I'm looking for an English equivalent for the German verb 'wandeln', in the case where it expresses (a person's) movement from one place to another, while also denoting transformation/change.

An example of this could be used in a scene where a young woman, utterly devastated by a recent break-up or other tragic event, moves herself from the couch to the window on an ordinary weekday afternoon. Her outward existence in this world reduced to the bare few monotonous chores demanded of her to exist. She stares at the clock for hours on end, and when the postman comes her face is void of any expression, and her eyes seem to just stare through any person facing her, as if there was nobody there.

So, is there a verb that could be used instead of 'move/move herself' that would subtly hint at 'transformation/change'.

She altered from the couch to the window? She transformed from the couch to the window?

I'm quite sceptical of the examples above, but translations websites I tried didn't come up with much either. Here's an example of the translations I found: http://dict.leo.org/german-english/wandeln

I hope someone can help me out, any help is much appreciated!

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    Can you clarify the usage a bit, in your paragraph about the girl you tell us that she is expressionless etc, but not how this relates to her moving from the couch to the window. Did her face have expression before she moved? is she doing her chores at the window? Does the postie come to the window? I'm not really seeing the relationship between her changed state and changed location, or indeed what the change in her state is.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 10:53
  • @Spagirl all of this is just flavor for the purpose of illustrating the kind of desolate, bland, in-limbo situation that the verb I'm looking for can express by itself, on top of just saying 'move'. Consider the sentence "She 'moved' from the couch to the window" -- the verb implies nothing but the obvious idea that she moved. "She 'ran' from the couch to the window" says the same but it describes how she moved. I hope this helps.
    – Slakslak
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 11:54
  • @saslak You say 'expresses (a person's) movement from one place to another, while also denoting transformation/change' Does the 'transformation/change' always refer to state of mind with this word. Does the change take place at the same time as the movement, if she happy on the couch and miserable at the window? If any one else is understanding this better, please chip in!
    – Spagirl
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 12:43
  • @Spagirl No, it's as general as the word 'transformation' itself. It has nothing to do with her actually changing, it's more like a premonition, or foreshadowing. In fact, wandel literally means transform/mutate, but also to flow, be in in the flow of change. I'm assuming through etymology it became to be used as a verb for move, when a person moves like a ghost, or over-worked zombie, like the person is being moved ,as if passively drifted by a current, not out of one's own volition (which, by extension, also has some mythical connotations to it).
    – Slakslak
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:09
  • @Saslak Okay, I think I've got it now. I'll add an answer.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:19

6 Answers 6


What about the word 'transitioned'? That is very passive and denotes change, but if describing one location to the other also describes movement.


  • It's good, definitely meets the criteria! But I think due to the subtle effects, such as pronunciation, the association with other usages of the word, and so forth, I lean more towards wafted.
    – Slakslak
    Commented Mar 28, 2017 at 16:12

"Wanderer' is a noun in English which defines a person always moving from one place to other. I guess 'wander' is your verb. Another word 'Nomadic' defines a person who shifts his place of living often.

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    I don't think "She 'wandered' from the couch to the window" implies a similar benign, low-activity, notion to the act of moving. I might be wrong though.
    – Slakslak
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 12:01

I think the word that fits the example scenario and the meaning quite closely is Desultory.

According to Oxford's AL Desultory means :

  • Going from one thing to another, without a definite plan, purpose, or enthusiasm. "She wandered about in a desultory fashion".

Cambridge defines Desultory as:

  • without a clear plan or purpose and showing little effort or interest:

I guess you could say,

  • "She desultorily moved from the couch to the window."

The word desultory does hint that she is moving there without much interest or enthusiasm almost in a perfunctory manner not caring whatever is happening in her surroundings. This might fit your description "her eyes seem to just stare through any person facing her, as if there was nobody there." with a stretch, in the sense that she is "not really aware of her surroundings."

But still, this is as close to the scenario as I can think of.

There are other words that mean going about from place to place such as - Itinerant, Peripatetic, Roving etc. But these generally mean moving from physical places (like from city to city, in many cases for work).


Consider: Mope

Feel dejected and apathetic.
‘no use moping—things could be worse’

(mope around/about) Wander about listlessly and aimlessly because of unhappiness or boredom.
‘you spend too much time moping about the house’

Although mope/mope aroud is often used with 'house' it is not limited to that. You can be 'moping on the sofa', 'moping about the place', 'moping from pillar to post' etc


I actually like wander quite a bit for the scene you painted. People do wander aimlessly around the house when they're depressed.

I don't understand your instructions. Does she simply change her location, or is there some beginnings of an internal change starting to take place? I'm going to assume that there is no internal change going on at this time.

shift: She shifted from the couch to the window

wander: She wandered from the couch to the window and back to the couch, with no clear purpose

vary: She varied her location from the couch to the window for a while and then back to the couch

pursue: She pursued a meaningless path from the couch to the window and then back again

alternate: She alternated between the couch and the window, uttering a small sigh with each set of steps

There are really many ways to express this. Tip: look for alternate ways of expressing your idea in your primary language, and then start translating.


She transposed herself from X to Y.

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    While this answer is plausible, answers on StackExchange should explain, not merely tell. In particular, as this is not the primary meaning of transpose, an excerpted dictionary definition and examples of its usage might be helpful. I encuorage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 22:06

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