How to talk about judging in German

To begin this post, the German word for “judge” (a person who decides cases in court) is called “Richter” (m.). In sports, such a judge is often referred to as “Kampfrichter” or “Schiedsrichter”.

What any of the abovementioned judges do is “urteilen” or “ein Urteil fällen” (essentially “to pass a judgement” or “return a verdict”). The word for “judgement” or “verdict” in this sense is “Urteil” (n.). In German “to sentence” or “to condemn” someone is “verurteilen”:

“Er wurde zu sieben Jahren Gefängnis verurteilt.” – “He was sentenced to seven years in prison.”

In the more common, less legal use of the word “to judge” (in the sense of “to assess” or “to evaluate”) is “beurteilen”, and an “assessment” is “Beurteilung” (f.):

– “Die Qualität ist schwer zu beurteilen.” – essentially “It’s difficult to judge the quality.”

The “ability to judge” is “Urteilsvermögen” (n.).

Note: The word “Urteil” is related to the German word “erteilen” which means “to grant” or “to issue”, and as such the “Ur-” does not stand for anything ancient (as in “Urmensch” (m.) – “caveman”) – similar to “Urlaub” (m.) (“vacation”) – “Erlaubnis” (f.) (“permission”… to leave).

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