Compound Words #2: oberaffengeil

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welcome to the second post on German compound words, where I show and explain some compound words that are either famous or that I encounter in my real life... or that fit with what I want to write about. We German speakers like to make up words whenever we need it. So I hope I can give you some insight on how we do it. Feel free to create your own German words in the comments.

Last time I explained how to create compound nouns. This time I want to talk about compound adjectives.

Gladly we don't need a big part on how to build them. There is only one difference to compound nouns: the head is an adjective, rather than a noun. So you can combine adjectives with nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs or prepositions. Nouns and verbs may need a Fugenlaut.

der Stahl (the steel) + hart (hard/firm) = stahlhart (hard as steel)

sieden (to boil) + heiß (hot) = siedeheiß (so hot that it boils)

taub (deaf) + stumm (mute) = taubstumm (deaf and mute)

wohl (well) + verdient (deserved/earned) = wohlverdient (well-deserved)

selbst (self) + sicher (safe) = selbstsicher (self confident)

What I kind of forgot last time: adjektives can also be in their comparative or superlative form when you use them as a part in a compound word. You could be gutverdienend (earning good money) or besserverdienend (earning more than average).

höchst (superlative of high) + wahrscheinlich (probably) = höchstwahrscheinlich (with the highest probability)

Sometimes when a compound adjective consists of two adjectives, we can use a hyphen between them. This is the case when they are 'equal' (the meaning of the compound word is not a combination of the parts, but in fact both parts together) or simply when the resulting word would be very long.

süß (sweet) + sauer (sour) = süß-sauer (it tastes both sweet and sour)

östereichisch (austrian) + ungarisch (hungarian) = österreich-ungarisch or österreichisch-ungarisch (from Austria-Hungary: Austria and Hungary were one country in the past)

There are in my experience three main reasons why we create compound adjectives:

Reason #1: A narrower description of the adjective. Someone can be happy (fröhlich). But if you want to add the information that the good mood is a result of being drunk, then you can use feuchtfröhlich ("wet happy").

Someone could be faul (lazy). But we could specify where this lazyness shows itself: When the person doesn't like to move, he or she is bewegungsfaul ("movement lazy"). Doesn't like to think? - denkfaul! ("thinking lazy") Doesn't like to respond to your whatsapp messages? - schreibfaul! ("writing lazy") Doesn't like to turn on the blinker when he changes the lane on the autobahn? - spurwechselblinkfaul" ("lane switching blinking lazy"... okay I made that up and it sounds too specific)

Someone could speak languages, but how many? Is he or she einsprachig (monolingual), zweisprachig (bilingual), dreisprachig (trilingual?, able to speak 3 languages) or mehrsprachig (polyglot). Maybe you just want to say that he or she is able to speak German: deutschsprachig (German-speaking).

By the way, I'm dutzendsprachig (dozen-lingual): I can speak a dozen languages: German, English, a bit of French, a bit of Swedish, Java, C, C++, C#, Python, JavaScript, Fortran and a bit of Rust. I just made up that word to make a (bad) joke.

Reason #2: An intensification of the adjective. We have a ton of them.

der Tod (the death) + ernst (serious) = todernst (death-serious)

der Zucker (sugar) + süß (sweet) = zuckersüß (very sweet, sweet as sugar)

das Kind (the child) + leicht (easy) = kinderleicht (very easy, child's play, if you want so)

die Butter (the butter) + weich (soft) = butterweich (very soft)

der Samt (the velvet) + weich (smooth) = samtweich (very smooth)

das Bier (the beer) + ernst (serious) = bierernst (very serious, no joking. People in the past thought that you get very serious and thoughtful by drinking beer and happy and lively by drinking wine.)

der Hund (the dog) + müde (tired) = hundemüde (very tired, because we all know that dogs are always tired, right?)

das Gold (the gold) + richtig (right) = goldrichtig (...very right? I don't understand the connection between being right and gold either. But now I want to make silberrichtig (silver right) a term for 'technically correct, but not what I asked for')

Those words can of course be also used for reason #1. While cute pets or children can be zuckersüß, the word can also be used to describe the sweetness of sugar.

Reason #3: An emphasis that something has two attributes at the same time. If you want to say that the asian food is sweet and sour, then you use süß-sauer. If you want to say that is sweet and spicy, then it's süß-scharf. This is the typical case for equal adjectives.

Todays word is


That is, from what I know, a typically word that the teenagers in the eighties used. I don't know that for sure, because I wasn't born back then. But I read some books that date from this period. It seems like they didn't like to use English words back then (or there were less influences from the english speaking world) and instead they created some verrückte (in both meanings: weird and crazy) German words instead. And this word is one of those crazy creations.

If you take it apart, you get

ober - (der) Affe - geil

Well, we begin with geil, because that's the head. This word has an ambiguous meaning. It can mean 'horny' - but also 'cool' (in the trendy way, not temperature wise). I have the theory that the second meaning originates from the 80ies era. Today you can also use cool in German... because we adopted this cool word.

Because geil isn't h̶o̶r̶n̶y̶ cool enough, we need to intensify the word. So we add Affe (monkey). Because monkeys are cool and hip, you know? Don't ask me why monkeys and not other cool animals like narwhales or zebras or something. German compound words like to feature animals in weird ways.

And to trump that, we add ober. That translates to 'upper', but it's also used to intensify some adjectives. Someone is ugly? - hässlich. Someone is really ugly? - oberhässlich! (I'm sorry, I don't find a better example at the moment)

So yeah: the word is upper-monkey-cool. You can use it for your favorite VHS cassette of your favorite super hero. Yeah!

Oh, you are so hip that oberaffengeil doesn't hit it right? You can also use turboaffengeil (turbocharger-monkey-cool) or oberaffentittengeil (upper-monkey-tits-cool).

Because geil is the head we only modify this part of the word for grammar purposes. For example the comparative and superlative:

geil ► oberaffengeil

geiler ► oberaffengeiler

am geilsten ► am oberaffengeilsten

Okay, for those of you that want to try all this out, you can either:

  • create another crazy word for 'cool'

  • or create an intensified version of another adjective

...or you could do both or something completely different. I'm just a normal user, not your mom. :)

March 24, 2018


Oh, by the way: feel free to correct me if I make stupid mistakes, especially because my English isn't perfect. I proofread the last post several times and always found some mistakes...

March 24, 2018

Does samtweich really mean "very smooth"? Online dictionaries translate it as "soft as velvet", or just "velvety". A piece of wood could be very smooth, but never velvety.

March 25, 2018

It can mean both, depending on the situation.

If you indeed have velvet or a similar fabric, then it would most likely mean "soft as velvet". So the word is understood as a further description how soft something is.

If someone talks positively about a very smooth peace of wood, e.g. in an advertisement, then he or she could also use samtweich as a more wordy or more picturial version of "very smooth".

March 25, 2018
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