Monday, September 3, 2012

25 German "Loan Words"

Thanks to Lutz S. for sharing this post from:
Daily Writing Tips <>      Posted: 25 Jul 2012 09:46 PM PDT

The German language has provided English with a huge inventory of words, many of them pertaining to music, science, and politics, thanks to the influence of German-speaking people on those areas of human endeavor. 

Here are some of the more useful German terms "borrowed" into English.

1. Achtung     (“attention”): an imperative announcement used to obtain someone’s attention
2. Angst         (“anxiety”): a feeling of apprehension
3. Blitz           (“lightning”): used only literally in German, but in English refers
to a sudden movement, such as a rush in a contact sport
4. Carabiner   (“rifle”): an equivalent of the English word carbine, this truncation of karabinerhaken (“riflehook”) refers to a metal loop originally employed with ropes in mountaineering, rock climbing, and other sports and
activities but now widely employed for more general uses
5. Delicatessen (“delicate eating”): a restaurant or food shop selling meats, cheeses, and delicacies  NOTE: --? this sounds like it ends in a German word: "essen" does mean "to eat".... but should it really be on this list? 
6. Doppelgänger (“double-goer”): in German, refers to a look-alike, but in English, the primary connotation is of a supernatural phenomenon — either a spirit or a duplicate person
7. Ersatz       (“substitute”): refers to an artificial and/or inferior imitation or replacement
8. Flak          (acronym): an abbreviation for “air-defense cannon” used figuratively to refer to criticism
9. Gestalt      (“figure”): something more than the sum of its parts, or viewed or
analyzed with other contributing phenomena
10. Götterdämmerung (“twilight of the gods”): a catastrophic event
11. Hinterland (“land behind”): originally a technical geographic term; later, in both German and English, came to connote undeveloped rural or wilderness areas, and in British English has a limited sense of “artistic or scholarly
knowledge,” as in “Smith’s hinterland isn’t very impressive”
12. Kitsch        -  something of low taste and/or quality, or such a condition 
13. Leitmotiv   (“leading motive”): a recurring theme, originally applied to music and later literature and theater but now in general usage
14. Nazi          (truncation of “National Socialist”): originally denoted a person,thing, or idea associated with the German political party of that name and later the national government it dominated; now, by association with Adolf Hitler and the tyranny of the party and the government, a pejorative term for a fanatical or tyrannical person
15. Poltergeist  (“noisy ghost”): a mischievous and/or malicious apparition or spectral force thought responsible for otherwise inexplicable movement of objects.
16. Putsch        (“push”): overthrow, coup d’etat
17. Realpolitik (real politics): the reality of political affairs,as opposed to perceptions or propaganda about political principles or values
18. Reich         (“realm”): in German, usually a neutral term for “empire” or part of a name for a nationalized service, such as the postal service, but in English, because of the link to the Nazis, “the Third Reich,” connotes tyranny
19. Schadenfreude (“harm joy”): enjoyment of others’ misfortune
20. Sturm und drang (“storm and stress”): turmoil, drama
21. Verboten     (“forbidden”): prohibited
22. Weltanschauung (“worldview”): an all-encompassing conception or perception of existence
23. Weltschmerz (“world pain”): despair or world-weariness
24. Wunderkind (“wonder child”): a child prodigy
25. Zeitgeist (“time ghost”): the spirit of the time, or a prevailing attitude, mentality, or worldview
 Original Post: 25 German Loanwords     


  1. Frau, this is so interesting. But, I know some people (including myself, ha ha) who use Doppelganger as a word for's quite convenient!

  2. I can say with 100% confidence that I have never heard anybody say "Weltanschauung" or "Götterdämmerung" while speaking actual English.

  3. Christoff, do you listen to NPR? 6 years ago the Advanced class wrote and performed a play based on Wagner's Ring Trilogy (the final of which is titled "Götterdämmerung" and they too had been skeptical about the general comprehension of this word, but then came to change their tune in a few short months, after it had started jumping out at them).

    Weltanschauung is something I've found more often in the press. -- Also, that 4th syllable usually disappears when it's pronounced by a novice.

  4. Frau, ich bin surprised that "Über" didn't make the list! I hear it all the time!
    I love the word flak, however. It relates so much to high school gossip :)
    ~Katja (kayla)

  5. Ich finde diese Artikel sehr interessant. Leute weissen nicht wie viel Deutsche Worte wir in Englisch sprechen sind. Viel Worte sind nur einige anders Zeichen weg von Englisch Worte. Haus-House, Maus-Mouse, Hand-Hand... Es ist sehr kühl. Meine Lieblings "Loan Word" ist Doppelgänger.