German words expats should know: Moin

German words expats should know: Moin

German words expats should know: Moin

You may have heard of the Inner German border, which once divided East and West Germany, but have you heard of “moin-Grenze”, a border which divides the German population according to how they say “hello”? 

Moin meaning: It’s a catch-all greeting

Depending on where you are in Germany, it may sound completely alien to you - or charmingly familiar - but “Moin” is a common greeting in northern Germany, primarily used in parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Lower Saxony, as well as in Bremen and Hamburg

Travel below that line, and you’re more likely to hear other common greetings like “Hallo” and “Guten Tag” - and travel further still, and you’ll run into “Servus” and “Grüß Gott” territory. 

However, unlike these words, moin can be used to mean pretty much anything from “hello” and “good morning” to “goodbye” and “goodnight” - anywhere, and at any time of day, so long as it’s used as a greeting. 

Saying moin moin in German

You might also hear it said twice in a row (in a reduplicated form, if you’re being fancy). Some people believe saying “moin moin” is more polite, while others say it simply shows you’re in a very good mood. 

Still others will argue that it’s not something said by native German speakers at all - and conversely will expose you as a foreigner! 

Is moin just a German word for good?

So, where does the word moin come from? Well, like all things language-related, it’s not exactly clear-cut. One theory is that somewhere along the way, the regional pronunciation of “(Guten) Morgen” swallowed most of the middle letters and spat out the word moin

However, another suggestion is that the moin could actually have come from the Dutch, Frisian and Low German word “mo(o)i”, which means “beautiful” or “good”. (It could be a mixture of the two - try saying “mooien Morgen” quickly without it just sounding like “moin”!) 

This is the theory supported by the bible on the German language, the Duden, which states that moin comes from the East Frisian word mōi and the Middle Low German word moi(e), which both mean “beautiful, pleasant or good”. 

Moin moin!

Although once a sure marker that the speaker was from the north, moin has been growing in popularity in recent years and is now used more commonly across Germany, especially by young people who like its casual sound. It has to be said, there is something pleasing about blurting out “moin moin” to everyone you pass. Go on, try it!



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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