German Loan Words in English

German Loan Words in English

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English has borrowed many words from German. Some of those words have become a natural part of everyday English vocabulary (angst, kindergarten, sauerkraut), while others are primarily intellectual, literary, scientific (Waldsterben, Weltanschauung, Zeitgeist), or used in special areas, such as gestalt in psychology, or aufeis and loess in geology.

Some of these German words are used in English because there is no true English equivalent: gemütlich, schadenfreude. Words in the list below marked with * were used in various rounds of Scripps National Spelling Bees in the U.S.

Here's an A-to-Z sample of German loan words in English:

German Words in English
alpenglows Alpenglühena reddish glow seen on the mountain tops around sunrise or sunset
Alzheimer's diseasee Alzheimer Krankheitbrain disease named for the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915), who first identified it in 1906
angst/Angste Angst"fear" - in English, a neurotic feeling of anxiety and depression
Anschlussr Anschluss"annexation" - specifically, the 1938 annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany (the Anschluss)
apple strudelr Apfelstrudela type of pastry made with thin layers of dough, rolled up with a fruit filling; from the German for "swirl" or "whirlpool"
aspirins AspirinAspirin (acetylsalicyclic acid) was invented by the German chemist Felix Hoffmann working for Bayer AG in 1899.
aufeiss AufeisLiterally, "on-ice" or "ice on top" (Arctic geology). German citation: "Venzke, J.-F. (1988): Beobachtungen zum Aufeis-Phänomen im subarktisch-ozeanischen Island. - Geoökodynamik 9 (1/2), S. 207-220; Bensheim."
autobahne Autobahn"freeway" - The GermanAutobahn has almost mythical status.
automatr Automata (New York City) restaurant that dispenses food from coin-operated compartments
pl. Bildungeromane
r Bildungsroman
"formation novel" - a novel that focuses on the maturation of, and the intellectual, psychological, or spiritual development of the main character
blitzr Blitz"lightning" - a sudden, overwhelming attack; a charge in football; the Nazi attack on England in WWII (see below)
blitzkriegr Blitzkrieg"lightning war" - a rapid-strike war; Hitler's attack on England in WWII
bratwurste Bratwurstgrilled or fried sausage made of spiced pork or veal
cobalts Kobaltcobalt, Co; see Chemical Elements
coffee klatsch (klatch)
r Kaffeeklatscha friendly get-together over coffee and cake
r Konzertmeisterthe leader of the first violin section of an orchestra, who often also serves as assistant conductor
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
e Creutzfeldt-Jakob-
"mad cow disease" or BSE is a variant of CJD, a brain disease named for the German neurologists Hans Gerhardt Creutzfeldt (1883-1964) and Alfons Maria Jakob (1884-1931)
dachshundr Dachshunddachshund, a dog (der Hund) originally trained to hunt badger (der Dachs); the "wiener dog" nickname comes from its hot-dog shape (see "wiener")
degausss Gaußto demagnetize, neutralize a magnetic field; the "gauss" is a unit of measurement of magnetic induction (symbol G orGs, replaced by the Tesla), named for German mathematician and astronomerCarl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855).
s Delikatessenprepared cooked meats, relishes, cheeses, etc.; a shop selling such foods
dieselr DieselmotorThe diesel engine is named for its German inventor, Rudolf Diesel(1858-1913).
dirndls Dirndl
s Dirndlkleid
Dirndl is a southern German dialect word for "girl." A dirndl (DIRN-del) is a traditional woman's dress still worn in Bavaria and Austria.
Doberman pinscher
F.L. Dobermann
r Pinscher
dog breed named for the German Friedrich Louis Dobermann (1834-1894); the Pinscher breed has several variations, including the Dobermann, although technically the Dobermann is not a true pinscher
r Doppelgänger"double goer" - a ghostly double, look-alike, or clone of a person
Doppler effect
Doppler radar
C.J. Doppler
apparent change in the frequency of light or sound waves, caused by rapid movement; named for the Austrian physicist who discovered the effect
r Dreck"dirt, filth" - in English, trash, rubbish (from Yiddish/German)
edelweiss*s Edelweißa small flowering Alpine plant (Leontopodium alpinum), literally "noble white"
ersatz*r Ersatza replacement or substitute, usually implying inferiority to the original, such as "ersatz coffee"
FahrenheitD.G. FahrenheitThe Fahrenheit temperature scale is named for its German inventor, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736), who invented the alcohol thermometer in 1709.
Fahrvergnügens Fahrvergnügen"driving pleasure" - word made famous by a VW ad campaign
fests Fest"celebration" - as in "film fest" or "beer fest"
flak/flackdie Flak
das Flakfeuer
"anti-aircraft gun" (FLiegerAbwehrKanone) - used in English more like das Flakfeuer(flak fire) for heavy criticism ("He's taking a lot of flak.")
frankfurterFrankfurter Wursthot dog, orig. a type of German sausage (Wurst) from Frankfurt; see "wiener"
Führerr Führer"leader, guide" - a term that still has Hitler/Nazi connections in English, more than 70 years after it first came into use

*Words used in various rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee held annually in Washington, D.C.

Also see: The Denglisch Dictionary - English words used in German

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