https://www.duolingo.com/Mr_Eyl

The greatest words in the German language.

Just my humble opinion, naturally, but these are some of the most entertaining words I've come across in any language, never mind this one.

Kummerspeck - literally 'grief bacon', this is the weight one gains when depressed or otherwise emotional.

Erklärungsnot - imagine you're caught doing something that you really, really shouldn't be, and need an excuse immediately. This is the 'explanation emergency'.

Glühbirne - something as simple as a lightbulb made into a thing of beauty with a change of name. In this case, it's a 'glow-pear'.

Do any of you have any particular favourites- or, if you happen to be German, are there any especially entertaining English words? My boss from Niedersachsen is particularly fond of 'vixen', for obvious reasons. :)

July 22, 2015

88 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Luscinda

Snort. I think we use that one in English too. Though possibly without the -ish element.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Samiwise

happy 100 :)

July 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/DetErMinNavn

Thank you!

July 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Apahegy

VerschlimmbesserEN- When you try to make something better, but end up making it even worse.

VerschlimmbesserUNG- The screw-up you make when you were trying to fix something.

I also like "kaputt."

July 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Larkspire

Ooh, I like those. All three of them describe my troubleshooting efforts with my laptop lately.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo

verschlimbessern.

(The -e- of the infinitive ending -en is usually cast out after -er and -el: ändern, verbessern, googeln, nörgeln.)

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

"Eierlegende Wollmilchsau", an egg-laying wool-milk-pig, i.e. something, which covers all angles. N.B.: Doesn't exist in the real world.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/buck72

My favorite is Staubsauger for vacuum cleaner. When I would knock on my German landlord's door to borrow the vacuum cleaner, I could never remember the word and always ended up imitating the sound and motion of using a vacuum cleaner, and laughing so hard in the process. What sweet memories!

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/LittleLia85

My favourite word to say in German at the moment is Kartoffel, because it just sounds funny to say.

July 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Little_Tatws

I like potatoes... I want to learn how to say potato in as many languages as possible. That way, I'll never starve!

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01

Russian: "картошка" (kartoshka), but you could say "картофель" (kartofel) as well. This is not the only borrowed German word, btw ... Hebrew: "תפוח אדמה" (tapuach adama). Literally = "earth apple"

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

In France and in Austria they are also called "earth apples", i.e. "pommes de terre" and "Erdäpfel" respectively. In parts of South West Germany they are often called "Grumbeere", which comes from "Grund Birne", i.e. "ground pear". A similar word exists in Luxembourg, where they are called "Grompere".

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Little_Tatws

Thanks a lot to both of you! May your dreams be filled with many potatoes (or earth apples/pears)!

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/chnoxis

I never heard "Grumbeere" before. :D I say to the potatoes in my swiss german dialect "Härdöpfel". ;-) In high german would this be called "Herdapfel". Or in englisch: Stove apple. Other friends in Switzerland say to the potatoes only "Hörpfel". ;-)

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

I think the "Härd" also comes from "Erde" and not from "Herd" (stove). Here is the wikipedia article in Alemannisch, which is similar to your Swiss German dialect. The variants of Grum-/Grombeere are "Rheinfränkisch", i.e. the Palatinate (Pfalz), Saarland and Northern Baden. In Southern Baden, closer to Switzerland, they are "Herdöpfel".

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/chnoxis

@Frosch0066: Thank you for the link and the explanation. Good to know. :-)

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

@chnoxis: Gärn gscheh! If you are interested you can also read the potato article here in my dialect. It is closely related to the Pennsylvania Dutch spoken by the Amish in North America.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/chnoxis

@Frosch0066: I understand the most of the article in your dialect. :-) But a text to read is mostly simpler as to hear. :-)

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luna293212

Ich liebe kartoffel!

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JustaHailey

Ich auch. Kartoffeln sind großartig!

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/JakeOzzen

Kartoffeln sind SEHR kartoffel. Ich mag essen Kartoffeln

August 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/rrlear

Vielleicht besser: "Ich esse gern Kartoffeln" oder "Ich mag Kartoffeln zu essen".

August 13, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo

Better the first one.

August 14, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01

I like the long words, like Geschwindigkeitsbeschraenkung (well, actually, two words = speed limit). But it's still nice to scare the non German speakers in your vicinity with these :)

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

"Fussbodenschleifmaschinenverleih" is a popular one. Here. The longest allegedly is "Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän".

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01

Thanks for the link.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

There is also "Höchstgeschwindigkeitsbegrenzung"

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Jussel11

That would be the limit of the maximum speed. Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkung, Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung and (erlaubte) Höchstgeschwindigkeit are common words for speed limit/allowed maximum speed.
What makes these words long, is not the number of words, which the word contains like in "Fuß-boden-schleif-maschinen-verleih"(5) and "Donau-dampf-schiff-fahrt-s-gesellschaft-s-kapitän"(6), but the leingth of only two words "Geschwindigkeit" (speed) and "Gegrenzung" (limitation, if this word exists)

May 16, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/VeryCoolName

"Bedürfnisanstalt" is an old-fashioned word for "public toilet". It translates roughly to "necessity institution". Today it sounds even funny for Germans (like me).

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

Since we are on the topic, there is the German word "Durchfall", which is much more desciptive than the English name for the same condition.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr_Eyl

More favourites: anything ending in '-zeug'.

'Flugzeug', 'Fahrzeug' and 'Spielzeug'- literally 'fly-thing', 'drive-thing' and 'play-thing'.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/CatherineHawkins

Werkzeug - tool - "work-thing".

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/svartoyg

"-zeug" does not directly translate to "-thing". Instead it is related to the English word "toy". Both are derived from a proto-Germanic root, which meant sth. like "what has been taken/drawn/tugged" (yes, "tug" is also derived from a similar word).

In English the meaning of "toy" was sheared to a "playing-device" only.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/TomatoGrower

Well I actually laughed out loud when I learned the word Handschuh. Brought a funny image to my head.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr_Eyl

Another good one along these lines is 'Dachboden'- in Germany, your attic is the 'roof-floor'.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/gc49k

Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft: Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical service

Inhale big before you give it a go!

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01

In Russian you can make something similar, though to a lesser extent. Атомногидроэлектростанция - Atomic Hydroelectric power plant :)

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

In Germany we have either nuclear power plants (Atomkraftwerk) or hydro power plants (Wasserkraftwerk) but not really a combination of the two.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01

This is more of a made-up word, doesn't have to match objects in reality. Тетрагидропиранилциклопентилтетрагидропиридопиридиновые - this is a real word, adverb for a chemical definition. Hebrew, however, is not a long words language. Longest word is around 17 letters.

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/astroflammante

Swedish has this too, and I'm rather fond of the word riksdagsmannautskottssuppleantbostadsstäderskevikariebarnbarnsbyxor: Trousers of the grandchild(ren) of the substitute cleaner of the house of a Member of Parliament who is a deputy in a parliament committee. (invented by the comedian author Falstaff, fakir.)

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01

Ar du svensk?

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/astroflammante

Ja, det är jag. (Jag håller på att ta mig igenom svenskakursen mest för skojs skull.)

August 4, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daviddempsay

Despite that most of my ancestors were German, I sometimes have a little trouble taking the German language seriously. I find it very amusing that if you're in Berlin and you're feeling very sick (krank) then you might have a serious medical crisis and you may end up riding to the Krankenhaus in a Krankenwagen, but hopefully you will have good Krankenversicherung to help cover the medical bills. Perhaps there's a kind of genius behind all this. After all, words beginning with a "k" are deemed to be funny, and laughter is said to be the best medicine.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/rrlear

Another "sick" word that I kind of like is "Arbeitsunfähigkeitbescheinigung". (at least I think that's how it's spelled!) Literally it means something like "work disability certificate". (Arbeits = work, (un)fähigkeit = (dis)ability, bescheinigung = certificate) Not sure if it is used frequently, but I still like it!

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/VeryCoolName

The word inspired someone to create the new word "Arbeitsunlustbescheinigung", which became a running gag when stating "officially" that you're not in the mood for work today. For an example see http://www.chip.de/ii/3/0/1/7/7/4/8/963f3531b34a1cdb.jpg

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo

Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung, I think, with another buffer -s- in there (Arbeit + Unfähigkeit + Bescheinigung -- the "s" does not belong to "Arbeit" but is a sound added during the process of combining the words).

Used frequently enough when talking about the object it refers to, though it's also often simply called "der gelbe Schein" (the yellow slip) after its colour.

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/rrlear

Thanks for the correction. That 's' is easy to lose in the stream of letters. I'm somewhat impressed you spotted it!

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/svartoyg

I have troubles to understand what you mean. Can you please explain? Do you refer to the situation in English, were one has totally different words for these things (e.g. "hospital", "ambulance", "insurance")?

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/smilljas

I don't get it either and a Krakenwagen would really scare me... :)

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daviddempsay

Oh c'mon, don't let yourself be put off by the prospect of riding in a "sickmobile." After all, we only live once! : o

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo

A Krakenwagen is an "octopusmobile"! (Note typo in the original comment turning the ambulance into something rather more ominous.)

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/daviddempsay

mizinamo,

Oops, good catch on the misspelling (missing "n"). Thanks for the heads up; I'll fix it. Further, you're also correct in noting that a sea-monster-mobile would be much worse! : O

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Chocolatey55

Der Teigmantel, or "Dough coat", aka crust, like bread or pizza crust.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

"Teigmantel" is not exactly a bread or pizza crust, but more like a batter. It refers to something, usually meat or fish, being cooked coated in dough. A pizza or bread crust would simply be "Kruste".

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/smaranda0221

My new goal is to use kummerspeck in a conversation.

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Jussel11

What does it mean?

May 17, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo

Fat on your body that you got from eating a lot because you were feeling sad.

May 17, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/zaqsert

Umgebung. Especially the way the Duo voice says it. Oomgeeboong.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo

Also fun is the plural "Umgebungen", because it looks like a past participle "umgebungen", presumably from a verb "umbingen". "Ich binge es um, ich bang es um, ich habe es umgebungen."

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Jussel11

But to say it more clearly: This verb does not exist. What exists is the verb "umbringen" "ich bringe um, ich brachte um, ich habe umgebracht (sometimes as a joke "umgebrungen")" which means "to kill".

May 17, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/jannaverse

Das Drachenfutter: "Dragon Food". (or dragon-fodder)

When you realize you're in deep trouble with a significant other because you said or did something wrong, this is the present you give them in hopes that they will forgive you. (Candy, flowers, etc).

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/chnoxis

I never heard this word before. And I am from the german part in Switzerland. But it's funny. :D

July 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Jussel11

I have never heard it too. I am from North-Rhine-Westphalia.

May 16, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/SuperSquashMann

My favorite is "Streichholzschächtelchen" (Small box of matches). Used in a sentence: Sie Stellt Tschechisches Streichholzschächtelchen am Tisch.

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr_Eyl

Excellent. My tongue is tied in knots.

Is that Ainsley Harriot in your pic?

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/sueefo

I just heard "Zebrastreifen" ("crosswalk") courtesy of Vlog Dave. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnZ0C4deOyB_TUFSJK3L4lg Is it due to the stripes painted on the road?

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Mr_Eyl

I would have thought so. We call it a zebra crossing here in the UK, too.

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo

The UK has a number of other funny animal crossings as well, such as a toucan crossing (where "two can cross"), a pelican crossing (PEdestrian LIght-CONtrolled crossing, I think), and a puffin crossing.

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Luna293212

kuschelig! (comfy, cozy etc) hehe I was taught this at a festival when cuddled in a van during a storm... nothing like being super kuschelig!!

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Danmoller

Selbstverständlich ist Ausgezeichtnet das tollste Wort!

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/lingoKaet

My favorite word is "der Stubentiger." It literally means room tiger and is used to refer to a house cat. A must-know for any cat-lover!

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Zak332671

Treppenwitz - To have thought of a joke or rebuttal after the situation has passed... Literally "Stair-Joke"

November 18, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/mizinamo

aka esprit d'escalier in "English" (borrowed from French).

November 18, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/sueefo

I hate snow but I like the sound of the word "Schnee."

July 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01

You hate snow? Let me guess, you live in a country with a harsh winter? :) I would gladly take all your snow :))

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/sueefo

And I would gladly give it to you! :-) Seriously, the winter in New England was horrible last year and by February I was wondering if I would ever see green grass and green leaves again.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01

Here in Israel snow is a rare thing. I live in Jerusalem, which is relatively high in the mountains, and once in a few years we get a 10-15 cm snow for a few days, but it's not enough (

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/l.graveyard_yea6

Ziemlich gut ( pretty good I hope that spells right )

July 23, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/CatherineHawkins

Schadenfreude. "Harm-joy". That awful emotion some feel when another person has difficulties.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/VeryCoolName

There is another emotion which has no direct English translation: "sich fremdschämen" - feeling embarrassed on behalf of someone else.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Frosch0066

Yes, it's a relatively new one but so apt. In English perhaps "cringe de la cringe"

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/rrlear

Interesting that english doesn't have that word. Certainly I'm frequently so afflicted when watching very much TV.

July 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Raisinnoir

A Berlin friend used to say: Mensch, es war grausam!

July 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Ypsilon2007

In German I love these two words because they are so much a part of human nature - Weltschmerz - literally an ache of the world and Schadenfreude- again a dark word meaning ( in my opinion) rejoicing in someone else's bad luck!

July 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/bobvartez

'soupcon' (Fr)- trace, hint, small amount, little suspicion what are the other Glühbirne?

July 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Micha-B.

1.) Zeitgeist (wurde zum geflügelten Wort und stammt vom Dichter Johann Gottfried Herder) 2.) Weltschmerz ( stammt vom deutschen Dichter Jean Paul) 3.) Fremdschämen ( siehe Wikipedia Donald Trump) 4.) Backpfeifengesicht (siehe Wikipedia Donald Trump) und Schnapsidee dürfte hier wohl auch passen. 5.) Treppenwitz (Friedrich Nitzsche, Denis Diderot und William Lewis Hertslet) Das Buch "Treppenwitz der Weltgeschichte" wird seit 1822 Jahr für Jahr bis heute in einer aktualisierten Fassung aufgelegt. (siehe Wikipedia Donald Trump) 6.) Torschlusspanik ( in deutschen Städten wurden im Mittelalter abends die Tore verschlossen. In Hamburg sogar bis zum Jahre 1860 ) 7.) Oberlichte (Weil Deutsche diese Fensterform Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts in Frankreich entdeckten und diese dort "Le Vasistas" - in Anlehnung an den deutschen Satz "Was ist das?" heißen. Mutterseelenallein ist auch so ein Wort, das sich die Berliner den Hugenotten (französischen Flüchtlingen) abgeschaut haben. unn natürlich Fingerspitzengefühl, Luftschloss, Kopfkino, Dunkelziffer, Dornröschenschlaf, Putzfimmel, Frühjahrsmüdigkeit und Dünnhäutigkeit.

Das schönste deutsche Wort: begreifen! Es bringt auf wunderbare Art das abstrakte Denken und das sinnliche Erfassen in einem Wort zusammen.

May 27, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/PlatonicBliss

Great thread. Here's a lingot.

September 21, 2018
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