Waves – Woge

Turner, A storm at sea, 1820s
Turner, A storm at sea, 1820s

‘Wave’ is the only possible English translation for two distinct German words: Woge and Welle. Although very nearly synonymous, they have different connotations and overtones. Most modern German speakers would say that ‘Woge’ feels slightly old-fashioned or literary. It is certainly the case that ‘Welle’ tends to be used in technical scientific contexts (e.g. electro-magnetic waves).

There is a verb ‘wogen’ (‘to cause a rocking motion’, as with a boat on a lake) but no verb corresponding with the noun ‘Welle’.

Readers might wish to use the two distinct indexes here to determine whether or not there was a distinction in the concept of ‘waves’ in the poems Schubert set to music.

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