Wikipedia states:

The terms "id", "ego", and "super-ego" are not Freud's own. They are latinisations by his translator James Strachey. Freud himself wrote of "das Es",[5] "das Ich",[19] and "das Über-Ich"[28]—respectively, "the It", "the I", and "the Over-I" (or "I above"); thus to the German reader, Freud's original terms are more or less self-explanatory. [...]

  1. What's the referent of the German pronoun 'Es'?

  2. Why didn't Freud name (the concept known as ⟨Es⟩) with the referent itself instead? I.e., wouldn't naming ⟨Es⟩ as 'Instinkt' to mean 'instinctual drive' make the term easier to understand and more self-explanatory?

  • $\begingroup$ See cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/18092/7001 re why this question is off-topic here. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Nov 23, 2017 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg - I don't agree - see here $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jan 4, 2018 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ This is a great question! It's a shame that the only answer didn't quite grasp what you were asking. I'm struggling with the same problem and I stumbled upon an interesting discovery thanks to your insight. In Spanish (even when it's closer to Latin than english, the native language of James Strachey) the accademic-accepted translations are Ello, Yo, Super-Yo, which are (roughly) direct translations to das Es, das Ich, and das Über-Ich. Im not sure though why we didn't follow the "Id" translation, perhaps it was better to just sticking to the original Freud concept. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2022 at 5:03

1 Answer 1


Short answer
Freud din't come up with that terminology, he borrowed it from his contemporaries.

According to wikipedia Freud borrowed the term "das Es" from Georg Groddeck, a German physician to whose unconventional ideas Freud was much attracted (Groddeck's translators render the term in English also as "the It").

Nietzsche, who is thought to have influenced Freud also often used the German pronoun das Es. Freud’s English translator indeed used the Latin word 'id'.


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