German abbreviations consist of single letters or letter combinations. You always need to finish them with a point “.” and if you forget to do so, it counts as a mistake. When you read a text aloud, which includes abbreviation as in “z.B.” you do not only name the letters but tell the whole word(s) they stand for.

In the following, I will explain to you the 10 most essential abbreviations that you should know as a German student.


1. “z.B.”

Most likely, the German abbreviation “z.B.” will cross your way very often. It stands for “zum Beispiel” which means “for example” in English. It is widespread to write the short version in texts or emails, but you should not use it in your German placement test essay.


2. “bspw.”

Though “bspw.” might look a bit weird, it represents the minimalistic version of “beispielsweise”. As you might have already guessed, “beispielsweise” shares a connection with “zum Beispiel” and so it might not be surprising, that it also means “for example”. You can actually use them as a synonym.


3. “bzw.”

The abbreviation “bzw.” stands for “beziehungsweise” which means “or rather” as a conjunction or “more specifically” in the sense of an adverb.


4. “ca.”

The next candidate in our list ist “ca.” alias “circa”. We can translate it to the English “circa,” “around,” “about,” or “approximately.”

For instance: “Das Auto ist ca. 50 km/h gefahren.” – “The car drove around 50 km/h.”


5. “d.h.”

Number 5 is the shortening “d.h.”. It stands for “das heißt which means “that means,” “id est,” “that is to say,” or “viz.” If you use this abbreviation in German, you should take into consideration that you always need to write a comma before it.


6. “etc.”

The shortening, “etc.” stands for the Latin expression “et cetera.” Many other languages also use the same version, and actually, we can translate its meaning to “and other similar things” as well as “and so forth.”


7. “evtl.”

The next candidate is “evtl.” and it is the shortening for “eventuell”. You should be aware that it is a false friend of the English “eventually,” which means “endlich” in German. However, we can translate “eventuell” with “possible, potential, perhaps, maybe”.


8. “usw.”

Germans really like to use this one! The shortening “usw.” means “und so weiter” which is “and so forth”, “and so on” or “et cetera” in English.


9. “z.T.”

As we near the end of this article, we meet the abbreviation “z.T.”. It stands for “zum Teil” which means “partly, in part” or “to some extent”. A synonym for “z.T.” in German is “teilweise” which we can also write as “teilw.”.

For example: “Der Zug war z.T. überfüllt.” – “The train was partly overfilled.”


10. “inkl.”

Last but not least we have “inkl.” in this list. It is the short version of “inklusive” which is the German version of “including” or “inclusively”.

For instance: “Der Preis ist inkl. Liefergebühren.” – “The price includes delivery charges.”


Shortenings in German

I hope that you enjoyed reading my article and that you now know what you read the next time you encounter a German abbreviation. As you could see, many have their roots in Latin, but over time, also a lot of specific ones have developed. Since they often look similar, you should focus on remembering the letters correctly, because it could confuse if you misspell one of them.

If you would like to know more about German spelling, you should not miss the article about when to use capital letters in German.

Bis bald!



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