One of the joys of learning another language is discovering all of its quirky, unusual, and sometimes unexpectedly logical words, idioms, and expressions. We’ll be bringing you some of our favorite words and expressions from the languages we teach every month. If you want more, be sure to check out our Instagram!
Germans have always constructed words with implacable logic… although sometimes the combinations of words are more than questionable. Let’s review 15 of those most German words and expressions.
1 - Der Drahtesel
Knowing that “Draht” means wire and “Esel” means donkey doesn’t really help you understand what “der Drahtesel” is supposed to be. A wire-donkey? In German, you would actually use this word to talk about a bike. But mainly when speaking about an old, rusty bike. One of those that often looks like it’s going to fall apart completely.
2 - Der Wasserhahn
Here’s another one of these times when the German language proves it’s not always the most logical one. “Wasserhahn” means a tap or a faucet. But who knows why this word literally means a water rooster. So try to remember next time you turn on your tap in the kitchen, you may be toying with some kind of weird little rooster.
3 - Der Scheinwerfer
What do headlights do? Well, they throw shine of course! So if you hear Germans talking about “Scheinwerfer” (literally shine-thrower) they do not mean some kind of crazy person throwing lights around. This word actually means headlights.
4 - Die Speisekarte
This one’s pure German logic. “Speisekarte” literally means dish card and is a list of dishes served by the restaurant. It is what an English speaker would mean by the word menu. And watch out, a German “Menü” is something rather different. It represents a full meal of multiple courses.
5 - Die Schildkröte
Well of course a turtle and a toad look the same - said no one ever. Except Germans who call turtles shield-toads.
6 - Der Stubentiger
Your furry feline friend probably thinks she rules the house, so this German word is a very apt way of describing her. “Der Stubentiger,” or the room tiger, is a common way to talk about a cat in German - although the most common word is of course “die Katze”.
7 - Feuchtfröhlich
This one might come in handy for the weekend. “Feuchtfröhlich” (literally wet and happy) is an adjective for describing those situations where the alcohol is flowing - a boozy evening (“ein feuchtfröhlicher Abend”), for example.
8 - Innerer Schweinehund
You know that little voice in your head that’s always justifying that extra donut, one last beer, or just a few more minutes in bed? We certainly do. Yep - in German, that’s your “innerer Schweinehund” (literally inner pig-dog). The best English equivalent would be one’s “weaker self.”
9 - der Absacker
“Der Absacker” is the German word for nightcap - an alcoholic drink straight before bed. Although we reckon it’s used these days more so as a way to justify having that “one last drink.”
10 - der Spaßvogel
Despite the translation (this literally translates to fun bird), this has nothing to with birds. Spaßvogel refers to the friend that’s always entertaining, the one that’s a bit of a joker.
11 - die Sehenswürdigkeiten
As you might’ve guessed, this is the German word for attractions. Literally, things worthy of seeing. You go on holiday, you make sure you see some sehenswürdigkeiten. Some might say beautifully logical, some might say unnecessarily so. It’s your call.
12 - der Hexenschuss
As you get older, you might find yourself in need of this word more and more often. This word refers to lumbago. The pain might make you curse. Or feel like you’ve been cursed… or shot… by a witch. (Literal translation: witches shot)
13 - die Versuchskaninchen
Could you guess what this is? You got it, it’s a guinea pig - The literal translation here is ‘attempt rabbits’.
14 - der Zungenbrecher
If you’re learning German, I’m sure you’ll find this a useful term. Rather than ‘tongue twister’, this translates to tongue-breaker. Clearly Germans aren’t as optimistic about rising to the challenge of pronouncing hard words as English natives. Click here if you want some German ‘tongue-breakers’ to challenge yourself!
15 - die Nacktschnecke
I bet you never thought of a slug as being naked until you learnt the German word for it. Unlike the modest shelled-covered snail, a slug gotta make do with its birthday suit. Poor naked slugs.
We hope you liked these. But there are more where they came from! If you want to upgrade from words to sentences, check out our list of funny idioms. If you want more out of German than a list of funny words, sign up to Chatterbug to have a conversation with a real person. You can also follow us on Instagram or stay tuned till our next selections by joining us on Twitter or Facebook.