German street names -- one word or two?

I am currently editing a series of “city guide” articles. As you can imagine, the fact-checking aspect involves lots of fun poring over guidebooks, maps and Google results. :rolleyes:

I am currently doing Berlin, and I have a question. Some German street names seem to be spelt as one word (Tiergartenstrasse, Alexanderplatz, Niederkirchnerstrasse) and others are two words (Nürnberger Strasse, Potsdamer Platz, Schöneberger Strasse).

Naturally, the various reference sources I have disagree on several of these. Is it Französischestrasse or Französische Strasse? Potsdamerplatz or Potsdamer Platz? And is there any logic to it? I did wonder whether the rule was “proper noun = two words”, but Alexanderplatz, Hermannstrasse and many others seem to go against that idea.

Can any Germans help me out, either with a handy rule or – better still – a canonical Berlin street index?

I have extensive family in Germany. Though this is by no means a proof - every single one of the street names in their addresses is 1 word.


Most are one. I don’t know if there’s a street named Potsdamer Platz… I know it’s a big place in Berlin. I will be checking back, though, because I’m curious now.

The rule of thumb with German nouns is that if it is physically possible for the two or more words to be strung together, which it always is unless your space bar is on autopilot, they are combined. It is especially true if the resulting word causes a person unfamiliar with it to pause, say “What the …?” and try to work out which words were strung together before saying them. It is in this way that they recognize spies and people who learned to read using the “See and Say” method. These words are called “compound” nouns because they make dictionary writers want to “come pound” the guy who invented them.

ROFL, that explains a lot of my difficulty translating German words. I spent nearly all of August near Frankfurt and the Franklin translator my wife got me was virtually useless and the pocket dictionary a co-worker bougth for me was only mostly useless. It was apparent that I was dealing with a lot of compound words but found most of them to be difficult or impossible to find in the paper or electronic dictionary.

German has a formula of adding “-er” to a city or place name to make an uninflected adjective meaning “of” or “connected with”, or “in honor of”. Often, when you see a name like “Potsdamer Platz” or “Schonberger Strasse”, the street was named after the place Potsdam or Schonberg, and will be written in two words. “Alexanderplatz” was obviously not named after a place called Alexand or Alexanden, so the pattern is not followed there.

Streets/squares named after royalty who were known by their Christian names–Alexanderplatz, Wilhelmsplatz, etc., are usually written as one word, but streets named after other luminaries are usually written as however many separate words are required, for example “Rudolf Diesel Strasse” and “Theodor Huess Strasse”.

Or, as most Americans are completely unaware, ‘Wienerschnitzel’, which is NOT, repeat NOT, a hotdog.

I don’t believe this is exactly correct. The “er” suffix also represents a person from that particular place. Ein Amerikaner is an American Ein Berliner is a citizen of Berlin ein Frankfurter is a person from Frankfurt. etxc

You are correct, but those are nouns, and I was speaking only of the adjectives. When used as nouns, words like Berliner and Hamburger are inflected the same way as any similar noun.

I’ve only seen the uninflected adjectives used for cities, not for states, regions, or countries.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that if the city name ends in -en, like Goettingen or Bremen, the en is dropped before the -er goes on.

Isn’t ein Berliner a jelly donut, though?

Sorry, I hate to inform the OP but there is NO logic in the answer to this question. You will just have to do the homework for each street. The above statements, while they sound logical, are unfortunately not the rule.

Französische Strasse, and Potsdamer Platz are the correct answers.
I would consult a gazeteer or the german equivalent of mapquest. I would stick with strictly german language sites and sources you are sure are correct, such as institutional addresses, etc. Try this site for example: Stadtplan Berlin

You can’t go wrong with actual pictures of the place like so: :smiley:

Potsdamer Platz, btw. is not a street, it’s a plaza, where many streets come together. “Platz” generally means place or plaza or square.

Thanks. I was afraid of that…

Yep, I know - I was using “street” as shorthand. It still crops up in street addresses etc. I have actually stayed on Potsdamer Platz (well, actually the Hyatt on, er, Marlene-Dietrich-Platz, with or without hyphens…) so I was fairly sure of that one.

Maybe this can help. Specify the city, then enter the address in any way you want, and they’ll straighten it out for you.

Well, they’re written as two words when the first word is an adjective, and as one word when the first word in the compound is a noun or a given name. Simple as that.

“Französische” is an adjective that means “French” (feminine). “Potsdamer” is an adjective that means “of Potsdam” (masculine). If Potsdamer Platz had been named after somebody called “Potsdamer”, it would have been “Potsdamerplatz” instead.

Alexanderplatz is named after czar Alexander I of Russia, by the way.

It’s actually quite logical; you only need to know what/who the street is named after (which can be a problem for last names derived from a place name).

The main classes of names are:

  1. Streets named after a town/city plus -er (denoting genitive)

Potsdamer Strasse (named after the city of Potsdam)
Hamburger Strasse (named after the city of Hamburg)
Kölner Strasse (named after the city of Cologne=Köln)

  1. Streets named after one-word objects other than towns/cities

Rosenstrasse (=Rose Street)
Rathausstrasse (=Town Hall Street)
Bahnhofstrasse (=Rail Station Street)
Waldstrasse (=Forest Street)
Parkstrasse (=Park Street)

  1. Streets named after multiword objects

Langer-Kamp-Strasse (named after a place named Langer Kamp)

  1. Streets named with an adjective

Lange Strasse (=Long Street)
Kurze Strasse (=Short Street)
Französische Strasse (=French Street)
Hannoversche Strasse (=Hanoverian Street)

  1. Street named after a person of which only one word of the name is given

Langestrasse (= street named after a person with the last name Lange)
Berlinerstrasse (= street named after a person with the last name Berliner)
Stauffenbergstrasse (= street named after a person with the last name Stauffenberg)
Karlstrasse (= street named with someone with the first name Karl)

  1. Street named after a person of which more than one word is given

Selma-Lagerlöf-Strasse (named after Selma Lagerlöf)
Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse (named after Friedrich Ebert)
Prinz-Friedrich-Alexander-von-Württemberg-Strasse (named after someone styled Prinz Friedrich-Alexander von Württemberg)

The mode of writing the name is sometimes critically connected with the semantics. For example, if a square is named “Frankfurter Platz” it is to be inferred it is named after Berlin; if it is named “Frankfurterplatz” it is named after Mr. or Mrs. Frankfurter. Also “Friedrich-Meyer-Platz” is named after Friedrich Meyer while “Friedrich Meyer Platz” is no geographical name at all but rather a command to one Friedrich Meyer to explode.

sorry, the second but last sentence should read: “For example, if a square is named “Frankfurter Platz” it is to be inferred it is named after Frankfurt”.

Damn it, you beat me :smack:
“Ich bin ein berliner” :wink:

With the classic Berliner accent, that would be pronounced “Ick bin een Balina”.

Thank you - that’s great. So I was kind of thinking along the right lines with proper nouns, but the adjectives were the source of confusion. I think I have it sorted now.

Which was pretty much how Kennedy pronounced it, if I recall. Boston and Berlin are sister cities?