List of German expressions in English

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

English and German both descended from the West Germanic languages, though their relationship has been obscured by the great influx of Norman French words to English as a consequence of the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and the High German consonant shift. In recent years, however, many English words have been borrowed directly from German. Typically, English spellings of German loanwordssuppress 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 (influenced by Latin: æ, œ.)

German words have been incorporated into English usage for many reasons: common 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; the history of academic excellence of the German-speaking nations in science, scholarship, and classical music has led to the academic adoption of much German for use in English context; discussion of German history and culture requires knowing German words. Lastly, some German words are used simply to fictionalise an English narrative passage, implying that the subject expressed is in German, i.e. using Frau, Reich, and so on, although sometimes usage of German words holds no German implication, as in doppelgänger or angst.

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 identical to their German lexical counterparts, either in the spelling (Hand, Sand, Finger) or in the pronunciation (Fish = Fisch, Mouse = Maus), or both (Arm, Ring); these are excluded from this words list.

German terms commonly used in English

The German words of this category will easily be recognized by many English speakers; they are commonly used in English contexts. Some, such as wurst or pumpernickel, still retain German connotations, while others, such as lager and hamburger, retain none. Not every word is recognizable outside its relevant context.

Food and drink

  • Berliner Weisse, sour beer infused with fruit syrup
  • Biergarten, open-air drinking establishment
  • Bratwurst (sometimes abbv. brat), type of sausage
  • Bundt cake, a ring cake (from bundkuchen, literally "gathering cake")
  • Delikatessen, speciality food retailer, fine foods
  • Gummi bear, also found with the Anglicized spelling gummy bear, German spelling: Gummibär
  • Hamburger, sandwich with a meat patty and garnishments
  • Hasenpfeffer, type of rabbit (or hare) stew
  • Hefeweizen, unfiltered wheat beer (containing yeast)
  • Frankfurter, pork sausage
  • Kipfel, also kipferl, a horn-shaped type of pastry
  • Kirschwasser, spirit drink made from cherries
  • Kohlrabi, type of cabbage
  • Kraut, cabbage; sometimes used as a derisive term for Germans
  • Lager, beer made with bottom-fermenting yeast and stored for some time before serving
  • Leberwurst, pork liver sausage
  • Maß, a unit of volume used for measuring beer
  • Muesli, breakfast cereal (Swiss German diminutive of "mues"; (German spelling: Müsli), possibly related to English "mush")
  • Pilsener (or Pils, Pilsner), pale lager beer
  • Brezel, evolved into Pretzel, flour and yeast based pastry
  • Pumpernickel, type of sourdough rye bread, strongly flavoured, dense, and dark in colour
  • Rollmops, rolled, pickled herring fillet
  • Sauerkraut, fermented cabbage
  • Schnaps, distilled beverage
  • Spritzer, chilled drink from white wine and soda water (from "spritzen" = to spray)
  • Stein, large drinking mug, usually for beer (from "Steingut" = earthenware, referring to the material)
  • Streusel
  • Strudel (e. g. Apfelstrudel), a filled pastry
  • Wiener, hot dog (from "Wiener Würstchen" = sausage from Vienna)
  • Wiener Schnitzel, crumbed veal cutlet
  • Wurst, sausage, cold cuts
  • Zwieback, a "twice baked" bread; rusk, variants: German hard biscuits; Mennonite double yeast roll.

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, "rappelling" in the US and "snapling" by Israelis.
  • 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 [1]; paradoxically, foosball is called Kicker in German
  • 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 Carbine.
  • Kutte, a type of vest made out of denim or leather and traditionally worn by bikers, metalheads and punks
  • Fahrvergnügen meaning "driving pleasure"; originally, the word was introduced in a Volkswagen advertising campaign in the U.S., one tag line was: "Are we having Fahrvergnügen yet?").
  • Kletterschuh, climbing shoe (mountaineering)
  • Rucksack (more commonly called a backpack in U.S. English)
  • Schuss, literally: shot (ski) down a slope at high speed
  • Turnverein, a gymnastics club or society
  • Volksmarsch / Volkssport, non-competitive fitness walking
  • Volkswanderung
  • Wunderbar

Other aspects of everyday life

  • –bahn as a suffix, e.g. Infobahn, after Autobahn
  • Blücher, a half-boot named after Prussian General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742–1819); also a hand in the British card gameNapoleon.
  • Dachshund, literally badger dog, a dog breed (the breed usually goes by the name of Dackel in German usage).
  • Doberman Pinscher, a dog breed
  • Doppelgänger, "double-goer"; also spelled in English as doppelganger; 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 means trashy, awful (through Yiddish, OED s.v.)
  • Dummkopf, dumm=dumb/not intelligent + Kopf=head; a stupid, ignorant person
  • erlaubt, allowed, granted - opposite of verboten.
  • Ersatz, replacement; usually implying an artificial and inferior substitute or imitation
  • 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, afternoon meeting where people (most times referring to women) chitchat while drinking coffee or tea; Kaffee = coffee, Klatsch = gossip, klatschen = chitchatting
  • kaput (German spelling: kaputt), out-of-order
  • Kindergarten, children’s garden, day-care centre, playschool, preschool
  • Kitsch, cheap, sentimental, gaudy items of popular culture
  • Kraut, a derogatory term for a German, literally means cabbage in German
  • Lebensraum, space to live
  • Meister, Master, also as a suffix: –meister
  • Nazi, short form for Nationalsozialist (= National Socialist)
  • Neanderthal (modern German spelling: Neandertal), for German Neandertaler, which means: of, from, or pertaining to the Neandertal("Neander Valley"), site near Düsseldorf where early Homo neanderthalensis fossils (also called Neandertaler in German) were found
  • Oktoberfest, Bavarian folk festival held annually in Munich during late September and early October
  • Poltergeist, mischievous, noisy ghost; cases of haunting, involving spontaneous psychokinesis
  • Rottweiler, breed of dog
  • Schadenfreude, 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
  • Spitz, a breed of dog
  • 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. Ur–feminist, Ursprache, Urtext
  • verboten, prohibited, forbidden. Both in English and German, this word has authoritarian connotations.
  • Volkswagen, brand of automobile
  • Wanderlust, the yearning to travel
  • Wiener as in "You're a Wiener", signifying a spineless, weak person. In German, the term "Würstchen" (the diminuitive form of Wurst) is used in its place
  • Wunderkind, wonder child, a child prodigy
  • Zeitgeist, spirit of the time
  • Zeppelin, type of rigid airship named after its inventor

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.


  • Ansatz, basic approach
  • Festschrift, book prepared by colleagues to honor a scholar, often on an important birthday such as the sixtieth.
  • Leitfaden, guidelines
  • Methodenstreit, disagreement on methodology
  • Privatdozent
  • Q document


  • Bauhaus
  • Jugendstil
  • Plattenbau
  • Biedermeier


  • Gesamtkunstwerk, "the whole of a work of art", also "total work of art" or "complete artwork"
  • Gestalt "The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts"


  • Augenmusik
  • Fach, method of classifying singers, primarily opera singers, by the range, weight, and color of their voices
  • Flatterzunge Playing technique for wind-instruments
  • Flugelhorn (German spelling: Flügelhorn), a type of brass musical instrument
  • Glockenspiel, a percussion instrument
  • Heldentenor, "heroic tenor"
  • Hammerklavier, "hammer-keyboard", an archaic term for piano or the name of a specific kind of piano; most commonly used in English to refer to Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata
  • Hosenrolle
  • Kapellmeister, "music director"
  • Katzenjammer
  • Konzertmeister
  • Leitmotif (German spelling: Leitmotiv) a musical phrase that associates with a specific person, thing, or idea
  • Lied (pronounced "leet"), "song"; specifically in English, "art song"
  • Lieder ohne Worte, "songs without words"
  • Liederkranz, male singing club
  • Liedermacher, Singer-songwriter
  • Meistersinger, Master-singer
  • Mensurstrich
  • Minnesang, medieval love poetry
  • Ohrwurm
  • Schlager, "a hit" (German "schlagen", to hit or beat)
  • Schuhplattler, a regional dance from Upper Bavaria and Austria
  • Singspiel, German musical drama with spoken dialogue
  • Sitzprobe, rehearsal of a musical stage work where singers are sitting and without costumes
  • Sprechgesang, form of musical delivery between speech and singing
  • Strohbass
  • Sturm und Drang, "storm and stress", a brief esthetic movement in German literature, just before Weimar Classicism
  • Urtext, "original text (of the composer)"
  • Volksmusik, traditional German music
  • Walzer (Waltz)
  • Zukunftsmusik
Meanings of German band names
  • 2raumwohnung = 2 room apartment (used only in GDR, in West Germany: Zweizimmerwohnung)
  • Alter Der Ruine = "Age of the Ruin"
  • Böhse Onkelz = this is the correct but idiosyncratic spelling of the name of the German band (the correct plural would be "Onkel" without the z or an s, and "böse" for the correct German word for 'evil') "evil uncles," a term used in German as a euphemism for child molesters. The peculiar spelling of the band is intended to "harden" the appearance of the name (h in this context amplifies the ö; z is pronounced tsin German, and sounds sharper than s). The umlaut over the o in Böhse is not a heavy metal umlaut.
  • Deichkind = dike (or levee) child
  • Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft (or D.A.F.) = German-American Friendship
  • Die Ärzte = the (medical) doctors, a German Punkrock band.
  • Die Fantastischen Vier = the fantastic four
  • Die Roten Punkte = The Red Dots
  • Die Sterne = the stars (celestial body)
  • Die Toten Hosen = literally the dead trousers. A slang expression for a boring place to be (phrase: "Hier ist total tote Hose.") (commonly used in the northern parts of Germany), it can also refer to impotence.
  • Dschinghis Khan = The German spelling of Genghis Khan
  • Einstürzende Neubauten = "collapsing new buildings". For the band this evokes the image of buildings built during the post-war era, which were very hastily erected, hence supposedly prone to collapse.
  • Eisbrecher = Ice breaker
  • Eisregen = "Ice rain"
  • Erste Allgemeine Verunsicherung = "First Public/General Uncertainty/Un-Insurance (better: the first undermining of the public sense of security)", often abbreviated "EAV". Band name was inspired by the real existing insurance company "Erste Allgemeinen Versicherungs-AG" (First General Insurance Inc.)
  • Feindflug = "combat mission" (general term for any flight with enemy contact, as opposed to civilian, recon or training flights)
  • Fehlfarben = An elder trademark for cheap cigars, but also the term for stamps and furs in the wrong colour, as well the colours in a card play, which are not trump
  • Fettes Brot = literally fat bread, but "fett" is also a slang expression for cool
  • Fluchtweg = "way of escape"
  • Fräulein Wunder = "Miss Miracle", an allusion to the German expression de:Fräuleinwunder, a phenomenon in 1950s Germany referring to modern, attractive and self-assured young women
  • Freundeskreis = circle of friends
  • Geschmeido = A distortion of the term Geschmeide or geschmeidig, just meaning "jewellery" or "supple"
  • Juli = July
  • Kettcar = the trademark name of a line of toy cars propelled by pedals and a chain. The name is a play on the name of the firm that produces the cars, Kettler, as well as the word for "chain", Kette.
  • Klee = not only the painter Paul Klee, but also German for clover.
  • KMFDM = "Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid" [sic] (literally "no majority for the pity," which is a grammatically incorrect rearrangement of "Kein Mitleid für die Mehrheit" or "no pity for the masses.")
  • Kraftwerk = power plant
  • Kreidler = an elder moped trademark
  • Massive Töne = massive sounds
  • Nachtmahr = old word for "nightmare" or a legendary creature
  • Neu! = new!
  • Panzer AG = "Tank Ltd."
  • Panik = "panic", a German metal band
  • Rammstein = "ramming stone" (literal) or "battering ram" (figurative), an intentional misspelling of Ramstein and the USAF Ramstein Air Base, the location of the Ramstein airshow disaster. Some translate it as "[stone] hammerhead"
  • Rosenstolz = "pride of roses". This can also be understood as "proud like roses" alluding to symbolism of the rose signifying pride
  • Rotersand = literally "red sand", named after a famous lighthouse in the North Sea
  • Silbermond = literally silver moon, German popband
  • Tokio Hotel = literally "Tokyo Hotel", German rock band
  • Unheilig = literally "unholy", a band representing the "Neue Deutsche Härte"
  • Virginia Jetzt! = Virginia now!
  • Wir sind Helden = "We are heroes"
  • Die Zimmermänner = The former Ede & Die Zimmermänner, referring to the television personality Eduard Zimmermann, the initiator and talking head of the TV police search broadcasting in the German ZDF sender. A Zimmermann is also a carpenter by profession..
  • Krautrock: "Kraut (= cabbage) rock". A German-like English name for a variety of German rock.
  • Neue Deutsche Härte (NDH): "New German Hardness". A genre of German rock that mixes traditional hard rock with dance-like keyboard parts. Recently it has begun to appear in English.
  • Neue Deutsche Welle (NDW): "New German Wave". A genre of German music originally derived from punk rock and New Wave music.
  • Romantische Oper: genre of early nineteenth-century German opera
Selected works in classical music
  • Johann Sebastian Bach's Das wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier); Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring)
  • Brahms's Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny)
  • Kreisler's Liebesleid (Pain of Love), Liebesfreud (Joy of Love)
  • Liszt's Liebesträume (Dreams of Love)
  • Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Serenade); Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)
  • Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (Songs on Dead Children)
  • Schubert's Winterreise (Winter Journey)
  • Schumann's Dichterliebe (The Poet's Love)
  • Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (Cavalier of the Rose); Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra); "Vier letzte Lieder" (Four last songs)
  • Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus (The Bat); An der schönen blauen Donau (On The Beautiful Blue Danube)
  • Richard Wagner's Die Walküre (The Valkyrie); Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods); both from his opera cycle "Der Ring des Nibelungen" (The Ring of the Nibelung)
Carols and hymns
  • Stille Nacht: "Silent Night"
  • O Tannenbaum: "O Christmas Tree"
Modern songs
  • 99 Luftballons: "99 Balloons" (English title: "99 Red Balloons") by Nena


  • Verfremdungseffekt


  • Fraktur, a style of blackletter typeface


  • Ahnenreihe
  • Ahnentafel
  • Anlage
  • Bauplan, body plan of animals
  • Bereitschaftspotential
  • Edelweiss
  • Einkorn
  • Kraken
  • Waldsterben
  • Zeitgeber


  • Allumwandlung
  • Blitz chess, from German Blitzschach, literally "lightning chess", also known as Fast chess
  • Fingerfehler: slip of the finger
  • Kibitz, from German Kiebitz (see de:Kiebitz (Spielbeobachter)), a spectator making comments on the game that can be heard by the players
  • Luft
  • Patzer
  • Zeitnot
  • Zugzwang
  • Zwischenschach
  • Zwischenzug


  • Freigeld
  • Freiwirtschaft
  • K – In economics, the letter K –from the German word "Kapital"– is used to denote Capital
  • Lumpenproletariat
  • Mittelstand
  • Takt
  • Wirtschaftswunder



  • Hinterland
  • Inselberg
  • Mitteleuropa
  • Thalweg (written "Talweg" in Germany today)


  • Bergschrund
  • Dreikanter
  • Firn
  • Gneiss (German Gneis)
  • Graben
  • Horst
  • Iceberg (German Eisberg)
  • Karst
  • Loess (German: Löss)
  • Randkluft

Minerals including:

  • Quartz (German Quarz)
  • Feldspar (German Feldspat)
  • Meerschaum


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

The Third Reich

Other historical periods

  • Aufklarung, in German: Aufklärung, "enlightenment", short for Zeitalter der Aufklärung, "age of enlightenment"
  • Biedermeier, era in early 19th century Germany
  • Gründerzeit, the period in German history of great artistic and economic developments
  • Junker
  • Kaiser, "emperor" (derived from the title "Caesar")
  • Kulturgeschichte
  • Kulturkampf, literally the 'struggle for culture'; Bismarck's campaign for secularity which mostly went against Catholics in the newly formed German state, ostensibly a result of Bismarck's suspicion of Catholic loyalty
  • Landflucht
  • Nordpolitik
  • Ostflucht
  • Ostpolitik
  • Ostalgie (nostalgia for the former Eastern Bloc, specifically for the DDR)
  • Realpolitik (political science: "real politics"); usually implies the way politics really works, i.e. via the influence of power and money, rather than a principled approach that the public might expect to be aligned with a party's or nation's values, or rather than a political party's given interpretation.
  • Reichstag (Imperial Diet; see Reichstag building and Reichstag (institution))
  • Sammlungspolitik
  • Urmonotheismus
  • Urreligion
  • Völkerschlacht — the Battle of Nations
  • Völkerwanderung — the migration (and invasions) of the Germanic peoples in the 4th century
  • Weltpolitik — the politics of global domination; contemporarily, "the current climate in global politics".

Military terms

  • Blitzkrieg, Lightning war. Phrase invented by a Spanish journalist to describe mobile combined arms methods used by Nazis in 1939–1940.
  • 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
  • Panzer refers to tanks and other armoured 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)
  • Grenzsignal, "boundary signal"
  • Loanword (ironically not a loanword but rather a calque from German Lehnwort)
  • 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)
  • Suffixaufnahme
  • Umlaut
  • Urheimat
  • Ursprache, "proto-language"
  • Wanderwort


  • Bildungsroman
  • Künstlerroman
  • Leitmotiv, a recurring theme
  • Leitwortstil
  • Sturm und Drang, an 18th century literary movement; "storm and stress" in English, although the literal translation is closer to "storm and urge".
  • Urtext, "original text"
  • Vorlage, original or mastercopy of a text on which derivates are based
  • Wahlverwandtschaft (pronounced with a [v]) (from Goethe's Die Wahlverwandtschaften)
  • Q, abbreviation for Quelle ("source"), a postulated lost document in Biblical criticism

Mathematics and formal logic

  • Ansatz (lit. "set down," roughly equivalent to "approach" or "where to begin", a starting assumption) - one of the most used German loan words in the English-speaking world of science.
  • "Eigen-" in composita such as eigenfunction, eigenvector, eigenvalue, eigenform; in English "self-" or "own-". They are related concepts in the fields of linear algebra and relativity.
  • Entscheidungsproblem
  • Grossencharakter (German spelling: Größencharakter)
  • Hauptmodul (the generator of a modular curve of genus 0)
  • Hilbert's Nullstellensatz (without apostrophe in German)
  • Ideal (originally "ideale Zahlen", defined by Ernst Kummer)
  • Kernel (Ger.: Kern, translated as core)
  • Krull's Hauptidealsatz (without apostrophe in German)
  • Möbius band (Ger.: Möbiusband)
  • quadratfrei
  • Stützgerade
  • Vierergruppe (also known as Klein four-group)
  • "Neben-" in composita such as Nebentype
  • \mathbb{Z} from (ganze) Zahlen ((whole) numbers), the integers


  • Anwesenheit
  • Entgleisen
  • Gedankenlautwerden
  • Gegenhalten
  • Kernicterus (German spelling: Kernikterus)
  • Mitgehen
  • Mitmachen
  • Mittelschmerz ("middle pain", used to refer to ovulation pain)
  • Pfropfschizophrenie
  • Rinderpest
  • Schnauzkrampf
  • Sensitiver Beziehungswahn
  • Spinnbarkeit
  • Verstimmung
  • Vorbeigehen
  • Vorbeireden
  • Wahneinfall
  • Witzelsucht
  • Wurgstimme


  • An sich, in itself
  • Dasein
  • Ding an sich, thing in itself from Kant
  • Geist, mind, spirit or ghost
  • Gott ist tot!, a popular phrase from Nietzsche; more commonly rendered "God is dead!" in English.
  • Übermensch, also from Nietzsche; the ideal of a Superhuman or Overman.
  • Weltanschauung, view of the world
  • Weltschmerz, World-weariness/World-pain, angst; despair with the World (often used ironically in German)
  • Wertfreiheit, Max Weber's postulate: statements of science should be kept separate from value judgments (value neutrality)
  • Wille zur Macht, "the will to power", central concept of Nietzsche's philosophy

Physical sciences

  • Ansatz, an assumption for a function that is not based on an underlying theory
  • Antiblockiersystem
  • Aufbau principle (physical chemistry) (German spelling: Aufbauprinzip)
  • Bremsstrahlung
  • Entgegen and its opposite zusammen (organic chemistry)
  • Foehn wind, also foehn, (German spelling Föhn), a warm wind which sometimes appears on the northern side of the Alps in south Germany and Austria.
  • Gedanken experiment (German spelling: Gedankenexperiment; more commonly referred to as a "thought experiment" in English.)
  • Gegenschein
  • Gemisch (chemistry: a randomized mixture of components)
  • Gerade and its opposite ungerade (quantum mechanics)
  • Heiligenschein
  • Hohlraum, a radiation cavity used in thermonuclear weapons design
  • Kirchweger-Kondensationseinrichtung
  • Lagerstätte, repository
  • Mischmetall, alloy
  • Rocks and minerals like Quartz (German spelling: Quarz), Gneiss and Feldspar (originally Gneis and Feldspat respectively), Meerschaum
  • Reststrahlen (residual rays)
  • Schiefspiegler, special type of telescope
  • Sollbruchstelle, predetermined breaking point
  • Spiegeleisen
  • Trommel
  • Umpolung (organic chemistry)
  • Vierbein, and variations such as vielbein
  • Zitterbewegung
  • Zwitterion


  • Lumpenproletariat
  • Machtpolitik, power politics
  • Putsch, overthrow of those in power by a small group, coup d'etat. (Although commonly understood and used in contemporary High German, too, the word putsch originates from Swiss German and is etymologically related to English "push".)
  • Realpolitik, "politics of reality": foreign politics based on practical concerns rather than ideology or ethics.
  • Rechtsstaat, concept of a state based on law and human rights
  • Berufsverbot
  • Überfremdung
  • Vergangenheitsbewältigung


  • Aha-Erlebnis, literally aha experience, a sudden insight or epiphany, compare eureka
  • Angst, feeling of fear, but more deeply and without concrete object
  • Sorge, a state of worry, but (like Angst) in a less concrete, more general sense, worry about the world, one's future, etc.
  • Gestalt psychology, (German spelling: Gestaltpsychologie), holistic psychology
  • Schadenfreude, gloating, a malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others
  • Umwelt, environment
  • Zeitgeber (lit. time-giver), something that resets the circadian clock found in the Suprachiasmatic nucleus
  • Weltschmerz, world-pain or world-weariness
  • Wunderkind, child prodigy


  • Gemeinschaft, community
  • Gesellschaft, society
  • Verstehen, understanding
  • Zeitgeist, spirit of the times or age


  • Gattung, genre 
  • Heilsgeschichte (salvation history, God's positive saving actions throughout history)
  • Kunstprosa, artistic prose[10]
  • Sitz im Leben (setting in life, context)

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 which have no general speed limit.
  • 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, (i.e. Bergführer: mountain guide, Stadtführer: city guide (book), Führerschein: driving licence, Geschäftsführer: managing director, Flugzeugführer: Pilot in command, etc.)
  • 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 — evokes German context; In modern German either the equivalent of Mr./Mister, used to directly address an adult male person or used in the of "master" over something or someone. (ex.: Sein eigener Herr sein: to be his own master) Derived from the adjective hehr, meaning "honourable" or "senior", it was historically a title noblemen were entitled to, equivalent to the english word Lord. (ex.: Herr der Fliegen is the German title of Lord of the Flies) In a religious environment used to denote God, there in a colloquial context often —and especially among Catholics— contracted into Herrgott (Lord-God).
  • Ich bin ein Berliner, famous quotation by John F. Kennedy.
  • Lederhosen (Singular Lederhose in German denotes one pair of leather short pants or trousers. The original Bavarian word is Lederhosn, which is both singular and plural.)
  • 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"!). 
  • Reich — from the Middle High German "rich", as a noun it means "empire" and "realm", which may still be seen in the English word "bishopric". In titles where it is 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 English speakers, Reich does not denote its literal meanings, "empire" or "rich", but strongly connotes Nazism and is often 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 Schweinehundbekämpfen. = to battle the inner pig-dog.

German terms rarely used in English

This is the unsorted, original list. If a term is common in a particular academic discipline, and there is no more commonly used English equivalent, then please move it to the list above.

  • Ampelmännchen
  • Besserwisser
  • Fahrvergnugen (German spelling: Fahrvergnügen, literally pleasure of driving. Coined for a Volkswagen advertising campaign; caused widespread puzzlement in America when it was used in television commercials with no explanation.)
  • Gastarbeiter — a German "guest worker" or foreign-born worker
  • Götterdämmerung, literally "Twilight of the Gods", can refer to a disastrous conclusion of events such as the defeat of Nazi Germany that had an ideology in part based on Norse mythology; an allusion to the title of the Wagner opera.
  • Kobold — a small mischievous fairy creature, traditionally translated as "Goblin", "Hobgoblin", and "Imp"; the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons has included reptilian Kobolds (as well as creatures called "Goblins", "Imps" and "Hobgoblins" in completely separate forms) as part of the bestiary for a number of editions, including the current edition, D&D 4th Edition. Kobold is also the origin of the name of the metal cobalt.
  • Schmutz (smut, dirt, filth). This term is, however, particularly popular in New York, reflecting the influence of the Yiddish language.
  • ... über alles (originally "Deutschland über alles" (this sentence was meant originally to propagate a united Germany instead of small separated German Territories only); now used by extension in other cases, as in the Dead Kennedys song California Über Alles). This part (or rather, the whole first stanza) of the Deutschlandlied (Song of the Germans) is not part of the national anthem today, as it is thought to have been used to propagate the attitude of racial and national superiority in Nazi Germany, as in the phrase "Germany over all".
  • Vorsprung durch Technik ('headstart through technology'): used in an advertising campaign by Audi, to suggest technical excellence
  • Zweihänder, two-handed sword


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?: "What can I know? What shall I do? What may I hope?" — 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 toMartin 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



  1. Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod


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