How to talk about reflections in German

Because the verb “to reflect” can have several different meanings in English there are different words in the German language to “reflect” each (so to speak):

– “reflektieren”: This word can both mean to reflect rays or waves (such as light, heat or sound) in a physical sense, as well as “to think about”, although in this sense it’s not quite as common (see below).

– “spiegeln” and “widerspiegeln”: Both words come from the German word “Spiegel” (m.) meaning “mirror”, and as such are used to describe glaring surfaces, mirrored images, and shiny surfaces. The best word for “reflection” is “Spiegelbild” (n.).

– “nachdenken”: This word means “to think about” (used with the preposition “über”) or “to contemplate”, “to ponder”.

– “zurückwerfen”: This word literally means “to throw back” and is used specifically for reflecting light, sound or heat.


– “Wir reflektieren über das Thema.” – “We’re reflecting upon the topic.”
– “Ich denke über mein Leben nach.” – “I am reflecting upon my life.”
– “Er sieht sein Spiegelbild im Wasser.” – “He sees his reflection in the water.”
– “Das Licht wird von der Oberfläche zurückgeworfen.” – “The light is reflected from the surface.”

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