I'm not sure what English word(s) to use for the German noun "Naturalrabatt" in the case of giving a retail customer a product for free in a non-immoral, non-sexual, non-promoting context.

  • rebate/bonus of kind
  • give-away
  • freebie
  • free goods
  • other?

I was told that "rebate/bonus of kind" might easily be misunderstood as an immoral/indecent proposal by native speakers (is this correct?).

The "give-away" and "freebie" seem to be used in promotion/advertising actions mainly, but the free product is not given for any promotion/advertising reasons in this case.

The "free goods" seems to be unreasonable, because it is mainly used in a duty-free context (afaik), but the free product got nothing to do with any duty/toll in this case.

Well, I'm lost^^

Any ideas?


Matt Эллен, Kitḫ, Kris, here are some more specific reasons/contexts.

Example #1: something between retailer and customer went wrong. Say, the retailer promised to deliver within 2 days, but failed to do so. The retailer wants to compensate/apologize by handing out a free product (but not by money).

Example #2: a customer noticed a bug in the retailer's web shop and reported it. This unspotted bug made the retailer sporadically lose conversions. The retailer wants to thank/reward by handing out a free product (but not by money).

Example #3: the retailer doesn't want to work with tier prices. Instead, if a customer buys 10 pieces of a product, he gets a coupon code which can be used to either get a 11th piece of the same product for free, or to get one different product, for free.

In German, all of those three examples qualify as "Naturalrabatt".

Is there a generic english term covering those three examples, too?

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    I'm not sure how a retail customer can get free goods in a non-promotional context. Please could you explain? Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 17:22
  • I don't think "rebate" would be considered an indecent proposal, but it has a pretty specific meaning. Can you give a specific description of the context?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 17:23
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    For what it’s worth I wouldn’t understand the German word and I’m a native speaker with a quite rich (passive) thesaurus. Extrapolating, I’d say that you shouldn’t use the word in German if you want to be understood. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 19:31
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    Just because there is a catchall word (actually a conjoined phrase) in German does not mean there should be one in English for the combination of features. We cannot always find words that encompass specific sets of meanings. In this particular case, I would myself use gift, and do it with a flourish.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 11:01
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    My reaction to this question would be the following: of course it's a promotion. It's a promotion when hotels offer "free" breakfast. If "Naturalrabatt" means "you get more of what you're buying than what you pay for", that's also a promotion; in America, we usually refer to that as a promotion of the type "buy-n, get-m free"; as in, the packs of boneless skinless chicken breasts are buy-one, get-one free this week.
    – Patrick87
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 17:00

8 Answers 8


I'm not sure how many people would accept it as an "English" word, but gratis - without reward or consideration. comes to mind.

The more familiar, complimentary is often used the same way. Note that this is an adjective. Actual items are normally named (e.g. - a hotel offers complimentary breakfast), or collectively referred to as complimentary gifts. From the "trader's" side, such things may also be called corporate/promotional/business gifts/products; the recipients are more likely to call them freebies (or goody bags, which can be much more than candies for kids).

Gratis is more likely to be found in legal contexts (where you also find pro bono, used to describe work lawyers do without direct payment).

Complimentary is mostly used in commercial contexts where a trader provides something free, usually complementing (going together with) something else you're paying for. Note the different spelling for complimentary (something nice said or given), which many people get mixed up (that's 420 written instances of "complementary breakfast" written in error).

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    I agree with "complimentary" as being quite close to the OP's question. I'm a German speaker, too, so I see both sides. ie: "Complimentary breakfast" at a hotel. Of course, in the end, when you really do the math, nothing is free :) Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 18:33
  • @Martin S. Stoller: Quite so. But your comment about "complimentary breakfast" prompts me to think of why we don't normally hear such of things being called "gratis", so I'll edit to reflect that - thanks for the nudge. Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 18:43
  • Per OP's edit. Those given in compensation/ return for favors/ recognition of loyalty are not called complimentaries; at least not in general usage. I had avoided suggesting that word for this reason.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 10:55
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    Would "complimentary gifts" make sense? Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 13:48
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    "Complimentary gifts" makes sense in precisely the same way that "edible food" and "audible sound" make sense...
    – Patrick87
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 16:57

Some various translations shown at linguee suggest that terms like bonus, discount, discount in kind, in-kind rebate, rebate in kind, or redeemable in kind would be neutral terms (not suggestive of graft or kickbacks occurring) for translation of Naturalrabatt. (Note, in this context, "in kind" is a more-common or more-natural English construction than is "of kind".)

In America, the scope of terms rebate and coupon is quite broad, and covers cash discounts as well as in-kind rebates and the "Buy 12, get 2 free" sort of promotion. Inducements can refer to free gift promotions, such as "Start an account now and get a toaster" or "Buy this car now and we'll wash it for a year".

A less-neutral term is lagniappe, "a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase, such as a 13th beignet when buying a dozen, or more broadly something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure; a bonus."

Among linguee translations are

  • free of charge for promotional reasons
  • promotions
  • "free goods"
  • rebate in kind
  • proportionate quantity in relation to the delivered quantity
  • voucher for ... natural discount
  • inclusive bonus quantity ... inclusive free goods
  • What is a "rebate in kind"? (that is as different from a regular rebate). It sounds like to me an exchange back in something in the same terms (coupons for cash rather than swag), but that does not seem at all what is meant by the OP.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 18:40
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    While many rebates are cash-back or cash-discount arrangements, some instead offer additional units of product. For example, if when buying several boxes of cereal one gets a coupon for a free box of the same cereal, that could be termed a "rebate in kind"; and this example also is a Naturalrabatt Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 18:59
  • Oh...I'd never heard of that phrase before..it sounds like salesman-commercial-speech, not something one would use in a non-technical conversation. "Hey, did you get a discount? Naw, just a measly rebate-in-kind." sounds really wrong.
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 21:19
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    Lagniappe was exactly the term I was thinking of for this, though I think it's probably largely a regional US term—that reference to a 13th beignet is not coincidental.
    – 1006a
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 15:26

I think you have two options to resolve the issue. (That will put you in a new dilemma?)

First, find the reason for the 'something', rather than what are all the non-reasons for it. That will tell you what to call it naturally.

Alternately, call it simply a gift. 'Gift' does NOT have negative connotations of immorality, sexuality, or expectations in return, per se. After all, it's the thought that counts.


"token of our appreciation", as in, "Please accept this as a token of our appreciation." [e.g., for pointing out that bug in our software to us]


Various retailer rewards programs give you a free gift periodically, simply for being a member.

By themselves, rebate or bonus don't have any immoral or indecent connotations. (Maybe it's the "in kind" part that the people you asked found objectionable.) However, they do imply that a previous transaction of some sort took place.

As you mentioned, free goods is usually used in the context of duty-free goods.

As suggested by FumbleFingers, something that's complimentary incurs no cost or obligation.


You could easily refer to the extra merchandise as a "free bonus".

For example: https://www.amazon.in/Face-Chilled-Bonus-Shampoo-Conditioner/dp/B01BQII0CE -- "Axe Face Wash, Chilled 5 Oz with Free Bonus Dual 2 in 1 Shampoo + Conditioner" (The product you buy comes with a sample of another product by the same manufacturer.)

https://www.amazon.com/Motions-Neutralizing-Shampoo-More-Bonus/dp/B0089NQ3BU -- "Motions Neutralizing Shampoo 25% More Free Bonus 20 Oz" -- the normal package is 16 ounces, but for a limited time you get 20 ounces for the same price.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2017/11/28/holiday-gift-card-roundup/900217001/ -- "Holiday bonus! Buy a gift card, get a freebie at these restaurants" -- as a temporary promotion, these stores give you an extra gift when you buy a card.

(Disclaimer: no connection with any of these sites or products, they are just what came up when I searched for real-world examples.)

Note that in some parts of the world there may be retail regulations that restrict the use of the word "free" when referring to something you only acquire by making a purchase of something else.


The legal word "boot" applies when the seller offers something extra, not required to fulfill the contract:

"When I purchased bath towels, the merchant gave me face cloths, to boot."

"The Ford dealer performed my 10,000-mile maintenance, and washed my car, to boot".

The boot is given as a courtesy, to cultivate customer loyalty. There is no connotation of immorality.


I'm not really seeing this addressed in the other responses: it's quite nonsense that "rebate" or "bonus" or any of these other terms would be taken to suggest anything immoral. These terms are common and normal in consumer and business contexts.

I'm guessing that in the German term, "rabatt" refers to the value being transferred and "natural" means it's product, not money, involved. To the extent that English "rebate" is the cognate of "rabatt", there may not be a one-to-one correspondence. "Rebate" is very common to mean a partial refund, post-sale, of the purchase price. We occasionally see some goods advertised with a "mail-in rebate" offer, in which the consumer sends a coupon to the manufacturer to claim a payment. Other rebates are at time of sale; however, they're usually calculated post-tax; if they're calculated on the sale price, they'd be called a "discount".

I don't think "rebate in kind" is in common use as "rebate" is always in reference to money.

"Bonus" normally means that you get extra product; for example, buy one, get one free; or a large amount being sold at the price of a smaller one.

In cases where product is supplied for free, especially to make up for a failure on the part of the merchant, the verb "to comp", from the sense of "complimentary" meaning free-of-charge, is common within some industries. As in, "the restaurant apologized for the delay in service, and comped us our desserts". In business-to-business transactions, it may be more common to offer to discount the next order.

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