German compounds challenge

A lot German compounds can be confusing because they don't have much to do with the words they're formed of. So here's how the challenge goes:

I wrote down all (actually some of) the compound words I used in the past two weeks (I probably forgot to write down the half of them...) and selected some.

I didn't necessarily select the most useful words and I didn't chose those that are in nearly in every article about German compounds (like Schlagzeug: Hit-thing = drums etc.)

I wrote down the compounds and their literal English translation. Now it's your job to guess their meaning and find an English equivalent/give a short definition of the word.

The first one who guesses the right meaning of the word will be rewarded with one lingot. You may guess the meaning (the most creative answers will be rewarded, too), but please be fair and don't use a dictionary. Also please don't answer if you're a native German speaker.

(The words are in random order)

  1. Eislaufbahn = ice-running-track [solved: ice rink/skating rink]

  2. Kaufhaus = buy-house [solved: department store]

  3. Schreibtisch = writing-table [solved: desk]

  4. Steckdose = pinning-can [solved: electrical outlet]

  5. Drehbuch = turning-book/spinning-book

  6. Taschenbuch = bag-book/pocket-book [solved: paperback book]

  7. Stundenplan = hours-plan [solved: timetable/schedule]

  8. Klarsichthülle = clear-sight-cover

  9. Urheberrecht = author-right [solved: copyright]

  10. Gehirnerschütterung = brain-shaking [solved: concussion]

  11. Kopfhörer = head-listeners [solved : headphones]

  12. Taschentuch = bag-cloth [solved: handkerchief/tissue]

  13. Handtuch = hand-cloth [solved: towel]

  14. Gabelstapler = fork-stacker [solved: forklift]

  15. Unterschrift = under-writing

  16. Sprichwort = talk-word

  17. Sparschwein = save-pig [solved: piggy bank]

  18. Zauberwürfel = magic-cube [solved: Rubik's cube]

  19. Flachwitz = flat-joke [solved: lame joke]

  20. Büroklammer = office-clip [solved: paperclip]

  21. Zahnspange = tooth-clip [solved: braces]

  22. Wasserstoff = water-stuff [solved: Hydrogen]

  23. Windrad = wind-wheel [solved: wind turbine]

  24. Schutzbrille = protection-glasses [solved: safety glasses]

  25. Sonnenfinsternis = sun-darkness [solved: eclipse]

Viel Spaß!

March 25, 2015


You might enjoy this book of "proposed new words". I have.

March 25, 2015

I'm a native speaker and haven't ever heard most of these words.^^ But it's always fun when you discover new words in your own language. :D

March 25, 2015

"Proposed new words" invented by the author. I don't think any have made it to the Duden (yet).

March 25, 2015

Could Schuzbrille mean safety glasses? Could Windrad mean windmill?

March 25, 2015

Schutzbrille is safety classes but a windmill would be eine Windmühle.

March 25, 2015

"Windmill" has multiple related uses, and one of them can be translated to "Windrad".

March 26, 2015

Oops, I didn't know that, I thought the only possible translation would be wind turbine, but thanks for telling me:)

March 26, 2015

Is Sonnenfinsternis an eclipse?

March 25, 2015


March 25, 2015

.26. Frühstück = early piece

.22. Wasserstoff = water-fabric scnr

March 25, 2015

Stoff is here in the meaning of material, not fabric...

March 26, 2015

Both of you are correct. The fact that 'fabric' is used to express 'material' refers to the inner weavings of materials. In any case "Stoff" =/= "stuff", but a false friend.

March 27, 2015

Sorry, "Stoff" and "stuff" aren't false friends. They're cognate and have an overlap in meaning, especially in this case.

March 27, 2015

Schreibtisch is a desk. And perhaps Stundenplan is schedule.

March 25, 2015

9 = Copyright 10 = Concussion/Headache?

March 26, 2015

This has been quick! Adding a few to keep it going ;-)

  1. Flugzeug = fly-thing

  2. Fernseher = far-looker

  3. Achterbahn = eight-train

  4. Bildschirm = image-umbrella

  5. Handschuh = hand-shoe

March 27, 2015

Regarding 4.: Translating "Schirm" to "umbrella" in this case is misleading; it should be "screen" instead. "Schirm" can mean "umbrella", but then it's understood as a short form of "Regenschirm" (literally "rain-screen").

March 27, 2015

Just off the top of my head: 2. Department Store; 4. Electrical Outlet; 6. Paperback Book; 11. Headphones; 12. Handkerchief; 13. Hand Towel; 17. Piggy Bank

March 25, 2015

Everything's correct! :D

March 25, 2015

Fun! My guesses:

Eislaufbahn = skating rink?

Schreibtisch = clip-board? desk?

Stundenplan = schedule?

Klarsichthülle = a glasses case! Ok, probably not . . .

Gehirnerschütterung = a stroke? No idea, really.

Gabelstapler = forklift? dish rack? coat rack?

Unterschrift = footnote?

Zauberwürfel = Rubik's cube?

Flachwitz = lame joke?

Büroklammer = paperclip?

Zahnspange = braces?

Wasserstoff = Hmm..., well, it has to be either H or O. I sort-of recollect it's Hydrogen?

Windrad = pin-wheel?

P.s. I'm already over-flowing with lingots, so don't bother with that.

March 26, 2015

Correct are: skating rink/ice rink, desk, schedule, forklift, Rubik's cube, lame joke, paperclip, braces and hydrogen.

a stroke, by the way is "ein Schlaganfall", a footnote is "eine Fußnote" and oxygen would be "Sauerstoff".

@wstockall: "subtitle" is "Untertitel".

March 26, 2015

Oxygen is sour stuff, eh? I wonder what compound that refers to.

March 26, 2015

Acid. "Oksús (ὀξῠ́ς)" is the Greek word for "sour" or "acid(ic)", and "acidus" the Latin one. The German "sauer" is used in the same way, but in English you use not only the Germanic "sour", but also "acid(ic)", which was derived from French "acide". And for the element you use "oxygen", which just comes from Greek and means something like "acid maker" or in this case maybe "acid / sour making stuff" (compare the "gen" part in e.g. "generate", which is cognate (but from Latin in this case)).

March 26, 2015

Oh, that makes a lot of sense! Thank you! I do remember reading, now that you mention it, that before people fully figured out what acids were, they thought it had something to do with the oxygen.

March 26, 2015

I thought Unterschrift was subtitle. Maybe I'm totally out to lunch.

March 26, 2015

subtitles would be Untertitel. Close but Unterschrift is still something different.

March 27, 2015

Ok, I have a new idea.

Unterschrift = underline _ ?

March 27, 2015

Unterschrift = signature.

March 27, 2015

to underline would be unterstreichen. the symbol _ would be called Unterstrich.

Zzzzz... is right, Unterschrift means signature.

March 28, 2015
Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.