What’s the Difference Between Frau and Fraulein: Explained

Are you one of those people who have always been confused about the difference between Frau and Fräulein when referring to women in Germany? If yes, then you have come to the right place. It’s a common misconception among English speakers that Frau means Miss and Fräulein means Mrs. However, that’s not quite accurate.

The difference between Frau and Fräulein is actually a matter of marital status. Frau is generally used to refer to married or adult women whereas Fräulein is used largely for unmarried women or those who are young. While some may still insist on using Fräulein as a polite way of addressing women, its usage has been on a decline for a while in Germany and is now considered outdated and borderline sexist.

Digging deeper, the use of Fräulein actually stems from the fact that until the 1970s, most working women in Germany were unmarried. The title was used as a way of distinguishing between married and unmarried women, something that was considered socially important in those days. However, over time, the title’s use became associated with stereotypes of young and unmarried women, leading to its eventual decline in popularity.

Origins of the German Language

The German language is a member of the West Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family and is one of the official languages of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The origins of the German language can be traced back to the Early Middle Ages when the Germanic tribes spoken in a range of dialects. The modern standard of the German language began to take shape in the 16th century following the invention of printing and the development of a standardized written form.

Differences Between Frau and Fraulein

  • Frau is the German word for “woman”, whereas Fraulein is the diminutive form of Frau which means “little woman”.
  • Frau is used to address adult women who are married or unmarried, whereas Fraulein is used to address unmarried women.
  • Frau is the more commonly used term nowadays, while Fraulein has fallen out of use due to its sexist connotations and is considered inappropriate or outdated.

Gender Issues in the German Language

The German language has long been criticized for its gendered language, which includes gendered nouns and pronouns. For example, the word for “doctor” is “Arzt” (male) or “Ärztin” (female), and the pronoun for “he” is “er” while “she” is “sie”. This binary system has been challenged in recent years by efforts to introduce gender-neutral language. Some proposals include using the gender-neutral pronoun “hen” or using the feminine form of nouns as the default. These efforts have been met with resistance from some traditionalists who argue that the language is being unnecessarily complicated.


In conclusion, the German language has a rich history and has undergone many changes throughout the years. The differences between Frau and Fraulein are just one example of how the language has evolved over time and how cultural values have impacted its usage. However, the debates over gendered language in the German language show that there is still much work to be done to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

Language Number of Speakers (Millions)
German 132
English 126
Japanese 125
Spanish 460

As of 2021, there are approximately 132 million speakers of the German language worldwide. While it may not be the most widely spoken language in the world, it is still an important language in the fields of business, science, and academia. As we continue to navigate a globalized world, knowing multiple languages, including German, can be a valuable asset.

Gendered Nouns in German Language

German language has a unique feature of gendered nouns, which means that nouns are either masculine, feminine, or neutral. The gender is not based on the actual gender of the object, but rather on the grammatical rules of the language. This feature sets German apart from many other languages that don’t have gendered nouns, or have a more simplified system.

The Difference between Frau and Fräulein

  • In German, Frau is used to refer to an adult woman, regardless of their marital status. It is equivalent to the English “Mrs.” or “Ms.”
  • Fräulein, on the other hand, is used to refer to a young, unmarried woman. It is equivalent to the English “Miss.”
  • The use of Fräulein has become less common in recent years, as it is perceived as outdated and potentially derogatory by some, due to its connotations with the idea of a woman’s worth being tied to her marital status.

The gendered aspect of language may seem insignificant to those who don’t have it in their native language, but it can heavily impact how individuals are viewed and treated in society. The use of these terms speaks to German’s societal norms and expectations surrounding gender and age, and it is important for learners of the language to understand the nuances and implications of these words.

Below is a table with some examples of German gendered nouns:

Gender Noun English Translation
masculine der Mann the man
feminine die Frau the woman
neutral das Haus the house

Learning a language involves not only understanding grammar and vocabulary, but also the cultural and societal context in which it exists. Gendered nouns are just one aspect of German language that learners should familiarize themselves with in order to achieve proficiency and insight into the language and culture.

Words for Women in German Language

German is one of the most widely spoken languages in Europe, and like any language, it has its own set of vocabulary that reflects its culture and history. In terms of words for women, there are a few interesting things to note. One of the most notable is the difference between “frau” and “fräulein.”

Difference Between Frau and Fräulein

  • The word “frau” is equivalent to “Mrs” or “Ms,” whereas “fräulein” translates to “Miss.”
  • “Frau” is considered the more appropriate term to use for adult women, as “fräulein” carries a connotation of youth and inexperience.
  • It’s worth noting that “fräulein” is now considered outdated and somewhat sexist, and it’s generally recommended to avoid using it altogether.

Other Words for Women in German

Aside from “frau” and “fräulein,” there are a few other words that describe women in German.

  • “Dame” is a polite and formal way to refer to a woman, similar to “lady” in English.
  • “Mädchen” is the word for “girl,” whereas “junge frau” means “young woman.”
  • “Weib” is an older and somewhat archaic term for “woman,” and it’s not commonly used in modern German.

Table of German Titles for Women

For a more comprehensive list of titles for women in German, see the table below.

Title Meaning
Frau Ms/Mrs
Fräulein Miss (outdated)
Dame Lady
Mädchen Girl
Junge Frau Young woman
Weib Woman (archaic)

Overall, it’s important to be aware of the different words for women in German, as they carry different connotations and may be seen as offensive or outdated if used incorrectly. Using the appropriate term shows respect and understanding of the language and culture.

Feminism in Germany

Germany has had a long and complicated history with feminism. Historically, women in Germany have fought for their rights and equality in many different ways. One of the notable movements was the German Women’s Movement, which arose during the late 19th century as a response to the male-dominated society.

However, despite all the progress made over the years, there are still disparities between men and women when it comes to salaries, career opportunities, and social status. In recent years, the feminist movement in Germany has gained more momentum, with women rising up to demand equal representation in politics and greater recognition for their contributions to society.

  • The feminism movement has helped to bring about changes in German law that protect women’s rights and ensure their full participation in all aspects of society.
  • German society is still a male-dominated one, and feminists continue to fight against gender inequality and the patriarchy.
  • The feminist movement in Germany today is characterized by a diverse range of groups and perspectives, all of which share the goal of achieving gender equality in German society.

One of the struggles that feminists in Germany have faced is the prevalence of gendered language, such as the use of “frau” and “fräulein.” While “frau” is the equivalent of “Mrs.” or “Ms.” in English, “fräulein” is a diminutive form of “frau” that implies a woman is unmarried. It was commonly used until recently, but its use is now generally considered sexist and outdated.

Word Meaning
Frau Equivalent to “Mrs.” or “Ms.”
Fräulein Diminutive form of “frau” that implies a woman is unmarried.

Feminists have been pushing for more gender-neutral language that does not reinforce traditional gender roles. Rather than using “fräulein,” they advocate using “frau” for all women, regardless of their marital status. This is just one example of how the feminist movement in Germany continues to challenge traditional gender roles and push for greater gender equality.

Women’s Rights Activism in Germany

For many decades, women have been fighting for their rights in Germany. From political representation to reproductive rights, women have made significant progress. However, there are still areas where women are fighting for more equality, including the language used to address them. This is where the difference between Frau and Fräulein comes into play.

Here’s a closer look at the difference:

  • Frau: This is a common title used for adult women in Germany. It is the equivalent of “Mrs.” or “Ms.” in English. This term is used regardless of marital status, and it is considered respectful and appropriate.
  • Fräulein: This term was formerly used to address unmarried women in Germany. However, it has fallen out of favor in recent years due to its sexist connotations. Many women find the term outdated and patronizing, as it suggests that a woman’s marital status is relevant to her identity. Nowadays, it is recommended to use Frau for all women, regardless of whether they are married or not.

The use of Fräulein is not just seen as antiquated; it has a negative impact on women. Women have long faced discrimination and objectification, and the language used to address them has contributed to this. By changing the language used to address women, we can take steps towards a more equal society.

Women’s rights activism in Germany has come a long way, but there is still work to be done. Many organizations and individuals are fighting for issues such as equal pay, better representation in politics, and greater access to reproductive healthcare.

Here are a few notable women’s rights activists and organizations in Germany:

  • Louise Otto-Peters: Otto-Peters was a journalist and women’s rights activist who founded the General German Women’s Association in 1865. She fought for women’s right to work, and her work laid the foundation for the women’s movement in Germany.
  • Deutscher Frauenrat: The German Women’s Council is an umbrella organization that represents over 60 women’s organizations in Germany. They advocate for women’s rights and gender equality and work to influence policy and legislation.
  • Alice Schwarzer: Schwarzer is a prominent feminist activist and journalist who has been advocating for women’s rights since the 1970s. She founded the feminist magazine EMMA, which has been an important voice for women’s issues in Germany.

Overall, women’s rights activism in Germany has a long and rich history. Through the work of activists and organizations, progress has been made in various areas, but there is still much work to be done. By continuing to fight for equality and challenging outdated attitudes and language, we can create a more just and equitable society for all.

Year Event
1908 The first International Women’s Day is celebrated in Germany.
1918 Women are granted the right to vote in Germany.
1949 The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany guarantees equality between men and women.
1977 The first women’s shelter is opened in Germany.
2015 Germany passes a law requiring that 30% of companies’ supervisory board members be women.


  • https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-why-the-term-fr%C3%A4ulein-is-still-a-problem-in-germany/a-45648515
  • https://muse.jhu.edu/article/641233/pdf
  • https://www.lpb-bw.de/die-frauenbewegung-in-deutschland
  • https://www.deutschland.de/en/topic/life/womens-movement-in-germany
  • Gender Politics in Germany

    In Germany, gender politics have played a significant role in shaping a number of linguistic and societal norms. One of these norms is the use of titles for women, which has evolved over the years.

    The use of the titles Frau and Fräulein has been a point of contention in Germany, and it illustrates the changing attitudes towards gender and language. Here are a few things to know about the difference between Frau and Fräulein:

    • Historically, Fräulein was used as a title for unmarried women, while Frau was used for married women.
    • However, in the 1970s, feminists in Germany started a campaign to abolish the use of Fräulein, arguing that it was sexist and unnecessary to distinguish between married and unmarried women.
    • By the mid-1990s, the use of Fräulein in official documents had largely disappeared.
    • Today, Frau is the standard title for all women in Germany, regardless of marital status.
    • There are still some older Germans who continue to use Fräulein as a matter of habit, but it is generally considered outdated and potentially demeaning.
    • Other gender-neutral titles such as Ehefrau (wife) and Mitarbeiterin (female employee) have also been adopted to promote gender equality in language.

    Overall, the use of titles in Germany reflects the changing attitudes towards gender roles and language. While there is still work to be done to ensure gender equality in language, the elimination of Fräulein from common usage is a notable step in the right direction.

    Changes in German Language Over Time

    German language has evolved over time, with changes in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. One major change has been the elimination of formal titles for women, including “Frau” and “Fräulein”.

    • In the past, “Frau” was used to refer to a married woman, while “Fräulein” was used to refer to an unmarried woman. This distinction has been seen as sexist and has been removed from official use.
    • Today, “Frau” is used universally to address any woman, regardless of marital status.
    • The removal of “Fräulein” from official use has been a major step towards gender equality in German society.

    Another significant change in German language has been the simplification of grammar and spelling. The language has moved away from complex grammatical structures and difficult spellings. This simplification has made it easier for non-native speakers to learn German and has made it more accessible to a wider audience.

    Meanwhile, the influence of English on German vocabulary has increased, with many English words now commonly used in German speech and writing. This trend is seen as a reflection of the globalisation of language and the increasing prominence of English as a global language.

    Changes in German Language Over Time Description
    Elimination of formal titles for women Elimination of “Fräulein” from official use and universal use of “Frau” to address any woman
    Simplification of grammar and spelling Moving away from complex grammatical structures and difficult spellings
    Influence of English on German vocabulary Increasing use of English words in German speech and writing

    Overall, these changes reflect the ongoing evolution of German language and its adaptation to a changing world. While some changes may be controversial or unwelcome to traditionalists, they are an important part of the ongoing development and growth of the language.

    FAQs: What’s the difference between Frau and Fraulein?

    1. What does “Frau” mean?

    “Frau” is a German term that is used to address or refer to a woman who is married or is of a certain age. It is equivalent to the English title of “Mrs.” or “Ms.”

    2. What does “Fraulein” mean?

    “Fraulein” is another German term that is used to address or refer to an unmarried woman, particularly a young woman. It is equivalent to the English title of “Miss.”

    3. Can “Fraulein” be considered offensive?

    Yes, many consider “Fraulein” to be outdated and possibly offensive, as it emphasizes a woman’s marital status and age. It is best to stick to “Frau” when addressing or referring to women in Germany.

    4. Is there a specific age where women switch from “Fraulein” to “Frau”?

    There is no specific age where women switch from “Fraulein” to “Frau.” It is based on personal preference and cultural norms. In general, once a woman is married, she is typically referred to as “Frau.”

    5. Can “Fraulein” be used to refer to a little girl?

    No, “Fraulein” should not be used to refer to a little girl. “Fraulein” is specifically used for unmarried young women. For little girls, the term “Madchen” (girl) or “Kind” (child) should be used instead.

    Thanks for Reading!

    We hope this article helped clarify the difference between “Frau” and “Fraulein.” Remember, when in doubt, stick to “Frau” to avoid causing any offense. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to visit us again soon for more interesting articles!