This Brand is on Fire

How false friends were once true

Brand is one of the well known Anglo-German false friends. This friendship, however, is not as false as we were led to believe.

In old English, brand was associated with fire and flame. Its meaning evolved in the 16th century to encompass “a mark made by a hot iron” on a product to identify its maker or quality. In the 19th century, it came to mean “a particular make of goods” which is the meaning we associate with the noun brand nowadays.

A burning candle casting its yellow light on a rugged wall and 3 empty candleholders Deceptive glimmer of hope

As a verb, brand still carries the meaning of “marking with a branding iron”. In a more figurative sense, it describes someone or something as having a bad or shameful quality. For example, after supporting the enemy, he was branded as a traitor by everyone.

In German, der Brand maintains the meaning of fire or blaze. An Anglicism with the meaning of the English brand is also provided by Duden. Die Marke, albeit borrowed from French, is the “correct” German equivalent to brand.

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