German Words in English

German Words in English

English and German are both Western Germanic languages, and so they share many common features. The fact that the languages are so close has a lot to do with history, and we’d like to briefly explain why.

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 (source). 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 respectively. Those words are some of the most commonly used German words, and if you decide to try your hand at the 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. That’s 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 focus more on German loanwords which enriched English not so long ago. Some of the words haven’t been adapted to English very well yet. That is, some of the words below may sound rather foreign and easily give their origin away. 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 and pronunciation patterns a little better. Time will tell.

WordPictureExample sentence or definition
Some people are surprised when they find out that the homeland of hamburgers is not America but Germany.
Lager is a pale yellow beer.
Muesli is a mixture of grains, dried fruit, and nuts that people eat with milk as part of the first meal of the day.
A pretzel is a hard salty biscuit that looks like a loose knot.
Sauerkraut is cabbage that has been cut into small pieces and preserved in salt.
Schnapps is a spirit distilled from fruits, such as pears, apples, peaches, or cherries.
Bratwurst is is a type of German sausage made from veal, beef, or most commonly pork. 
Wiener is another word for frankfurter.
Strudel is a type of cake made from fruit that is wrapped in a thin layer of pastry and then baked.
Kohlrabi is also called German turnip.
WordPictureExample sentence
Dachshunds are also called wiener dogs in America and sausage dogs in Britain.
Dobermann pinscher
/ˌdoʊ.bɚ.mən ˈpɪn.ʃɚ/
The Doberman Pinscher is a sleek, agile and powerful dog.
Poodle /ˈpuː.dəl/Poodles are happy, friendly dogs who like mingling with people and other dogs. 
Well-socialized rottweilers get along nicely with people and other dogs, but males in particular can be a bit aggressive and dominant.
Known to be highly intelligent, strong-willed and high-spirited, the standard schnauzer is easily trained and loyal. 
Loyal and affectionate, spitz are ideal companion pups. 
Hamsters, for many people, make excellent pets.
WordExample sentence or definition
Rucksack /ˈrʌksak,ˈrʊksak/A rucksack is essentially a large, rugged backpack.
Blitzkrieg /ˈblɪtskriːɡ/Blitzkrieg is an intense military campaign intended to bring about a swift victory.
Wanderlust /ˈwɒndəlʌst/Wanderlust is a strong desire to travel.
Schadenfreude /ˈʃɑːd(ə)nˌfrɔɪdə/Schadenfreude is pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
Zeitgeist /ˈzʌɪtɡʌɪst/Zeitgeist is the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
Kitsch /kɪtʃ/Kitsch is art, decorative objects, or design considered by many people to be ugly, without style, or false but enjoyed by other people, often because they are funny.
Poltergeist /ˈpɒl.tə.ɡaɪst/Poltergeist is a spirit or force that moves furniture and throws objects around in a house.
KindergartenAmerican English: the first year of school, for children aged 5
British English: nursery school; a school for children between the ages of about 2 and 5
Wunderkind /ˈwʊn.də.kɪnd/ A wunderkind is a person who is very clever or good at something and achieves success at a young age.

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 horizons and enriched your vocabulary.

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