Die Relinge.

My (excellent) local NPR radio station, during their afternoon classical program, announced Telemann’s Violin Concerto in A major, nicknamed “The Frogs”… or “Die Relinge” in the original. Huh? thought I: isn’t the German for ‘frog’ Frosch? So it is, but the Grimm dictionary has an entry describing it as a kind of toad:

reling, m. krötenart, sumpf– oder teichfrosch: eine art krotten, die man reling oder möhmlein nennet, so im frühling und sommer in den unsaubern pfützen sitzen und singen, sind goldgelb oder fast rothgelb und unten am bauch schwarz gescheckigt, gar unlustig anzusehen. Simpl. 1, 384 Kurz. es ist schreibung für röhling, und das thier hat seinen namen von dem ihm eigenen tone, vgl. bair. röheln, rüheln, grunzen, wiehern, schreien wie ein esel (s. dazu röcheln); in Nordfranken rühling sumpf- oder teichfrosch Schm.2 2, 85; hessisch roeling wasserfrosch und wassereidechse Vilmar 330.

It’s not in any of my modern dictionaries, even the Harper-Collins Unabridged. So my question is: would modern German-speakers recognize this word, or would it be taken as the homophonous Reling ‘rail (on a ship)’?


  1. I thought the rounded form Röhling would be more likely to be findable today. It is a known surname, but that’s Rohle + diminutive -ling, where Rohle is a short form of Rudolf or Roland. Otherwise no luck.

  2. Apparently in standard German word for this toad is Rüling.

    It gets a fair number of ghits.

  3. It appears, from various web pages, that Röling etc. is used (at least in Bavaria) to refer to the frogs of the genus Pelophylax, “green frogs” in English, particularly the species known by the standard German name of Teichfrosch (Pelophylax esculentus). The frogs of this genus aren’t toads but they do have a stumpy, short-headed shape that’s a bit toadlike. That may be why Grimm’s dictionary called them Kröten. But I am not sure what writers in the 19th century and earlier meant by Kröte; they may not have restricted it to “toads” in the sense of terrestrial, rough-skinned species.

    By the way, the Bundesamt für Naturschutz has posted a list of common names for amphibians, including lots of alternatives. They don’t say where this list is taken from; I suspect they didn’t compile it themselves.

  4. Teichfrosch#Trivia from German Wikipedia:
    “Die Bezeichnung ist heute völlig unüblich, hat sich aber in Georg Philipp Telemanns A-dur-Violinkonzert Die Relinge (TWV 51/a4) erhalten”

  5. I can say that I never heard of the word in that meaning before reading this post, and I indeed thought of Reling ‘rail (on a ship)’. (By the way, while Relinge is an admissible plural for the “rail” word, Relings is more frequent according to Duden; in any case, the plural is rarely used (says Duden als well, and that’s true – I wasn’t even sure what the plural was before looking it up).
    That said, there’s a lot of regional and dialect variation for names of plants and small animals, so I wouldn’t be astonished if that word was the normal word for “toad” or “frog” in some corner of Germany.

  6. I too know (die) Reling only as “rail” or “railing” (as around the promenade deck of a ship).

  7. In English, the critter is called the edible frog, as indeed it is. It is a hybrid of two ordinary frog species that is capable of segregating its chromosomes so as to produce eggs or sperm that contain genes from one species only, and therefore being fertile with purebred members of either species. The resultant frogs are half clones, half children.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Same reaction as Hans and Stu.

    I’ll add that terms translatable as “frog” vs. “toad” line up neither with each other nor with anything phylogenetic.

    The full details of the genetics of Pelophylax klepton/synklepton esculentus are here.

  9. Telemann wrote a violin concerto called Die Relinge. In this case, I’d go for frogs rather than railings. Wikipedia doesn’t explain the word. Lovely piece of music.

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