U über-, uber-, über prefix, adj.
"over-, super-": Used like wunder- as in wunderkind [< German über "over" < Middle High German über < Old High German ubar]. Interestingly German-speakers often prefer Anglicisms and would therefore prefer, for example, Superhacker to Überhacker, although they would understand both to mean the same thing. In the same vein the word superman in English originates as a direct translation (loan translation) of the German Übermensch, but one hears Superman much more often in German. Note from the examples that there is no consensus on how to spell über-. Sometimes it is written as one or two words or hyphenized, with or without italicization and with or without the umlaut. My preference is to hyphenize, italicize and umlaut it. See also "Deutschland über alles".
  • "Über Bermuda, Dad." Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman, Zits comic strip, Jun. 16, 2004.
  • "You want to be the guy to outbully the überbully." Ben Elton, Past Mortem, 2004, p. 374.
  • "Uber-skate journalist Jacko Weyland checks in on the state of the nation..." "Skaters eye", Thrasher Magazine, May 2002.
  • "Frazier asked über-agent Amanda Urban to put up his book for auction so early because he wanted to choose an editor carefully." Malcolm Jones, "King of the Mountain" (review of Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier), Newsweek, Apr. 22, 2002, p. 65.
  • "This all sounds über-romantic." Adele Parks, Larger than Life, 2002, p. 11.
  • "Uber-ISP AOL has teamed up with mobile phone king Nokia to produce a cut-down version of the Netscape browser for WAP devices." "Uber-ISP AOL", Internet Magazine, Mar. 2001.
  • "Uber-Guber Goes Multimedia" (filmmaker Peter Guber), Charles Lyons, Variety, Aug. 23, 1999.
  • "Two years ago, when the capture of America's best-known computer criminal, Kevin Mitnick, was front-page news, it was Littman who got the über-hacker's inside story and wrote a book, The Fugitive Game, that was sympathetic to Mitnick." Joshua Quittner, Time, May 5, 1997, p. 48.
... über alles, ... uber alles
"... over everything": When used in phrases like "now he's become the boss über alles" or "it seems like its Shaq and the Lakers über alles", "... über alles" is derived from "Deutschland über alles", which see. This entry and examples suggested by Wilton Woods.
  • "Distribution Uber Alles" (German giant Bertelsmann's digital distribution plans), Brad King, Variety, Dec. 18, 2000.
New!U-boat n.
from U-Boot "submarine": submarine [short for German Unterseeboot "undersea boat"].
  • "During World War I, Woodrow Wilson avoided American involvement until the repeated sinking of American vessels by German U-boats and the collapse of the European continent made neutrality untenable." Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, 2006, p. 282.
  • "Maybe next time I'll try 'UFOs', 'U-boats' or 'We're trying to see Spain' [in answer to the question, 'Excuse me, what are you looking at?']." James Hanlon, UK500: Birding in the Fast Lane, 2006, p. 86.
  • "The road felt frictionless, as if I were at the wheel of a destroyer on the North Atlantic, and the shapes in the mist off to starboard weren't farmhouses but cargo ships in the convoy, and the windshield wiper was a sonar antenna tracking German U-boats." Garrison Keillor, Wobegon Boy, 1997, p. 164.
  • "On January 13, 1940, Hitler ordered a military committee to research the feasibility of military action in the north, with an eye to the Norwegian ports of Narvik and Trondheim for use by Admiral Karl Dönitz's U-boat force." Eloise Engle & Lauri Paananen, The Winter War: The Soviet Attack on Finland 1939-1940, 1973, p. 120.
  • "'You have a long coast line and you may need the U-boat yourself some day.'" Henry Morgenthau & Ara Sarafian, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, 1918.
  • "Ever since entering the U-boat zone we had been on the lookout for periscopes, and children that we were, bemoaning the unkind fate that was to see us safely into France on the morrow without a glimpse of the dread marauders." Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot.
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From a book published in 1732. One can see the superscript "e" used as an umlaut in Gärtlein "little garden" and schönen "beautiful".
umlaut n., v.t., umlaut-mark n.
from Umlaut "change of sound": also called vowel modification, mutation or inflection; the change of a vowel sound (e.g., mousemice, goosegeese, langlauflangläufer); the vowel altered in this way; the diacritical mark consisting of two dots (¨) over a modified vowel; to modify by umlaut; to write an umlaut over. [German < um- "about, changed" < Middle High German umbe < Middle High German umbi + Laut "sound" < Middle High German lut, coined by Jacob Grimm of the Brothers Grimm.] This entry suggested by Aldorado Cultrera.
The diacritic marks umlaut and dieresis [chiefly Am.] (also spelled diaeresis [chiefly Br.]) are identical in appearance but different in function. The dieresis (Greek "to take apart") indicates that the vowel so marked is to be pronounced separately from the one preceeding it (e.g., naïve, Noël) or that the vowel should be sounded when it might otherwise be silent (e.g., Brontë).
The origin of the German umlaut is an abbreviated "e", i.e. the vowel is influenced by the following (semi-)vowel "e" in a process called apophany, therefore the correct transliteration of an umlaut is to use an "e" after the vowel. Umlauts occur mostly in Germanic languages but also for example in Finnish. When German words with umlauts are assimilated into the English language, they sometimes keep their umlauts (e.g., doppelgänger, Flügelhorn, föhn, Der Freischütz, führer, jäger, kümmel, Künstlerroman, schweizerkäse, über-), but often are simply written without the diacritic (e.g., doppelganger, flugelhorn, Der Freischutz, yager), and less often are correctly transliterated using an "e" (e.g., foehn, fuehrer, jaeger, loess). Of course, sometimes more than one spelling makes its way into English. Muesli could have originated from Müesli or Müsli, so it's not clear if the umlaut was lost or transliterated.
  • "You form these mutated plurals simply by changing the vowel sound of the singular, in a process called 'umlaut'." click to hear pronunciation of umlaut Mignon Fogarty, "What Is the Plural of 'Mouse'?", episode 135 of the podcast Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, Sept. 16, 2008.
  • "Simeon Potter believed that English spelling possessed three distinguishing features that offset its other shortcomings: The consonants are fairly regular in their pronunciation, the language is blessedly free of the diacritical marks that complicate other languages—the umlauts, cedillas, circumflexes, and so on—and, above all, English preserves the spelling of borrowed words, so that people of many nations 'are immediately aware of the meanings of thousands of words which would be unrecognizable if written phonetically.'" Bill Bryson, The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got that Way, 1990, p. 121.
  • "'Now you look like a German in American clothes. I don't know—I do believe it's your face, Ted. I wouldn't have thought that ten years or so in any country could change the shape of one's nose, and mouth and cheekbones. Do you suppose it's the umlauts?'" Edna Ferber, Fanny Herself, 1917.
  • "Because of my frequent need to use the Umlaut (ve must have capitals for a noun, pleess), my face has become so distorted and angry-looking and I might immediately be found out to be a German!" "Umlaut and about", The Dominion, Sep. 9, 2000.
  • "The Department of Internal Affairs is sticking by its decision which effectively changes the surname of a a [sic] Swiss family who gained New Zealand citizenship last week. The [Yvonne] Kuenzi family's correct name has no letter e but an umlaut—two dots above the u—which is used in Germanic languages to indicate a change of vowel or sound." Anonymous, "Change of family's name is 'policy'", Nelson Mail, Nov. 9, 1998.
  • 'With that umlaut over the n it means "began to disintegrate;" without the umlaut, the word is an active transitive past participle, and means that the disintegration has been completed; thus it means—substantially—that the man is dead: but not exactly that, but not really, because in Blitzowski, as I have previously remarked, there is no such thing as death.' Mark Twain, "Three Thousand Years among the Microbes", The Devil's Race-Track: Mark Twain's "Great Dark" Writings, 2005, p. 185. Here Twain's character is speaking of the imaginary language of the microbes.
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Unruhe n.
from Unruhe "unrest, restlessness, commotion": the title of season 4, episode 2 of the TV series The X-Files [< German un- "un-" + Ruhe "rest" < ruhen "to rest" < Middle High German ruon, ruowen < Old High German ruowen, ruowon]. This entry suggested by CauNo.
ur-, Ur- prefix
"original, primitive, ancient" [< German ur- "the original condition or first representative of a thing" < Middle & Old High German ur- "out (of)"].
  • "They certainly looked like Ur-bats, the original bats, the bats of prehistory, their slow, labored flapping interspersed with ungainly glides, and indeed perhaps they were a species of leaf-nosed bat, not much altered from their fossil ancestors of sixty million years ago and probably earlier–seventy to 100 million years ago–early enough to have been catching insects in the evening over a shallow lake full of dinosaurs." Redmond O'Hanlon, No Mercy: A Journey Into the Heart of the Congo, 1998, p. 180.
  • "'I know what he did to the first author, the ur-Horace Jacob Little.'" David Czuchlewski, The Muse Asylum, 2001, p. 79.
  • "He was holding up a steaming coffee cup, white and smoothly iconic, in a big, white-gloved, three-fingered ur-Disney hand." William Gibson, Idoru, 1997, p. 34.
  • The New Yorker"Trevor-Roper was not writing fiction, of course, but his spellbinding, cinematic vision of Hitler, Rosenfeld argues, became the defining image, the ur-Hitler for the decades of pulp fiction and film that followed." Ron Rosenbaum, "Explaining Hitler", The New Yorker, May 1995, p. 60.
  • "Even the 'Ur-Alphabet', namely the Phoenician, developed from several sources." Niklaus Shaefer, "Spelling Systems have always been mixes and have drawn ideas from multiple sources", Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 2001/2.
Please do not plagiarize. If you would like to use this information in a print or electronic publication, please ask me for permission first and cite this page as:
Knapp, Robbin D. 2009. "GermanEnglishWords.com: U". In Robb: GermanEnglishWords.com. Jan. 6, 2009.

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