Fahrstuhl or Aufzug or Lift

Last Updated on May 2, 2024

The German dictionary consists of 33 volumes and about 320 thousand words. It took more than a hundred years to compile it, and another 60 years to process it. And this is not surprising, because they have several words for many things. Take for example “lift”: Fahrstuhl or Aufzug or Lift or Paternoster.

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Aufzug (abbreviation for Aufzugsanlage) – the most formal name and refers to the entire lifting mechanism.

Sie können den Aufzug nehmen (benutzen).
Wir sind mit dem Aufzug steckengeblieben.
Der Aufzug kommt gleich.

Fahrstuhl – refers primarily to the elevator cabin itself, but is also used to refer to the entire elevator as a whole. That is clear: for us the elevator is its cabin; we don’t see everything else. Thus, in practice there is no difference in use with the word Aufzug.

The origin of the word (Fahrstuhl = “driving chair”) is probably due to the fact that first the chair was raised, and then the chairs were in the cabins for the person serving them.

im Fahrstuhl fahren

Lift – borrowed from English and often refers not to a vertical, but an inclined lift (for example, ski lifts). However, it also applies to ordinary elevators, although I have never seen such an application in southern Germany. And if you ask in a store where Lift is, they will ask you again twenty times.

Let’s pay attention to the difference in the plural forms: Lifts can only be ordinary elevators, Lifte – both ordinary and inclined

das Hotel hat mehrere Lifts
Die Lifte in Südtirol sind heute geschlossen

Pa­ter­nos­ter (short for Paternosterwerk) – an elevator with an open door in constant motion

Eine Frau steckt im Paternoster fest

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