List of German expressions in English

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This is a list of German expressions used in English; some are relatively common (e.g. hamburger), but most are comparatively rare. In many cases the loanword has assumed a meaning substantially different from its German forebear.

English and German both are West Germanic languages, though their relationship has been obscured by the lexical influence of Old Norse and Norman French (as a consequence of the Norman conquest of England in 1066) on English as well as the High German consonant shift. In recent years, however, many English words have been borrowed directly from German. Typically, English spellings of German loanwords suppress any umlauts (the superscript, double-dot diacritic in Ä, Ö, Ü, ä, ö and ü) of the original word or replace the umlaut letters with Ae, Oe, Ue, ae, oe, ue, respectively (as is done commonly in German speaking countries when the umlaut is not available; the origin of the umlaut was a superscript E).

German words have been incorporated into English usage for many reasons:

  • German cultural artefacts, especially foods, have spread to English-speaking nations and often are identified either by their original German names or by German-sounding English names
  • Developments and discoveries in German-speaking nations in science, scholarship, and classical music have led to German words for new concepts, which have been adopted into English: for example the words doppelgänger and angst in psychology.
  • Discussion of German history and culture requires some German words.
  • Some German words are used in English narrative to identify that the subject expressed is in German, e.g. Frau, Reich.

As languages, English and German descend from the common ancestor language West Germanic and further back to Proto-Germanic; because of this, some English words are essentially identical to their German lexical counterparts, either in spelling (Hand, Sand, Finger) or pronunciation (fish = Fisch, mouse = Maus), or both (Arm, Ring); these are excluded from this list.

German common nouns adopted into English are in general not initially capitalised, and the ß is generally changed to ss.

German terms commonly used in English

Most of these words will be recognized by many English speakers; they are commonly used in English contexts. Some, such as wurst and pumpernickel, retain German connotations, while others, such as lager and hamburger, retain none. Not every word is recognizable outside its relevant context. A number of these expressions are used in American English, under the influence of German immigration, but not in British English.

Food and drink

Sports and recreation

  • Abseil (German spelling: sich abseilen, a reflexive verb, to rope (seil) oneself (sich) down (ab)); the term abseiling is used in the UK and Commonwealth countries, "roping (down)" in various English settings, and "rappelling" in the US.
  • Blitz, taken from Blitzkrieg (lightning war). It is a team defensive play in American or Canadian football in which the defense sends more players than the offense can block.
  • Foosball, probably from the German word for table football, Tischfußball,[2] although foosball itself is referred to as Kicker in German. Fußball is the word for soccer in general.
  • Karabiner, snaplink, a metal loop with a sprung or screwed gate, used in climbing and mountaineering; modern short form/derivation of the older word 'Karabinerhaken'; translates to 'riflehook'. The German word can also mean a Carbine firearm.
  • Kutte (literally frock or cowl), a type of vest made out of denim or leather and traditionally worn by bikers, metalheads and punks; in German the word also refers to the clothes of monks.[3]
  • Kletterschuh, climbing shoe (mountaineering)
  • Mannschaft, German word for a sports team.
  • Rucksack (more commonly called a backpack in U.S. English)
  • Schuss, literally: shot (ski) down a slope at high speed
  • Turner, a gymnast
  • Turnverein, a gymnastics club or society
  • Volksmarsch / Volkssport / Volkswanderung, non-competitive fitness walking

Other aspects of everyday life

  • –bahn as a suffix, e.g. Infobahn, after Autobahn
  • Blücher, a half-boot named after Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742–1819); also a hand in the British card game Napoleon.
  • Dachshund, literally badger dog; a dog breed (usually referred to as Dackel in German usage)
  • Doberman Pinscher, a dog breed
  • Doppelgänger, literally double-goer, also spelled in English as doppelgaenger; a double or look-alike. However, in English the connotation is that of a ghostly apparition of a duplicate living person.
  • Dreck, literally dirt or smut, but now meaning trashy, awful (through Yiddish, OED s.v.)
  • Dummkopf, literally stupid head; a stupid, ignorant person, similar to numbskull in English
  • erlaubt, allowed, granted - opposite of verboten.
  • Ersatz, replacement; usually implying an artificial and inferior substitute or imitation. The German word has a neutral connotation, e.g. Ersatzrad simply means "spare wheel" (not an inferior one).
  • Fest, festival
  • Flak, Flugabwehrkanone, literally: air-defence cannon, for anti-aircraft artillery or their shells, also used in flak jacket; or in the figurative sense: "drawing flak" = being heavily criticized
  • Gemütlichkeit, coziness
  • Gesundheit, literally health; an exclamation used in place of "bless you!" after someone has sneezed
  • Hausfrau, pejorative: frumpy, petty-bourgeois, traditional, pre-emancipation type housewife whose interests centre on the home, or who is even exclusively interested in domestic matters (colloquial, American English only), sometimes humorously used to replace "wife", but with the same mildly derisive connotation
  • Kaffeeklatsch, literally coffee gossip; afternoon meeting where people (usually referring to women) chitchat while drinking coffee or tea
  • kaput (German spelling: kaputt), out-of-order, broken, dead
  • Kindergarten, literally children's garden; day-care centre, playschool, preschool
  • Kitsch, cheap, sentimental, gaudy items of popular culture
  • Kraft as in kraft paper the strong paper used to make sacks
  • Kraut, literally cabbage; derogatory term for a German
  • Lebensraum, literally living space; conquered territory, now exclusively associated with the Nazi Party in that historical context.
  • Lederhosen (short leather pants for men and boys, often worn with suspenders)
  • Meister, master, also as a suffix: –meister
  • Nazi, short for Nationalsozialist (National Socialist)
  • Neanderthal (modern German spelling: Neandertal), for German Neandertaler, meaning "of, from, or pertaining to the Neandertal ("Neander Valley")", the site near Düsseldorf where early Homo neanderthalensis fossils were found
  • nix, from German nix, dialectal variant of nichts "nothing"
  • Noodle, from German Nudel, a type of food; a string of pasta.
  • Oktoberfest, Bavarian folk festival held annually in Munich during late September and early October
  • Poltergeist, literally noisy ghost; an alleged paranormal phenomenon where objects appear to move of their own accord
  • Poodle, from German Pudel, breed of dog
  • Rottweiler, breed of dog
  • Schadenfreude, joy from pain (literally harm joy); delight at the misfortune of others
  • Scheiße, an expression and euphemism meaning "shit", usually as an interjection when something goes amiss
  • Schnauzer, breed of dog
  • Siskin, several species of birds (from Sisschen, dialect for Zeisig)
  • Spitz, a breed of dog
  • Süffig, if a beverage is especially light and sweet or palatable.
  • uber, über, over; used to indicate that something or someone is of better or superior magnitude, e.g. Übermensch
  • Ur– (German prefix), original or prototypical; e.g. Ursprache, Urtext
  • verboten, prohibited, forbidden, banned. In both English and German,{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B=

{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} this word has authoritarian connotations.

German terms common in English academic context

German terms sometimes appear in English academic disciplines, e.g. history, psychology, philosophy, music, and the physical sciences; laypeople in a given field may or may not be familiar with a given German term.





Selected works in classical music
Modern songs








Minerals including:


(Some terms are listed in multiple categories if they are important to each.)

The Third Reich


Other historical periods

Military terms


  • Blitzkrieg (literally "lightning war")
  • Fingerspitzengefühl (literally "finger-tip feeling", in German used to mean "empathy", "sensitivity" or "tact"): The ability of certain military commanders to understand and master a situation in detail thanks to intuition and a capability that allows having all relevant tactical information available in the mind, presumably in the form of a mental map.
  • Flak (Flugabwehrkanone), anti-aircraft gun (for derived meanings see under Other aspects of everyday life)
  • Fliegerhorst, another word for a military airport
  • Karabiner, a carbine. For the climbing hardware, see carabiner above
  • Kriegsspiel, in English also written Kriegspiel, war game (different meanings)
  • Luftwaffe, air force (WW II and later, with East Germany and the earlier German Empire using the term Luftstreitkräfte instead for their air services)
  • Panzer refers to tanks and other armored military vehicles, or formations of such vehicles
  • Panzerfaust, "tank fist": anti-tank weapon, a small one-man launcher and projectile.
  • Strafe, punishment
  • U-Boot (abbreviated form of Unterseeboot — submarine, but commonly called U-Boot in Germany as well)
  • Vernichtungsgedanke (thought of annihilation)


  • Ablaut
  • Abstandsprache
  • Aktionsart
  • Ausbausprache
  • Dachsprache
  • Dreimorengesetz, "three-mora law", the rule for placing stress in Latin
  • einzelsprachlich (belonging to a single language; in historical linguistics, referring to single dialects or branches within a language family, or a relatively recent period in language development as opposed to the proto-language stage of a family)
  • Gleichsetzung or Gleichung, "equation" (of cognates, in etymology)
  • Grammatischer Wechsel, "grammatical alternation", a pattern of consonant alternations found in Germanic strong verbs and also in Germanic nouns
  • Grenzsignal, "boundary signal"
  • Gruppenflexion, "group inflection", the attachment of an affix to an entire phrase instead of individual words
  • Junggrammatiker, literally "Young Grammarians", a formative German school of linguists in the late 19th century
  • Loanword (ironically not a loanword but rather a calque from German Lehnwort)
  • Mischsprache, mixed language
  • Nebenüberlieferung or "secondary transmission", linguistic material such as names (place-names, personal names etc.), loanwords or glosses from a particular language found in texts composed in other languages (e. g., Hesychius' glossary)
  • Primärberührung, "primary contact", the development of certain consonant clusters (stop consonant + /t/) in Proto-Germanic
  • Rückumlaut, "reverse umlaut", a regular pattern of vowel alternation (of independent origin from usual ablaut patterns) in a small number of Germanic weak verbs
  • Sitz im Leben (Biblical linguistics mainly; the study of pragmatics has a similar approach)
  • Sprachbund, "language union", a group of languages that have become similar because of geographical proximity
  • Sprachgefühl, the intuitive sense of what is appropriate in a language
  • Sprachraum
  • sprachwirklich (said of words and structures: actually attested as opposed to, e. g., merely postulated on theoretical grounds, or as opposed to artificial coinages and inventions by ancient grammarians that were never used in reality)
  • Sprechbund, "speech bond", a term from sociolinguistics
  • Stammbaumtheorie, also Stammbaum alone, for a phylogenetical tree of languages
  • Suffixaufnahme
  • Trümmersprache, fragmentarily attested language
  • Umlaut
  • Urheimat, "original homeland", the area originally inhabited by speakers of a (reconstructed) proto-language
  • Ursprache, "proto-language"
  • Verschärfung, "sharpening", several analogous phonetic changes in Gothic, North Germanic and modern Faroese
  • Wanderwort, "migratory term/word", a word which spreads from its original language into several others
  • Winkelhaken, a basic element in the ancient cuneiform script


Mathematics and formal logic



Physical sciences



  • Aha-Erlebnis, literally aha experience, a sudden insight or epiphany, compare eureka
  • Angst, feeling of fear, but more deeply and without concrete object
  • Eigengrau, literally "intrinsic grey", or also Eigenlicht, "intrinsic light", the colour seen by the eye in perfect darkness
  • Einstellung effect, from Einstellung, which means "attitude" here
  • Erlebnis, from 'Erleben' experience, meaning a lived through conscious experience
  • Ganzfeld effect, from German Ganzfeld for "complete field", a phenomenon of visual perception
  • Gestalt psychology, (German spelling: Gestaltpsychologie), holistic psychology
  • Merkwelt, English: "way of viewing the world", "peculiar individual consciousness"
  • Schadenfreude, gloating, a malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others
  • Sorge, a state of worry, but (like Angst) in a less concrete, more general sense, worry about the world, one's future, etc.
  • Umwelt, environment, literally: "surrounding world"; in semiotics, "self-centred world"
  • Zeitgeber (lit. time-giver), something that resets the circadian clock found in the suprachiasmatic nucleus
  • Wunderkind, child prodigy



German terms mostly used for literary effect

There are a few terms which are recognised by many English speakers but are usually only used to deliberately evoke a German context:

  • Autobahn — particularly common in British English and American English referring specifically to German motorways.
  • Achtung — Literally, "attention" in English.
  • Frau and Fräulein — Woman and young woman or girl, respectively in English. Indicating marital state, with Frau — Mrs. and Fräulein — Miss; in Germany, however, the diminutive Fräulein lapsed from common usage in the late 1960s. Regardless of marital status, a woman is now commonly referred to as Frau, because from 1972 the term Fräulein has been officially phased out for being politically incorrect and should only be used if expressly authorized by the woman concerned.
  • Führer (umlaut is usually dropped in English) — always used in English to denote Hitler or to connote a Fascistic leader — never used, as is possible in German, simply and unironically to denote a (non-Fascist) leader or guide, (e.g. Bergführer: mountain guide, Stadtführer: city guide (book), Führerschein: driving licence, Geschäftsführer: managing director, Flugzeugführer: Pilot in command)
  • Gott mit uns (means "God be with us" in German), the motto of the Prussian king, it was used as a morale slogan amongst soldiers in both World Wars. It was bastardized as "Got mittens" by American and British soldiers, and is usually used nowadays, because of the German defeat in both wars, derisively to mean that wars are not won on religious grounds.
  • Hände hoch — hands up
  • Herr In modern German either the equivalent of Mr. (Mister), to address an adult man, or "master" over something or someone (e.g. Sein eigener Herr sein: to be his own master). Derived from the adjective hehr, meaning "honourable" or "senior", it was historically a nobleman's title, equivalent to "Lord". (Herr der Fliegen is the German title of Lord of the Flies.) In a religious context it refers to God.
  • Ich bin ein Berliner, famous quotation by John F. Kennedy
  • Leitmotif (German spelling: Leitmotiv) Any sort of recurring theme, whether in music, literature, or the life of a fictional character or a real person.
  • Meister — used as a suffix to mean expert (Maurermeister), or master; in Germany it means also champion in sports (Weltmeister, Europameister, Landesmeister)
  • Nein — no
  • Raus — meaning Out! — shortened (colloquial) (depending on where the speaker is, if on the inside "get out!" = hinaus, if on the outside "come out!" = heraus). It is the imperative form of the German verb herauskommen (coming out (of a room/house/etc.) as in the imperative "komm raus"!).[16]
  • Reich — from the Middle High German "rich", as a noun it means "empire" or "realm", cf the English word "bishopric". In titles as part of a compound noun, for example "Deutsche Reichsbahn", it is equivalent to the English word "national" (German National Railway), or "Reichspost" (National Postal Service). To some English speakers, Reich strongly connotes Nazism and is sometimes used to suggest Fascism or authoritarianism, e.g., "Herr Reichsminister" used as a title for a disliked politician.
  • Ja — yes
  • Jawohl a German term that connotes an emphatic yes — "Yes, Indeed!" in English. It is often equated to "yes sir" in Anglo-American military films, since it is also a term typically used as an acknowledgement for military commands in the German military.
  • Schnell! — Quick! or Quickly!
  • Kommandant — commander (in the sense of person in command or Commanding officer, regardless of military rank), used often in the military in general (Standortkommandant: Base commander), on battleships and U-Boats (Schiffskommandant or U-Boot-Kommandant), sometimes used on civilian ships and aircraft.
  • Schweinhund (German spelling: Schweinehund) — literally: Schwein = pig, Hund = dog, vulgarism like in der verdammte Schweinehund (the damned pig-dog). But also used to describe the lack of motivation (for example to quit a bad habit) Den inneren Schweinehund bekämpfen. = to battle the inner pig-dog.
  • Weltschmerz, world-weariness/world-pain, angst; despair with the world (often used ironically in German)
  • Wunderbar — wonderful

Terms rarely used in English


Some famous English quotations are translations from German. On rare occasions an author will quote the original German as a sign of erudition.

  • Muss es sein? Es muss sein!: "Must it be? It must be!" — Beethoven
  • Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln: "War is politics by other means" (literally: "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means") — Clausewitz
  • Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa — das Gespenst des Kommunismus: "A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism" — The Communist Manifesto
  • Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch!: "Workers of the world, unite!" — The Communist Manifesto
  • Gott würfelt nicht: "God does not play dice" — Einstein
  • Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht: "Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not" — Einstein
  • Wir müssen wissen, wir werden wissen: "We must know, we will know" — David Hilbert
  • Was kann ich wissen? Was soll ich tun? Was darf ich hoffen? Was ist der Mensch?: "What can I know? What shall I do? What may I hope? What is Man?" — Kant
  • Die ganzen Zahlen hat der liebe Gott gemacht, alles andere ist Menschenwerk: "God made the integers, all the rest is the work of man" — Leopold Kronecker
  • Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir. Amen!: "Here I stand, I cannot do differently. God help me. Amen!" — attributed to Martin Luther
  • Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent" — Wittgenstein
  • Einmal ist keinmal: "What happens once might as well never have happened." literally "once is never" — theme of The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • Es lebe die Freiheit: "Long live freedom" — Hans Scholl

See also


  1. Collins English Dictionary - Definition of “schmalz”
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  16. Hinaus or Heraus


External links

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