I came across the German word Rundfunk the other day and it just appealed to me, so I thought I’d find out more about it.

Rundfunk /ˈʀʊntfʊŋk/ means broadcasting, radio, wireless or broadcasting company/corporation, though would probably also be a good name for a band.

It also appears in such expressions as:

- Rundfunkansager – radio announcer
- Rundfunkgesellschaft – broadcasting company
- Rundfunksendung – radio programme
- Rundfunksender – radio transmitter

Rund /ʀʊnt/ means round, rounded, circular, spherical, plump, about, roughly, flatly, and comes the Middle Low German runt, from the Old French ront, from the Latin rotundus (round), from rota (wheel, disk), from the Proto-Indo-European *Hroth₂-o- (wheel) [source] – the same root as the English word round.

Some words and expressions featuring rund include:

- Rundbank – circular bench
- Rundbau – rotunda
- Rundblick – panorama
- Rundung – curve
- eine Runde machen – to go for a walk / ride – similar to the Welsh expression, mynd am dro (to go for a turn)
- eine Runde schlafen – to have a kip (sleep)
- rund um die Uhr – right (a)round the clock
- jetzt geht’s rund – this is where the fun starts
- es geht rund im Büro – there’s a lot on at the office

Funk /ˈfʊŋk/ appears in radio-related compounds, like Rundfunk, and is possibly related to Funke (spark, scrap, gleam, ray, glimmer), from the Proto-Germanic *funkô/*fankô (spark), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)peng-/*(s)pheng- (to shine).

Some words featuring Funk include:

- Funkerzählung – story written for radio
- Funkgerät – radio equipment, walkie-talkie
- Funkmeßgerät – radar
- Funkkolleg – educational radio broadcast
- Funkwagen – radio car

The verb funken (to radio, to emit sparks) also exists.

One thing I like about German is words link Rundfunk, which seem to me to be somehow more earthy and straightforward they their more flowery Latin or Greek-derived equivalents. I like the Latin and Greek-derived words as well, but the words with Germanic roots just appeal to me in a different way.

This entry was posted in English, Etymology, French, German, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Words and phrases.

8 Responses to Rundfunk

  1. Lys says:

    just two corrections: it’s “eine Runde machen” und “eine Runde schlafen”. :)

  2. TJ says:

    This is interesting. Specially the Rundblick. I work with panoramas a lot and I thought they are called panoramas universally (even in German books). I can understand the meaning though: Rund (round) and Blick (sight/blink), so it fits a panorama indeed.

    Maybe “Funk” is also related to the verb Funktionieren (to function/to work).

  3. Gary says:

    Rundfunk is a sort of calque. German has a tradition of inventing “German” equivalents of international vocabulary by breaking the international words down into their etymological components, translating those components, and making a “truly” German word out of the result.

    Funk is spark, and is sometimes used for “electric” in German calques. Rund is a calque on radiation.

    Since the international vocabulary is also known, fascinating diglossia situtions arise.

    Here (on page 457) is one discussion of this sort of thing in German and other languages that have puristic traditions:

  4. lukas says:

    TJ: Funktionieren is from Latin by way of French, so if it is related, it’s very distant.

    In the early days of radio, spark gap transmitters were used for wireless communication, so Rundfunk is quite straightforward as a description of what was happening in broadcasting. It certainly isn’t a calque of “electric radiation” or some such.

  5. prase says:

    Funk vs. Funktion similarity is almost certainly accidental. Latin f normally corresponds to German b, eg. frater vs. bruder; German f corresponds to Latin p.

  6. Jim M. says:

    “Freude, schöne Götterfunken,” Joy, beautiful spark of the gods, written by Schiller and set by the ultimate funk-bringer, Beethoven, in the Symphony No. 9.

  7. d.m.falk says:

    Interestingly, “eine Runde machen” is similar to the English language term “to make the rounds”….

    Rundfunk applies specifically to broadcast radio (using “rund” in the broader context of “broad”, since the term “broadcast” comes from the broad casting of seeds, originally), whereas “funk” applies to the more broader field of radio, like ham and other forms of person-to-person radio applications (police, fire, etc.).


  8. TJ says:

    Thanks Lukas :)