7 Useful German Words that English doesn’t have

We all know German does nice, big, long words. Sometimes those words don’t actually exist in English, in that there’s no way to translate a German word into one English word – often you have to say a whole English sentence just to translate one German word.

Over the years I’ve noticed there are words in German that I use often that don’t have a word-for-word translation in English, so I thought I’d share those with you in this blog post. Let me know if you can add anymore to the list! I know there’ll be quite a few!

Schadenfreude

In English: the happiness feeling you get over somebody else’s pain

You may well have heard of this one, as the word actually officially exists in the English language, too. I think this can apply to physical pain and emotional pain, but basically if someone falls over and you can’t help but laugh at them – that’s a type of Schadenfreude!

Sturmfrei

In English: having the whole house to yourself

Literally ‘storm-free’, you say you have Sturmfrei when you have the house to yourself when everyone else is away. A very simple word that needs a sentence to explain in English!

Trampelpfad

In English: a path made by people walking the route often (such as on grass)

A Trampelpfad is basically a path which is been made by people walking. They’re often made by people taking a short cut, such as in a park with grass. A literal translation would be something like ‘trample path’. It’s not exactly the most useful word ever, but it’s something you may come across quite often.

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I think this would also count as a Trampelpfad in the snow!

Vorführeffekt

In English: when something doesn’t work when somebody is watching

My neighbour taught me this one when he invited me round to play video games. We went to start the game, and it just kept freezing, despite him having played it not too long before – “Das ist eben der Vorführeffekt!” – basically, it’s not working because you’re now here and I especially want to show you it! A kind of translation would be ‘Sod’s law’, but this is more specific to something not working as soon as somebody else comes to watch.

verschlimmbessern

In English: to make something worse when trying to make it better

A nice long verb, literally ‘to worsen better’, which is used when somebody tries to improve something, but in the end actually makes it worse than it was in the first place.

Kopfkino

In English: when you imagine how something played out in your head

Now, I’m not 100% sure here with the various situations you can use it, but I think it can be used when someone tells you a story about something that happened, and you have a ‘film’ in your head of what happened. I think it could also be used when you imagine something that hasn’t happened, too (such as imagining how a conversation would be). The literal translation would be ‘head cinema’ which I just think is really cool because I am a big geek.

Feierabend

In English: the part of a normal working day after work

The literal translation for that would be something like ‘celebrate evening’, and it’s basically used to refer to the time of the day after work. Quite a nice little word that you may hear quite often living in Germany!

 

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