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Brilliant German Words That Don't Exist in English. Fun Facts About The German Language

Updated: Mar 3

In this blog series, I post fun facts about the German language. In the first part, I discussed the importance of the German language, in the second why English and German are sister languages, in the third the language’s love for compound nouns, in the fourth, the language’s longest words, and in the fifth, why all nouns are capitalised. Today, I will introduce you to German words that don’t exist in English.

Exploring the Untranslatable: Intriguing German Words Absent in English

Languages are not mere tools for communication; they are repositories of culture, history, and unique perspectives on life. One fascinating aspect of language is encountering words that capture nuances and concepts not easily expressed in other tongues. German, with its rich linguistic heritage, boasts numerous such words that defy direct translation into English. Let's delve into some of these untranslatable gems.

One of the most fun features of the German language is its tendency to create extremely specific words that express ideas in a more pointed way than in English or any other language. Here are my personal favourites.

Fremdschämen = shame felt on another person’s behalf

Schadenfreude = the happiness derived from somebody else’s misfortune, injury or pain

Fernweh = having the travel bug or lusting after adventure, and as such, is the opposite of “Heimweh (homesickness)

Innerer Schweinehund = refers to an inner voice that encourages you to relax and procrastinate rather than fulfilling our responsibilities

Sehnsucht = yearning for a utopian ideal or a nostalgia for things that are incomplete.

Schnappsidee = quite literally an idea borne out of Schnapps- is a plan that appears brilliant when under the influence of the said drink, but utter nonsense when sober.

Torschlusspanik = The fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older. It literally refers to the feeling of panic as the gate

Fingerspitzengefühl = Intuitive flair or sensitivity in dealing with complex situations.

Kummerspeck = Literally "grief bacon"; excess weight gained from emotional overeating.

Ohrwurm = A catchy tune or song that gets stuck in your head.

Zweisamkeit = The state of being together with another person in harmony and intimacy.

Verschlimmbessern = To make something worse while trying to improve it.

Vergangenheitsbewältigung = The process of coming to terms with the past, especially regarding historical events.

You'll find more beautiful German words here.

Curious to learn German? Then check out our small German courses with only 5 students per class.

On our German language blog “Auf Deutsch, bitte!”, you will also find explanations of all German grammar topics- from the articles in German to German word order. Happy reading!


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