English words you didn’t know were German

2 min read

Deutschland has given us many great things — amazing beer, Bavarian pretzels, and even the refrigerator. But did you know many of the words you use on a daily basis are derived — or even copied — from the German language? Here’s a list to all the English you didn't even know were German.

Angst

Although this word is often used to describe moody teenagers or strumming guitarists, angst is the German word for fear. Thanks to Sigmund Freud, It became part of the English lexicon when his works on psychology were translated in the 1940s.

Delicatessen

The idea of a corner deli might feel exclusively big-city America, but this word is actually the plural form of the German word delikatesse, which means "delicious things to eat," or simply, "delicacy." Anyone who has indulged on a well-crafted, smoked meat sandwich is sure to agree.

Kindergarten

The first year of school in America is known as kindergarten. This cheeky word literally translates to "children’s garden" and comes from a German educator who compared his young students to plants and preached that teachers were tasked with nurturing their growth.

Doppelgänger

The accent suggests the word doppelgänger is German. The word refers to someone who has an uncanny resemblance for someone else, despite not being biologically related. More literally, in German, it means "double-goer" or "double-walker."

Kitsch

Originated during the 1930s, this campy word describes things that are lowbrow or of questionable taste. The German translation means "to coat or smear," which is pretty much what critics do when reviewing kitschy artwork.

Uber

Although famously affiliated with a popular car service these days, uber is indeed a German word that translates to "over" or "above." The English variation often suggests a superlative. Anything uber is the very best.

Spritz

One telltale sign you’re dealing with a German word in English? The letter “Z,” which tends to pop up more in Germanic languages. Think of seltzer or blitz. Spritz comes from the German word spritzen, which means "to squirt."

Wanderlust

This dreamy word refers to a desire to see the world and travel. The translation is literal too. Wander stems from “wandern" — meaning to wander, while “lust” is another word we’ve borrowed in English to describe desire. Interestingly, Germans today use the word “fernweh” to describe a sense of longing for a place you haven't been to yet.

Zeitgeist

The German suffix “geist” is most directly linked to the English word ghost (hence, the word poltergeist — another German word). However, ghost and spirit are synonyms and a different definition of the latter word has grown in popularity — as in the spirit, vibe, or atmosphere of something. Enter zeitgeist, which pairs “zeit" — meaning time — with spirit. The word means the spirit or mood of a historical period.

Cobalt

Whether you recognize this word as a color or a type of metal, it’s rooted in German. Miners in the Middle Ages had a hard time extracting silver from another particular metal in the same area. Because of this difficulty, they were inspired to name the ore “cobalt” after a mythological mountain demon named Kobald. Both the fictional demon and the metal proved to be devilishly tricky to deal with.

Plunder

Although its often associated with pirates, this German word has roots on land. It stems from the German word “plündern,” which means, quite literally, "to rob household goods."

Photo credit: DieterMeyrl/ iStock

You Might Also Like:

Chat bubbles backgroundDaily QuestionWhat section of a book is the prolegomenal chapter?

Start defining your knowledge

Get daily words and quizzes sent straight to your inbox!

By subscribing to Word Genius you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.