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  • Writer's pictureBelinda Grace

You already know more German than you think: 10 German Words that English Speakers adore

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Have you ever found yourself watching a TV series or film in English, and suddenly you hear a word that doesn't quite fit in, but you know what it means anyway?

I'll give you an example: In a few "How I met your mother" episodes, the main characters talk about finding each other's doppelgängers. Despite the heavy US-American pronunciation here, doppelgänger really refers to the German word Doppelgänger (another person's lookalike).

In fact, there are quite a few German words that pop up in the English-speaking world on a daily basis. I recently shared some of my favourites and asked my LinkedIn network for some of theirs as well.

Let's dive into 10 German words that English speakers adore.


1. Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude describes the feeling of joy caused by someone else's misery. In English, you could roughly translate it as malicious joy.

2. Fremdschämen

Fremdschämen is being embarrassed on someone else's behalf (aka cringe). I also like the English second hand embarrassment as a translation here.

3. Fernweh

When you long for another (distant) place in the world, you feel this sensation referred to as Fernweh in the German language.

4. Wanderlust

This one perfectly ties in with no. 3. Wanderlust is particularly popular in English language use. You have probably seen it on "basic" Instagram posts or on home décor word posters. Wanderlust evokes a feeling of adventure, wanting to experience the world, i.e. something we can only limitedly do in 2020.

5. Zeitgeist

This German term defines the mood or spirit of a specific era or time period. Translating to time ghost (literally) or spirit of the age (idiomatically), it is often used in a historical context.

6. Fingerspitzengefühl

This is one of my favourites: a long word, which Germans tend to be known for, which means having a sense of tact or finesse. Try saying Fingerspitzengefühl three times really fast and you'll be a German pro in no time!

7. Weltschmerz

Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) explains Weltschmerz better than I ever could: "It means the depression that arises from comparing the world as it is to a hypothetical, idealised world." There you go, super!

8. Ohrwurm

You turn on the radio and there it is: That new [insert random pop star/band here] song! And bam: It's stuck in your head for the next 18 hours. What do you call that in English? Exactly, earworm. And in German? Ohrwurm. And in Dutch? Oorwurm. What's not to love about languages and words? Haha!

9. Tollpatschig

Clumsy. Without grace. Awkward. Butterfingered (great English word by the way, saving it for another day).

10. Bewegungsdepp

Bewegungsdepp (literally motion idiot) goes hand in hand with tollpatschig. The difference is simply that tollpatschig is an adjective, while Bewegungsdepp is a noun, a description of a clumsy person to be more specific. Caution: Depp is a low-key insult (idiot, moron or dork in English).

Hopefully you enjoyed our rundown of German words used and/or adored in the English language. Which are your favourites? Do you have any to add? Let us know in the comments or reach out (see how below).


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Thank you for reading!

Smiles all around,


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