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10 German words that can’t be translated into English


Planning a trip to Germany or Austria this year? Save yourself time and energy by learning these 10 handy German phrases.

When it comes to linguistics, the Germans have got efficiency pretty much nailed. Whilst English-speakers the world over are using lengthy sentences to explain their situations, German-speakers have most likely got one dedicated word to cover it. How many of these apply to you?

1. Handschuhschneeballwerfer

Meaning: Glove snowball thrower.

Have you ever tried to throw a snowball without gloves on? It’s pretty cold and painful. Those who choose to remain glove-less are very brave indeed, which is exactly why a ‘handschuhschneeballwerfer’ is the perfect term for a wimp or coward.

2. Sturmfrei

Meaning: Having the whole house to yourself when your parents are away

Nothing feels better than having the house all to yourself, right? When you live with your parents, alone time can be particularly hard to come by, which is why the Germans came up with ‘sturmfrei’, a word that explains the great feeling of having free reign over the house.

3. Erbsenzähler

Meaning: Someone who is very detail-orientated and control-obsessed

No one’s perfect but there are some people out there who will certainly try their hardest to be. The word Erbsenzähler literally translates to ‘peas tally’ (so, someone who counts their peas) and is the German equivalent of a control-freak.

4. Schadenfreude

Meaning: Taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune

Have you ever watched the Oscars on TV and secretly loved the moment a celebrity messes their speech up? Or how about seeing someone running for the train as it pulls away from the station, whilst you’re perfectly comfortable in your window seat? That feeling of enjoying someone’s misfortune is what the Germans call ‘schadenfreude’.

5. Kummerspeck

Meaning: Weight gain caused by emotional overeating

Yep, we’ve all been here. Your emotions are running high because of a stressful day at work or a bad break-up and a pint of ice cream or an entire XL pizza (or both!) is your only comfort. Of course, the Germans figured that a situation this common ought to have its own word, hence ‘kummerspeck’ or ‘sorrow bacon’ was born.

And if there’s a word for it then eating a family-sized chocolate bar in one sitting is totally normal, right?

6. Torschlusspanik

Meaning: Worrying that time is running out and life’s opportunities are passing you by

It’s human nature to worry about how much life we have left to live, but in Germany, the phrase Torschlusspanik sums up the whole feeling of getting older and fretting about time.

So, if you’re still living at home whilst your friends are all getting married and having kids, the German language has got your back.

7. Fernweh

Meaning: Distance pain

Basically, the opposite feeling of homesickness – instead, you want to leave your own environment and escape to somewhere else (preferably with plenty of sun).

8. Innerer schweinehund

Meaning: Inner pig dog

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who genuinely love going to the gym, chances are you experience your innerer schweinehund on a regular basis. This phrase literally translates to ‘inner pig dog’ and describes the little voice that tells you to be lazy and skip working out.

9. Pantoffelheld

Meaning: A man who acts macho around his friends, but his wife wears the pants at home

This phrase actually translates to ‘slipper hero’. It may not be the most politically correct term in the German language, but it serves its purpose!

10. Weltschmerz

Meaning: Anxiety, apathy or depression caused by the current state of the world

Whether you’re feeling weltschmerz over climate change, animal rights, politics or finances, it’s likely you’ll experience it at some point. So, next time you’re down about global warming and how you can’t adopt every single stray dog, you have the exact word to describe what you’re feeling.

Looking for somewhere to use your favourite new German phrases?

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