I miss studying language. I took French in middle/high school, German in college, and Arabic in college/grad school. The roots and origins of words has always fascinated me, and I will still look up words that catch my fancy.
In making up cool fantasy names for my novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, I didn’t just want to make up names because they sounded cool. I wanted my fictional names to be derived from real roots and meanings in the languages I have studied.
In looking up potential roots for the name of a bat, I happened upon the my favorite translation for an animal:
Fledermaus is the German word for bat, as in the tiny (or not so tiny) winged creature that can sometimes be seen darting through the air at dusk eating pesky insects.
It would have been easy to assume that Fledermaus is derived from some Old Germanic term for flying mouse, but this didn’t quite make sense to me. The modern German word for the verb “to fly”, for instance, is fliegen. From this we also derive:
Flügen — airline flights
Flughafen — airport (literally, flight-haven, flight-harbor, or flight-port)
These don’t quite match the root word Fleder in Fledermaus, so I did a quick search to see if there was a different root word at play here.
As Steve White explains on his website:
I had thought that the Fleder in Fledermaus had something to do with flying, so that “bat” would be rendered “flying mouse”.
That’s maybe a fair guess, but it’s better than that.
Fleder is from an old form of the modern German “flattern” which is in English flutter.
A bat is a fluttermouse.
(The English word for this creature arose relatively recently, since Middle English, evidently as a corruption of the Swedish word, which literally meant “night-watch”.)
Adorable. Language is amazing. Perhaps once my first book is out (and more than… 25 people have read it), I’ll talk about the fictional words I developed specifically for Úr’Dan.
2 thoughts on “And My New Favorite German Word is… Fledermaus!”
thank you for your charming explanation of the charming word “fledermaus”!
I’m glad you find it so charming!