German Words You Already Know

I hear so many people tell me they would love to travel to Germany, but they are worried about being able to communicate. Not everyone is interested in language camps and schools in Germany, or even improving their German with German TV online.

So rather than pointing out that you can easily learn German, I thought I would use this post to point out the German words you already know.

These words are pure German, but English speakers use them all the time. They are what linguists call “loan words” or “borrowings,” which basically just means words you English speakers have adopted as your own.

Check out the list below . . . you’ve been speaking German all along and not even knowing it! :-)

  • Hamburger, anyone? You think this is a universal word from the American, but it’s really German. And so are delicatessen, strudel, frankfurter, bratwurst, sauerkraut, schnapps, vermouth and lager. Along with aspirin, which you may need if you have all of that together!
  • Many pets have German names, including your hamster, Dachshund, Schnauzer and Doberman. And your children attend Kindergarten which is German, of course.
  • Angst is a straight crossover word, along with gestalt.
  • Fest is a party in both languages, and the glitz at the party is also German.
  • Autobahn are those movie type of superhighways in Germany with no speed limit (given there is none).
  • More fun words include kaput (German: kaputt), hinterland, halt, pretzel (German: Bretzel), glitch, carabiner, nickel, poltergeist, rucksack, and wanderlust.

Along with straight crossovers, some words have shifted in meaning, but they are still German in origin. How many of these do you use?

  • Blitz is German for a lightning, but you English speakers now talk about an “advertising blitz” and also use the word to describe attack plays in American football.
  • Flak was originally an acronym for a type of machine gun in Germany, but English speakers now use the word to describe heavy criticism.

There are many other German loan words on record, including dozens that are more technical. Keep your ears peeled and your mind open to see how much more German you really use, thinking you are speaking pure English! ;-)

—Marcus

 

3 Responses to “German Words You Already Know”

  1. Cathy says:

    There are indeed many German words in English – though many of them also came into the English language via Yiddish, rather than straight from the German.

  2. Anna Aslan says:

    I started learning German 2 weeks ago and I was surprised how much easier it is when you speak English.

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