German Words in English Usage

86 (rhyming slang for nix) item on the menu not on hand; get rid of; to eject or debar from premises; to reject or abandon
abseil v. descend a steep rock face etc. by using a doubled rope coiled round the body and fixed at a higher point (E: rapel)
achtung int. attention!
angst n. fear, anxiety, inner torment
ansatz n. initial assumption for the solution of a mathematical problem
autobahn n. motorway
bildungsroman n. novel describing personal development and formation
blatt n. (pl. blätter) newspaper
blitz n. swift action ~krieg n. war waged by surprise
bratwurst n. (pl. G: ~würste E: ~wursts) barbecued sausage
braunerde n. geological term (non-calcic brown soils)
break a leg! Good-luck wish among superstitious actors (from Yiddish "hatzlacha u-brakha" (Success and blessing) which became corrupted in GE to "Hals und Beinbruch")
bremsstrahlung n. type of electromagnetic radiation
dachshund n. (pl. ~hunde) short-legged breed of dog
delicatessen n. (abbr. deli) (G: Delikatessen) specialty food shop
doppelgänger n. a person of almost identical appearance but not related
dummkopf n. (pl. ~köpfe) moron, simpleton
durchkomponiert adj. musical term, opposite of strophic
edelweiss n. alpine flower
eigen(~value, ~function, ~vector) n. mathematical terms
ersatz n. substitute
fach n. a singing vocal type, e.g.: lyric, coloratura, heldentenor
fest n. (usually in compounds) abundance
festschrift n. (pl. festschriften) collection of learned papers, usu. honouring a colleague
gastarbeiter n. (pl. gastarbeiter) (lit) guest worker
gedankenexperiment n. thought experiment
gemütlich adj. cosy ~keit n. cosiness
gestalt n. (pl. ~en) the whole (appearance) of something
gesundheit n. health, here: interjection if someone sneezes
gneiss n. G: Gneis geological term
graben n. geological depression, ditch (F. Herbert, Dune)
glockenspiel n. musical instrument
hausfrau n. house-wife (usually slightly derogatory or patronising)
heldentenor n. tenor voice especially suited for heroic operatic roles
hinterland n. district behind coast or river banks
kaffeeklatsch n. get-together, cf. kitchen cabinet, chardonnay society
kaputt adj. not functioning
katzenjammer n. a hangover; contrition after a failed endeavour
kindergarten n. day-care centre, playschool, preschool
kitsch n. without artistic taste, corny
kummerbund n. waist-band worn under tuxedo (really of Hindustani & Persian origin: kamar-band "loin-band")
lederhosen n. shorts made from leather
leitmotiv n. (also–but not in G.) leitmotif musical theme, esp. with Wagner
lied n. (pl. ~er) song, esp. by Schubert
luftmensch n. (pl. ~en) A person more concerned with airy intellectual pursuits than practical matters
lumpenproletariat n. rabble-proletariat (coined by Marx/Engels)
meister n. (usually in compounds) expert
mensch n. person, human being (usually a good one)
milch n. milk, only in milch cow
mittelschmerz n. (middle pain) ovulation pain, midcycle pain
Neue Sachlichkeit n. New Objectivity (art movement in the 1920s; Dix, Grosz, Beckmann, Schad)
nix adv. nothing, for free
ostpolitik n. Eastern Politics Willy Brandt's policy in the 1970s of rapprochement towards the eastern bloc states
panzer n. tank
personenregie n. direction of the actors in a play, as opposed to the play's staging, its "concept"
poltergeist n. makes things go bump in the night
putsch n. insurrection
realpolitik n. politics of the possible
reich (3rd) n. period of the Nazi regime (1933-45)
riesling n. dry white wine
rissverklebung n. intricate method of repairing paintings, single thread tear repair
rucksack n. (pl. G: ~säcke E: ~sacks) bag with harness carried on one's back
sauerkraut n. fermented cut cabbage
schadenfreude n. delight about someone else's misfortune
schlepp (G: schleppen) v. to drag around
schlieren n. streaks, esp. to describe geological formations
schmalz n. sickly sentimentality
schnaps n. (E: schnapps) type of gin, strong liqueur, spirits
schnitzel n. meat cut
schnorrer n. sponger, moocher, freeloader; also: to schnorr v. to sponge
schuhplattler n. folk dance from Tyrol and Bavaria
schultüte n. lit. school cone, cone filled with sweets given to children on their 1st day at school
schuss n. downhill ski run
sitzprobe n. rehearsal of a musical stage work where singers are sitting and without costumes
spiel n. smooth talk for the purpose of selling, cheating, seducing
sprachgefuhl n. (G: Sprachgefühl) intuitive sense of what is linguistically appropriate
sprechgesang, sprechstimme n. intoned speech with melodic contours
strafe v.(!) 1. cover with gun fire, 2. slide sideways in computergames
strudel n. dessert, cake
stumm adj. mute
sturm und drang late 18th century novel style
torschlusspanik n. sense of panic in middle-age brought on by the feeling that life is passing you by (Weird and Wonderful Words, Eric McKean, OUP)
über- adj. (mostly spelt uber) over as in Overlord (cf. meister)
umlaut n. diacritical vowel
urtext n. original, authorised text
verboten adj. prohibited
wanderlust n. fond of walking/hiking
weltanschauung n. world view, philosophical stance
weltschmerz n. depression
windjammer n. large sailing ship
wunderkind n. exceptionally gifted child
zeitgeist n. societal attitude, spirit of the times
zugzwang n. in chess: a player is forced to move, but any move will be disadvantageous

See also: by Robb Knapp, also available as a book.
Wikipedia: List of German expressions in English

If you are aware of more,

Nouns in German are spelt with an initial upper case; this list documents dominant English usage, although some authors spell nouns as they would be spelt in German.

German words that should exist in English, but don't:
leise adj. opposite of loud
Why? What kind of pair is "loud/soft"? Why turn the TV "down", and not, say, "back"?
Why not? Probably because it's too difficult to pronounce.

bildung n. education, culture, knowledge, learning, refinement
Why? Because none of the words above capture it, which is normally the exact reason to borrow a word.
Why not? Maybe there is no reason to borrow this word ...

The following words not included in this list because they are names or are no longer recognised as German in origin, particularly when they refer to food:
Dobermann, Rottweiler, Hamster; Hamburger, Frankfurter, Braunschweiger, Wiener [Schnitzel], Pumpernickel

Last edited: 17-Mar-2012 12:09 +1000 [Site Map]