Wikipedia:WikiProject Germany/Conventions

This style page summarizes Wikipedia "good practice" for Germany pages.

The choice of a style does not mean that other conventions are worse, or wrong. The sole purpose is to enable consistency among a large number of Wikipedia articles. Completed Wikipedia articles should mention the fact that other usages exist and in which contexts they are preferred.

This style page summarizes Wikipedia "good practice" for Austria pages.

Where applicable this style guide draws on the Country Compendium issued by the European Commission Directorate-General for Translation. European Commission Directorate-General for Translation (February 2017) [2011]. Country Compendium: A companion to the English Style Guide (pdf). European Commission. Austria. Retrieved 27 March 2017.

In general, for reasons of stylistic and regional consistency, the variety of English used in Germany articles is that which is recommended by the European Commission in its English Style Guide,European Commission Directorate-General for Translation (27 February 2017) [2011]. English Style Guide: A handbook for authors and translators in the European Commission (pdf) (8th ed.). European Commission. Retrieved 27 March 2017. i.e. the standard usage of Britain and Ireland, usually referred to as British English.

For conventions associated with Austrian articles see Wikipedia:WikiProject Austria/Conventions.


The Wikipedia convention is to use the full German alphabet in proper names, in line with the broader Wikipedia convention of using local Latin alphabets. The full German alphabet comprises 26 primary letters plus "ä", "ö", "ü" and "ß". It may be helpful to explain near the top of an article how to represent the 4 non-English letters e.g. "ß" as "ss".


Personal names[edit]

Where an English form of name for a king or prince is in common use, Wikipedia employs that as the headword for an article. Within the article, the German form should be mentioned at least once.

Wikipedia spells out names and does not employ German abbreviation systems whose significance is not understood in English, e.g. "v." for von.


Titles of historic royalty and contemporary family heads and their immediate family are translated into English in Wikipedia. The convention is to include the royal titles in headwords. This is set out at Wikipedia:Naming conventions (royalty and nobility).

Titles of contemporary persons who merely use the title as a consistent and de facto part of their surname are not translated in Wikipedia, e.g. Otto Graf Lambsdorff. This German-language word (not the English form) appears in the headword as if it were a regular surname.

Wikipedia translates and places ecclesiastical titles outside the name of the person, e.g. Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, not "Georg Kardinal Sterzinsky". This convention is set out at Wikipedia:Naming conventions (clergy). The title is not part of the headword.

Contemporary placenames[edit]

Cities and towns[edit]

English names[edit]

In the absence of a common English name, the current local spelling of a city is used by convention in Wikipedia. Some cities in Germany have English spellings distinct from the German, for example:

States and administrative regions[edit]

Wikipedia uses these English names for the states of:

For the other states, Wikipedia uses an English name orthographically identical to the German name (including Baden-Württemberg with ü). Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has been adopted as the English form of the name of the state created in 1990, although Pomerania is acceptable for all other uses. Formal names such as "Free State of ..." need to be mentioned early in the article text.

For the seven Bavarian administrative regions derived from the above, Wikipedia uses non-vernacular names:

Geographic features[edit]

Wikipedia uses English names for other contemporary geographic features when the English usage is (1) universal or (2) the feature crosses language boundaries or (3) derived terms are in common use:

Natural regions[edit]

Wikipedia uses the names from authoritative English language geographical sources such as Dickinson (1964)[1] and Elkins (1972)[2]. See Natural regions of Germany and its linked pages. Some examples include:

Where no English source can be found, the conventions below, which are derived from authoritative sources, are applied if possible.

General guidelines for placenames[edit]

The 2 main rules are: "Use English" and "Use the original if there is no established English usage". However the use of compound nouns in German, where a proper noun and an ordinary noun are combined, complicates the issue. There is no simple answer, but the following guidance is based on the translation practice of place names in authoritative geographical sources, major dictionaries and tourist guides. There are 3 broad categories:

Group A[edit]

Use the original full German word, unless there is an accepted English equivalent:

Group B[edit]

Split the compound word, do not translate the proper noun, unless it has an accepted English equivalent, and translate the ordinary noun e.g. tal as "Valley" or talbrücke as "Viaduct":

Group C[edit]

Not compound nouns, but added for completeness. There are two words in German; leave the proper noun in the original, but translate the ordinary noun:

  • Dams: Rappbode Dam for Talsperre Rappbode (but see "Reservoirs").
  • Reservoirs: Rappbode Reservoir for Talsperre Rappbode (NB Talsperre can refer to the dam or its associated reservoir)
  • Bays: Eckernförde Bay for Eckenförder Bucht, Bay of Mecklenburg for Mecklenburgische Bucht (use whichever is the widely accepted English form; if there is no English usage, prefer XX Bay.)
  • Castles, palaces, mansions and country houses: Hohenschwangau Castle for Schloß Hohenschwangau, Falkenstein Castle for Burg Falkenstein. But beware; many Schlösser are palaces (Sanssouci Palace, Brunswick Palace) or country/mansion houses (Meisdorf House) and some Burgen are really country houses and should be so-named.
  • Waterfalls: Lichtenhain Waterfall for Lichtenhainer Wasserfall (Note: use "Falls" in English even if the German name is the singular Fall; or use "Waterfall")

Additional guidelines[edit]

  • Adjectives: Convert to noun, e.g. Lichtenhain Waterfall for Lichtenhainer Wasserfall and Brandenburg Gate for Brandenburger Tor, unless there is a recognised English adjective, e.g. Bavarian Forest for Bayerischer Wald
  • Colours and points of compass: it is common to translate these e.g. White Main for Weißer Main or North Harz for Nordharz.
  • Hyphens: remove (in Groups B and C) unless they would be used in English, e.g. Theodor Heuss Bridge for Theodor-Heuss-Brücke, Main-Neckar Railway for Main-Neckar-Bahn
  • Original German name: For Groups B and C, the German name should be a redirect, should be included in the introduction and should be interwiki-linked
  • Word order: Prefer the English word order e.g. Falkenstein Castle (Burg Falkenstein) not "Castle Falkenstein"
  • Translation of Stadt: In Germany, a settlement is a Stadt if it has been awarded Stadtrechte ("town rights"). A Großstadt is officially defined as a Stadt with a population of 100,000 or more. In addition, Stadt may also refer to the territory governed by a town including outlying villages, forests and farmland; in such cases it is best to use "borough". Otherwise, for consistency and to avoid confusion over whether to translate Stadt as "town" or "city" in English:
    • For settlements with town rights (Stadtrechte) and populations under 100,000: translate as "town"
    • For settlements with town rights (Stadtrechte) and populations of 100,000 or more (i.e. a Großstadt): translate as "city"

Historical placenames[edit]

For historical geographic entities, such as Prussia and Wagria, Wikipedia uses the traditional English name.

Universities and colleges[edit]

In line with most other national sections of Wikipedia, the headwords and links for German universities are descriptive and short and take the form: University of [[Placename]]. Qualifiers such as "technical", patron names or provincial names should only be prefixed if there are multiple universities in the same town, e.g. Humboldt University of Berlin. The full German name should be reproduced near the top of the relevant article. If the university claims an "official" English name, this should also be mentioned, though this may not be the same as the headword. Schools that do not confer doctorates should be termed colleges or schools in the headwords.

Administrative units[edit]

The translation of present-day administrative units (e.g. Länder, Kreise) should generally follow the recommendations of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission,[3] unless the context or other guidelines suggest otherwise. A summary of German terms and their English equivalent from the style guide is given below:

Rail transport terminology[edit]

The following are examples of the main conventions used in rail transport. For further explanation and detail see the link above.

Company names are in title case e.g. Royal Bavarian State Railways or Deutsche Bahn. Note that historical names are usually translated (exception: Deutsche Reichsbahn).


In line with the general policies set out at Wikipedia:Naming conventions (settlements), articles on places in Germany go under placename without any further higher-level division.

Wikipedia does not use the German-language system of hyphenating the subdivisions of municipalities, as this meaning is not intelligible in English, e.g. Spandau, not "Berlin-Spandau". The article explains in the text that this is a place in Berlin. Exception: Bergen-Belsen. However hyphens are retained in town names where the first word is an adjective, e.g. Groß-Gerau, Neu-Ulm, or the town was created by a merger, e.g. Clausthal-Zellerfeld.

German placenames often employ a native disambiguation system where the name of a river or region is added to a town name. These names should be spelled out in full in Wikipedia, because the various German-language abbreviation systems (parentheses, points or forward slashes) are not understood in English, e.g. Linz am Rhein, not "Linz/Rhein" or "Linz (Rhein)", Dillingen an der Donau, not "Dillingen a.d. Donau".

Where disambiguation among like-named places is still needed, specifiers from the native disambiguation system detailed above are used first. If there is no such specifier, the locality names go under [[placename, state]] (the "comma convention", where the name is followed with a comma, a space and the name of the state), as was suggested in the now-inactive project Wikipedia:WikiProject German districts, e.g. Bergen, Lower Saxony to distinguish from Bergen in Norway, Bergen in Hesse and other similarly named places. If there is more than one location within a state, the highest possible administrative division should be used to disambiguate, e.g. Bruckberg, Lower Bavaria and Bruckberg, Middle Franconia.

Where one of the like-named places is a state capital or major urban centre, such as Berlin, its name stands alone, while its smaller counterpart is distinguished by a specifier as described above, e.g. Berlin (Seedorf). Likewise, Wikipedia uses Frankfurt, not Frankfurt am Main, unless discussing German usage (or, perhaps, explicitly disambiguating from Frankfurt an der Oder).

Where disambiguation among entity types is needed, use Wikipedia's parentheses convention, e.g. Braunschweig and Braunschweig (region). For the administrative units Amt, Verbandsgemeinde, Samtgemeinde and Verwaltungsgemeinschaft, use the German term in parentheses if disambiguation is needed, e.g. Hankensbüttel (Samtgemeinde) (vs. Hankensbüttel) and Marne-Land (no disambiguation necessary).

River names are not used in Wikipedia as disambiguating terms in parentheses, since their meaning, especially in the case of minor streams, is not intelligible to English-speaking readers outside Germany.

Disambiguation in German[edit]

German place names are disambiguated in three main ways:

Footnotes and References[edit]

  1. ^ Dickinson, Robert E. (1964). Germany: A regional and economic geography (2nd ed.). London: Methuen.
  2. ^ Elkins, T.H. (1972). Germany (3rd ed.). London: Chatto & Windus, 1972. ASIN B0011Z9KJA.
  3. ^ European Commission Directorate-General for Translation (9 April 2014) [2011]. Country Compendium: A companion to the English Style Guide (PDF). European Commission. Germany. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
    European Commission Directorate-General for Translation (9 April 2014) [2011]. English Style Guide: A handbook for authors and translators in the European Commission (PDF) (7th ed.). European Commission. Retrieved 26 April 2014.