top of page

Brilliant German Compound Nouns- And What They Actually Mean

Many German nouns are long- some are too long. In this blog post, I will explain why this not a bad thing.

Why are all German words so long?
Long German compound nouns

When you hear or read anything about the German language chances are people complain about a) how awful the language sounds- only voiced by those who don't speak the language b) how difficult German grammar is- true, but unlike other European languages, it is quite logical for the most part- or c) how long some German words are. What people don't often discuss is how brilliant some of those German compound nouns are. Yes, most of them are quite long, yet they usually offer a quite insightful take on a concept.

One of my favourite German words is “Fingerspitzengefühl”, literally the feeling you have in your finger tips, which captures quite vividly that kind of sensitivity that is required in certain emotionally charged situations. Another example of a word I love is "Neugier" (curiosity), which literally means greed for new things. And don't we all know the feeling of being "neugierig", that is, greedy for new information.

Another example of a word I really like because its literal meaning reveals an interesting perspective on the concept is "Sehenswürdigkeit" (sight). When you take the noun apart it means "thing worth seeing" because würdig is worthy and sehen means to see. While the English sightseeing is literally what you do, the German word adds the ideas of selectivity and significance to it.

And how about "Ohrwurm" (ear worm), which is used for a catchy tune that doesn't go out of your ears. We all know the feeling that this is exactly what a good song can do, it crawls into your ear with its melody and stays there for quite a while.

I'm going to update this blog post with further examples as they come to me. Feel free to contact me with suggestions. Thanks for reading.

If you’re interested to learn more common phrases in German, just follow the link to our blog. There we also have posts on false friends in German and English, how to say busy in German, give you tips on how to avoid the most common mistakes in German and how to quickly improve your German, you learn about the conjugation of German verbs in the present tense, the passive voice in German, we give you an explanation of the future tense in German, reflexive verbs in German and how to use them, separable verbs and when they split,how to express preferences in German, the German perfekt tense, and many other topics. We also have posts suitable language learners more generally, such as a comparison between online dictionaries like Linguee,, dict.leo and Collins, and a review of the apps Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, Busuu, and Quizlet. So check out our blog.

Find out more about our German lessons, small German classes, and new online German courses here.

Featured Posts

bottom of page