15 English Words With German Origins
  • 3-minute read
  • 27th May 2022

15 English Words With German Origins

English is a wonderful hotchpotch of words borrowed and adapted from other languages. Thanks to French, Japanese, Italian, and Spanish, we can go to a cafe, sing karaoke, cause a fiasco, and then take a siesta.

Many of the words we use most often come from German, so today we say danke to Germany for enriching our language with the following 15 words (and hundreds more that we don’t have enough space for!).

English Words Borrowed From German

●  Angst means anxiety in German. In English, we often use it to describe the uncertainty and pessimism associated with adolescence, hence the term teenage angst.

●  Delicatessen, often shortened to deli, is made up of delikat (“delicious”) and essen (“to eat”).

●  Ersatz is substitute in German, but we use it to refer to an artificial imitation (e.g., ersatz turf).

●  We use the word flak to mean criticism, although in German it refers to something rather more dangerous—anti-aircraft guns!

●  You won’t find a much more German-sounding word than glockenspiel! Its literal meaning is set of bells. What better instrument for playing a waltz?

●  A hamster is a popular choice of furry pet. Perhaps hamsters wouldn’t be so popular if we were still calling them “German rats,” as we did before adopting the German word Hamster.

●  You’ve been speaking German if you’ve ever complained that your phone, car, or microwave oven is kaput (i.e., it’s stopped working).

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●  Lager is the most popular kind of beer, but the word actually means warehouse in German. Lager got its name because of the tradition of storing it in the same chilly cave that it was brewed in.

●  The healthy breakfast muesli is so named after the German Mus, meaning “mush.” We think muesli sounds more appetizing.

●  You might expect the word noodle to come from Chinese or Japanese, but in fact—you guessed it—it’s German (although it’s spelled Nudel there).

●  If you hear something go bump in the night, it might be a poltergeist, which translates as knocking spirit. We suggest hiding under your eiderdown (which comes from the German Eiderdaune).

●  Rucksack is another everyday word we can thank German for. Unsurprisingly, it translates as back bag.

●  Finally, without German words, we wouldn’t have the intensifier uber. In German it’s written über and means over or above. In English, we use it to add emphasis, as in uber cool party or uber helpful blog.

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