The German language is infamous for its complicated grammar, long German nouns, and harsh sound- at least among those who don’t speak the language. What is less well known is how rich and poetic the language actually is. This selection of the most beautiful German words will introduce you to this side of the language.
"Pusteblume" (in formal English “dandelion”) is informally referred to as “blowball”, which comes close to this beautiful German word. “Pusten” is to blow and “Blume” means flower. Pusteblumen symbolically stand for letting go and new beginnings as their mature seeds are attached to white parachutes which easily detach from the seed head- aided by the wind or the breath of a playing child- floating in the air to another destination where new plants are formed and the process starts again.
“Rascheln“ (in English “rustle”) is often used to describe the sound of leaves rustling in the wind but it can also denote the impression of something unidentifiable, which creates a feeling of eeriness, and yet the pronunciation of the word oozes cosiness.
”Wirrwarr“ denotes a confusing situation that is so muddled that it is difficult to disentangle. The word is related to the German adjective “verwirrt” which simply translates as confused.
“Verrückt“ comes from the German word “verrücken”, which means to move an object like piece of furniture from one place to another. So if something is verrück in its literal sense it is no longer in the right place. Over time, the word was then applied to people and situations and is nowadays used and best translated as crazy”, “mad”, “deranged”. Its usage is very context-dependent, though, and not exclusively negative. It can also be used to refer to someone or something as being out of the ordinary. Herin lies the beauty of the word.
“Schnappsidee“-quite literally an idea borne out of Schnapps- is a plan that appears brilliant when intoxicated and under the influence of the said drink, but utter nonsense when sober 😉.
“Sternschnuppe“ is a compound noun made up of the words “Stern” (star) and the old German noun “Schnuppe” (which was used to refer to burnt candle wicks). It is therefore quite a fitting word for ”shooting stars” or “falling stars” since they are streaks of light caused by meteoroids falling into the Earth's atmosphere and burn up.
“Leidenschaft” offers an interesting insight into the word “passion”, which it translates as in English. It is composed of “Leid” (suffering) and “leiden“ (to like someone) as well as the verb “schaffen” (to create). If you have ever been passionately in love, you have felt the pain that ensues when your feelings are not being reciprocated. Or in Franz Grillparzer’s powerful words:
"Eifersucht ist eine Leidenschaft,
Die mit Eifer sucht, was Leiden schafft."
“Jealousy is a grievous passion
that jealously seeks what causes grief.”
”Sehnsucht“ originates from the combination of the verb “sich sehnen nach“, which translates as as “to yearn for, to crave”, and the noun “die Sucht“ (addiction). Sehnsucht communicates a feeling of longing for someone or something out of reach with the intensity of an addiction.
"Fernweh", which is made up of ”Ferne” (a far way place) “and weh” (aching, woe). So Fernweh expresses the yearning for a distant place that captures your imagination and is associated with feelings of nostalgia. When you experience it, you want to pack your bags and go.
"Fingerspitzengefühl", literally the feeling you have in your finger tips, captures quite vividly the kind of sensitivity that is required in certain emotionally charged situations. It therefore refers to situations where empathy is required.
“Schubladendenken” is comprised of the German nouns “Schubladen” (drawers) und “Denken” (thinking) and stands for stereotype-driven ways of thinking where topics that need to be considered with some nuance or in unconventional ways are approached in a too simplistic manner. The English thinking outside of the box would be the opposite.
"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?
If you’re interested to learn more about long German nouns and brilliant German compound nouns, just follow the links to our blog. There we also have posts on the best German songs to improve your German, 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.cc, dict.leo and Collins, and a review of the apps Duolingo, Memrise, Babbel, Busuu, and Quizlet. So check out our blog.