German Words in English

German Words in English

English and German belong to the Germanic family of languages. Moreover, they both are Western Germanic languages, which makes their similarity even closer. To begin with, the very basics of the 2 languages are strikingly similar, which is linked to the history of the English language.

In 1066 the French-speaking Normans invaded England, bringing numerous French and Latin words with them. It influenced English greatly and, according to different sources, 45% of all English words used today are originally French. However, when the Normans arrived, England had already been populated by Germanic tribes, who spoke Old English, for centuries. Their language included words like ich or Hand, meaning “I” and “hand” correspondingly. These words are common German words and if you decide to study this language, you might learn them during your very first lesson. Anyway, after the invasion of the Normans, the English language started to be called Anglo-Saxon. Right, it gets its name from the Germanic tribes who settled in England in 500-800 A.D. In that old language new French and Latin words co-existed with old Germanic ones. And today it is the same – English words which are most commonly used happen to be of German origin while there are about 80 000 words of French origin altogether.

Apart from vocabulary, sentence structure and word order of English and German are quite similar; there are similarities in pronunciation too. But in this article we’d like to concentrate more on German loanwords which enriched English not so long ago. Some of these words haven’t been adapted to English so well yet. That is, some of the words below sound pretty foreign and give their origin away very easily. Nevertheless, they are part of English already, and perhaps in time the way they are pronounced will be slightly changed to suit the English reading patterns a bit better. Time will tell and for now…


Word Picture Example
Hamburger [‘hæmˌbɜːgə]  abstract-barbecue-barbeque-bbq-161519 Some people are surprised when they find out that the homeland of hamburgers is not America but Germany.
Lager [‘lɑːgə]  pexels-photo-681847 Lager is a kind of beer made with bottom-fermenting yeast.
Muesli [‘mjuːzlɪ]  pexels-photo-543730 Muesli is a great choice for a healthy breakfast.
Pretzel [prets(ə)l]  pexels-photo-110646 You can buy a pretzel at almost any fun fair these days.
Sauerkraut [‘sauəkraut]  sauerkraut-825 Sauerkraut is very good for health but still not all people like it.
Schnapps [ʃnæps]  DSC6051 You can try traditional German schnapps in this pub.
Strudel [‘struːd(ə)l]  strudel-apple-strudel-apple-fruit-162774 I really like apple strudel.
Bratwurst [‘brɑːtˌwɜːst]  food-holiday-vacation-summer Bratwurst is a type of frying sausage.
Kohlrabi [ˌkəul’rɑːbɪ]  kohlrabi Kohlrabi is a kind of cabbage.


Word Picture Example
Dachshund [‘dæksənd], [‘dæʃ(ə)nd ], [-hund]  pexels-photo-688694 The dachshund is a hunting dog.
Dobermann pinscher [ˌdəubəmən’pɪnʃə]  doberman-dog-animal-world-animal-89781 A thoroughbred Dobermann pinscher costs a lot.
Poodle [‘puːdl]  dog-doggy-hunting-dog-hundeportrait-162187 They say the poodle is the smartest dog.
Rottweiler [‘rɔtwaɪlə]  pexels-photo-170325 Not all rottweilers are aggressive.
Schnauzer [ˈʃnaʊzə]  dog-pet-animal-53564 Schnauzers look so cute and kind.
Spitz [spɪts]  pexels-photo-732456 I had a spitz when I was a child.
Hamster [‘hæmstə]  pexels-photo-940625 I adore my hamster.


Word Picture Example
Rucksack [‘rʌksæk ], [‘ruk-]  pexels-photo-674338 Make sure you have a good rucksack before your walking tour starts.
To schuss [ʃus]  pexels-photo-298008 Don’t schuss down this slope – you are not a professional skier.
Blitzkrieg [‘blɪtskriːg]  pexels-photo-59197 They planned a blitzkrieg but their plans failed.
Wanderlust [‘wɔndəlʌst]  nature-person-red-woman For people who have the wanderlust there are some nice tours around these parts.
Schadenfreude [‘ʃɑːd(ə)nˌfrɔɪdə]  pexels-photo-1027415 Schadenfreude is a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction when something bad happens to someone else.
Zeitgeist [‘tsaɪtgaɪst ], [‘zaɪt-]  pexels-photo-100733 Zeitgeist is the general set of ideas, beliefs and feelings that is typical of a particular period in history.
Kitsch [kɪʧ]  f56b2a1786bafde3dd0176e5cf38eac0 This room is full of kitsch. Throw it away!
Poltergeist [‘pɔltəgaɪst]  Malvorlage_Geist It’s nothing but your imagination! There is nothing like poltergeist!
Kindergarten [‘kɪndəˌgɑːt(ə)n]  pexels-photo-256468 This kindergarten is very nice but it’s so expensive!
Wunderkind /ˈwʊn.də.kɪnd/   pexels-photo-346796 Her son is a true wunderkind!

As you see, many words are borrowed being kind of unique. For example, in English there is originally no one word which would describe a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction when something bad happens to someone else. That is why a single schadenfreude was borrowed. Then, the loanwords are used to refer to specific German dishes or Germans’ love for dogs. But it goes without saying that there are many more words which we haven’t mentioned here. They are related to technology (e.g. ersatz [‘ɜːsæts ], [‘eəsɑːts] = substitute), music (e.g. lied [liːd] = romance), transport (e.g. Zeppelin [‘zep(ə)lɪn] = a kind of airship), history (e.g. Neanderthal [nɪ’ændətɑːl]) etc. But we hope that the words we have written about have broadened your English language horizon!

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