The German language is a vibrant and one logical language, especially when it comes to expressing different types of feelings. It’s always fun when you can express something in one perfect word, while others require a whole sentence.
Other languages sometimes get word-envy when comparing themselves to German.
Thanks to its lifelong love affair with compound nouns, Germans can sum up complex emotional states of mind and body in just one word.
English language has sneaked so many German words into its vocabulary, for example – Kindergarten, Schnitzel, Doppelgänger, Schadenfreude, Zeitgeist, Angst, Wanderlust and so on.
Here are a few examples that the English language should also consider adding to its vocabulary.
1) Ohrwurm – earworm
This is my absolute favorite German word. Have you ever listened to a song on the radio while driving to work only to find yourself still humming the same tune by lunchtime? This beautiful German word Ohrwurm describes the fact of having a song stuck in your head as if it wriggled itself into your brain through your ear.
Treppenwit – a witty comeback that came too late.
You know those times when you get into an argument with a relative and you want so badly to say a snappy comeback, but that witty comeback doesn’t dawn on you until long after the conversation? That’s Treppenwitz.
There are many sitcoms entirely based upon the premise of Treppenwitz, for example – Seinfeld episode “The Comeback.”
Backpfeifengesicht – a face that deserves to be punched.
Every person knows someone who needs to be punched. This clever word describes someone who you feel needs a slap in the face. Disclaimer: This is purely for informational purposes and do not in any way support violence.
Zugzwang – feeling of pressure to get something done, but you would rather do nothing.
You use this word during a time when you feel immense stress or pressure and have to make a strategic decision, even though you do not have any desire. Zugzwang originally described the feeling chess players felt when trying to make a move, but the word is now used whenever it’s your turn to make a decision.
Kummerspeck – weight gained by emotional over-eating.
When a relationship ends or during other times of sadness, anger, or worry, it’s common to put on a few pounds. Kummerspeck is the excess weight put on by emotional overeating.
Schnapsidee – an idea you had while drunk that you would probably regret later.
When you are dialing your ex or sending a hateful message to your boss while drinking. It is probably a Schnaspsidee, that you would regret later.
Kopfkino – The act of playing out the entire scene in your head.
When you have to tell something important to your boss or to your life partner, you imagine and play the whole scene with dialogues in your head. This act is known as Kopfkino.
Torschlusspanik – Closing-gate panic
As people get older, some find themselves worrying about roads not taken or milestones they meant to achieve by a certain age but haven’t. Torschlusspanik is the feeling of urgency to accomplish them before some imaginary gate closes. It’s mostly used for those who sense their biological clock is running out and feels the need to settle with a partner or have children immediately.
Gemütlichkeit – if you tell a German “oh, we have a phrase for Gemütlichkeit in English — feeling cozy,” they’ll instantly correct you.
This is my top-notch favorite word in German as it means not just “feeling cozy”.
The word describes the whole atmosphere of your surroundings. It’s not just the state of being on a soft couch that gives you Gemütlichkeit. It’s being on a soft couch. Under a warm blanket. Surrounded by family. With a cup of hot coffee in your hands. It’s the whole experience and feeling that you have of being physically warm, but also metaphorically feeling warm inside your heart.
So with this beautiful feeling, I end my list here. I know, some of these just sound too far-fetched to be true. Well, they are far-fetched – gathered in the distant land of Germany.
I hope you enjoyed reading this list of German words and learnt something from it. If you know some other words, that I missed, please comment below.