Heimat, Heim, Zuhause: What is home in German?

Heimat, Heim, Zuhause: What is home in German?

by Sandra Köktaş

Updated February 27, 2023

Home is where the heart is. And the home is a very important concept in Germany:  The one you live in, the one you can go back to, the one you can stay at and work from. Maybe Germany will even become deine zweite Heimat? One thing is clear, the German word Heim is more than a building. We will give you a short list of the most relevant vocabulary about the home and explain some German ideas about the home in depth. Time to start feeling at home with German-language culture.

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Haus, Zuhause, Heim

The word Haus is easy enough. It translates to house and means a building. As soon as you move into a house, though, it becomes a home. This would be called a Zuhause or your Heim. Heim is an alternative way of saying Zuhause, mostly used in the South of Germany. But it isn’t quite as simple as that. Heim can also mean any place where people without a proper Zuhause find a place to stay: Altenheim (home for the elderly), Kinderheim (orphanage), Asylantenheim (temporary home for people fleeing their countries and seeking asylum in Germany). This kind of Heim typically lacks all the comfort that makes a Haus a Zuhause

In yet another twist of meaning, you refer to your Zuhause as your Heim whenever it is not the focus of the emotional bond connected with a home. For example, ein Heimwerker is not someone who works from home but someone who works on his home/house to make it into a comfortable Zuhause. This can be anything from new decorations to building a second floor.

List of words to remember:

das Haus – house
das Zuhause – home
das Heim – home

Home as a location

Most of the nouns that relate to your home as the center of your family life will build on Zuhause. You can be or stay (at) home, you can work from home, you can be a stay-at-home parent — the list goes on. So there is lots to do at your Zuhause and equally so your daheim, assuming you use Heim to mean the same as Zuhause.

List of words to remember:

zu Hause sein – to be (at) home
zu Hause bleiben – to stay (at) home
daheim – (at) home
Hausfrau – housewife
von zu Hause (aus) arbeiten – to work from home

Das Zuhause, zu Hause, zuhause

If you are getting confused with the writing of Zuhause, zu Hause or zuhause, you’re not alone. Most native speakers will have to look it up. The go-to place to find out about orthography is “Der Duden”. According to this well of knowledge, Zuhause begins with a capital Z if it is a noun: das Zuhause. If it’s an adverb indicating your location at home, the recommended form is zu Hause, although zuhause is an older form that is still correct.

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Home as a direction

While it’s nice and cozy to stay at home, of course sometimes you need to leave your home — then come home again.So how do you say all that in German?

Words to remember:

von zu Hause (weggehen) – to go out
nach Hause (kommen, gehen, fahren, bringen) – to come/go/drive/bring home
ins Haus (lassen, bringen, liefern) – to let/bring/deliver into your home
frei Haus – free delivery
von Haus aus – by definition 

Home as the house you live in

If you want to refer to the building you live in  you can use  Haus or Wohnung (apartment/flat).

Words to remember:

“Wir haben ein Haus gekauft.” – We bought a house.
“Wir ziehen in eine neue Wohnung.” – We will move into a new apartment.
“Hausrenovierung” – home renovation

Side note: Germans love to talk about houses, especially when they own them or are looking for  new accommodation. If you want to impress, throw in some of the most famous German architects to show off your knowledge. It’s always a good idea to get familiar with the different types of housing and houses available on the German market. If you want to become a house owner yourself, learn how to buy a house or apartment in Germany first. And even if you only rent, there are some rules to making a home in Germany. One of the most annoying concerns is the TV and radio tax you most likely will have to pay.

The meaning of Heimat

Heimat means homeland. It is the country of your birth, its language is most likely your mother tongue. As the place you grow up in, it has a huge impact on your identity, your mentality and on how you perceive the world around you. It’s no wonder the term carries so much meaning And even if you have to leave your homeland to find a safer and better life and your heart stays behind after moving to a new country, with time this too, can become your second home, deine zweite Heimat.

Making a home in Germany

If you move to Germany (or another German-speaking country) one day, you’ll  now be well-equipped to talk about your house or apartment and what makes it a Zuhause. Work from home, have your groceries delivered to your doorstep and come home after a long night with friends to enjoy the warmth of being daheim. And who knows, maybe you will find a second home for your heart.

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Sandra Köktaş

Sandra lives in Istanbul, together with her kids, cat and dog. As a historian she thrives exploring this ancient city with her two- and four-legged loved ones. Together, they also love to go on adventures through all of Turkey and its neighboring countries. The perfect opportunity to put all the language learning into practice. If she’s not on the road, Sandra is busy putting her experiences into writing as a freelance copywriter for the travel industry and everything related to language, culture and family. Her particular interest lies in providing information on animal welfare with her website.


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