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“die Not” is a strong “need”

The German noun die Not, which can translate to emergency, poverty, distress and other similar terms.

  • Das ist der Notausgang.
  • That is the emergency exit.
  • In den Favelas gibt es große Not.
  • In the townships, there’s a lot of misery, poverty.
  • Das ist ein Notfall.
  • This is an emergency.
  • Das Schiff ist in Seenot.
  • The ship is in distress (at sea).

The best way to think about it though is as its English cousin need – a very serious and urgent one.

This serious notion is actually closer to the original root of the family, which was about exhaustion and death. The English need just got more general and less serious over time.

And also the German side of the family softened a bit. Die Not itself is quite serious, but nötig for instance is the German word for necessary and benötigen is a slightly technical sounding option for to need. 

  • Ich benötige mehr Zeit.
  • I need/require more time.

The more common option for to need is definitely brauchen though, which also has a surprising, and quite healthy English relative. But that’s for another time :).


By the way… if you want to explore the family of die Not and see all the words that are related, you can check out this article on YourDailyGerman:

The meaning and family of “die Not”