The difference between ``umbringen'' and ``töten''

Umbringen implies that the killed entity had a soul, was an individual. You can only umbringen a single person; it never happens in a war. Umbringen is more colloquial than ermorden (murder). It doesn't remind people of death that much. The goal of umbringen is to make the killed person go away; it cannot be done for pleasure in the act itself. There's an expression Um die Ecke bringen (to take around the corner) that is rarely used apart from gangster talk in cheap movies; it is even more colloquial than umbringen, but probably related.

Die bringt mich um!
She's going to kill me!

Nach dem Motto: Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich hart - wa?
As in, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger, eh?

Na komm, das wird dich schon nicht umbringen.
Oh c'mon, it's not going to kill you. (Jokingly)

Er hat sich umgebracht.
He's killed himself.

Wer hat sie umgebracht?
Who killed her?
You can't umbringen someone with something; and if something umbringt someone, it's almost always metaphorical.
Die viele Arbeit, der Suff und die Frauen haben ihn am Ende umgebracht.
The hard work, his drinking, and the women killed him in the end.
Töten is more factual; you might töten a small animal, a pest, or something metaphorical. Abtöten means something like "to sterilize", often in a metaphorical sense.

The big difference between töten und "to kill" is that töten shares the root with tod; in spite of its austerity, it is something you don't want to use lightly, something that scares people a little because it reminds them of their own death.

Policemen use töten a lot. They might refer to a suicide as Selbsttötung where everybody else would say Selbstmord; they're trying to be factual. Mord, murder, is something deliberate done from low motives; the less deliberate version is called Totschlag (literally: to hit someone to death).

Töten... töten...
Kill! Kill! [E.g., Zombie with outstretched hands and white gleaming eyes in a horror movie. If he'd say "Umbringen! Umbringen!" the audience would giggle.]

Ein Amoklaeufer in Austin, Texas tötete 12 Menschen und verletzte 26.
Someone running amok in Austin, Texas killed 12 people and injured 26. [He didn't intend to kill anyone in particular; hence it's not "umbringen".]

Das tapferen Schneiderlein tötete sieben Fliegen auf einen Streich.
The brave little tailor killed (swatted) seven flies in one blow.

Zehn Jahre lang verbrachte der junge Moench damit, jede Leidenschaft in sich abzutöten.
For ten years, the young monk tried to kill all passion within himself.

"Love-killer", a particular kind of long underpants. (Like the underpants, the word, too, has fallen into disuse.)

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