Deutsche Wortfeldetymologie

Der Mensch in Natur und Kultur


While other European cultural nations have comprehensive etymological dictionaries, German, one of the world’s most common languages in quantitative terms, lacks a large scientific etymological dictionary. For this reason, the “German etymology of semantic fields in a European Context (DWEE)” wants to close this gap on the one hand: This applies particularly to words that have only appeared since Middle High German, Early New High German and in dialects that have never been etymologized. On the other hand, DWEE uses the findings of today’s semantic research to describe the change in meaning and thus simultaneously is acting as a touchstone for more recent “cognitive-semantic theories” in the field of historical semantics. By responding to the urgent demand for a “dialogue between historical and cognitive semantics”, DWEE thus represents not only the current state of research in Indo-European studies with its continuous increase in knowledge, but also that of modern linguistics. The decisive innovation, however, is first of all the combination of etymology with the organisation of vocabulary according to word fields in a modular structure, which provides for an arrangement of the word fields around “man in nature and culture” in their linguistic-historical stratification: The fields of words, which are grouped according to the noun as the main terminology, are traced from contemporary language - including its stylistic assessments, spatial, temporal, technical, special and foreign-language classifications - to the older New High German, Early New High German, Middle High German and Old High German. This makes it possible for the first time to systematically document semantic change on a comprehensive corpus. Secondly, the word fields are placed in their European context. Through this representation of the occupation of word fields with native or foreign vocabulary, the degree of interculturality of the German vocabulary becomes clear at every language level. 

DWEE appears in in a print version organized etymologically and ergonomiologically, and in accordance with the requirements of modern communication technology also on the Internet in a constantly updated online version, which allows various access options.

The target group for DWEE are Germanists, Indo-Germanists, Anglists, Romanists, Slavists, Onomatologists, Orientalists, Semitists, Historians, Law Historians, Philosophers, Theologians, Psychologists, Computer Scientists, Cultural Scientists and interested laypersons.


  • Prof. Dr. Rosemarie Lühr (Project Leader)
  • PD Dr. Susanne Zeilfelder (Office Site Leader)
  • Dr. Stefan Lotze (Technical Research Associate)
  • Ulrike Ertel M.A. (Technical Research Associate)
  • PD Dr. Britta Irslinger (Research Associate)
Running time
Project type

Contact person for the academies' programme

Sebastian Zwies M.A.

Geschäftsstelle Mainz
Union der deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften
Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 2
55131 Mainz

Tel: 06131/218 528-17