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German words in English

To my surprise an encreasing number of German words find their way into the English language (both in Britain and the US). So the German language still has some vitality in that it has coined terms which are more precise than those in the lingua franca English.

I am not a linguist at all and do not claim to be a champion in English, so my explanations about the words and their use are those of a layman. You are welcome to give me better background information and explanations.

Achtung ( )
Angst (n.)
Blitzkrieg (n.)
Dreck (n.)
Eigenwert (n.)
Horst und Graben
Kindergarten (n.)
Lebensraum (n.)
Noodle (n.)
Poltergeist (n.)
Rucksack (n.)
Schmooze (v.)
Schnitzel (n.)
Shlep (v.)
Verboten (adj.)
Wunderkind (n.)
Zeitgeist (n.)

... more words

[To top/bottom of page] Achtung ( )

Maybe German soldiers have braught this word to the English language: Attention! In German military drill the word is also used to describe the stiff upright posture.

[To top/bottom of page] Angst (n.)

While Furcht is the fear of a real danger (if a dog is barking loudly at you) Angst is a more psychological term of being worried or being afraid about anything. The German plural of Angst (Ängste) defines a very general psychological term of feeling afraid of different things (often not logical at all). The derived word Ängstlichkeit is anxiety, great carefullness.
[according to comments from Susanna Scherer 2003-09-27].

The use of «angst» in the English language lets me assume, that it came to English with Freud around 1910.

[To top/bottom of page] Blitzkrieg (n.)

And as I watched my personal digital hell unfold, it struck me that our privacy -- mine and yours -- has already disappeared, not in one Big Brotherly blitzkrieg but in Little Brotherly moments, bit by bit. [Time, August 25, 1997, p38]

1940/41 German Air Forces attacked London in a severe air fight. The German military called this a blitz-krieg (“lightning war”), a military tactic calculated to create psychological shock and resultant disorganization in enemy forces through the employment of surprise, speed, and superiority in ... [Britannica.com]).

[To top/bottom of page] Bremsstrahlung

This is a x- radiation produced when an electrically charged subatomic particle, such as an electron, is slowed down by an electric field or a collision with another object (e.g. an atomic nucleus). See en.wikipedia.org

[2009-09-23 René Salhab]

[To top/bottom of page] Doppelganger (n.)

Double, counterpart of a person.

In German the word is written with umlaut: doppelgänger. [reported by David Kitz Kramer, gmail.com]

[To top/bottom of page]Dreck (n.)

The new service has been roundly panned by many online reviewers and caused them to revisit many of Google's latest releases. Most of them are dreck too, say the analysts. [Important Stories and More from Ziff Davis, 2006-01-12]

According to Babylon, my favorite offline-dictionary with online support this word is (Slang) thing of no value; rubbish. In German Dreck normally is the mud on the ground, but of course has the same conotations/connotations as in Eglish (crap, filth, feculence, filthiness, foulness, dirt, grime, mire, muck; faeces, excrement, dung).

[To top/bottom of page] Eigenwert, Eigenfunktion (n.)

When German was still a reputed language in science, this word made its debut in the English language. The meaning according to [Enc. Britannica]:
One of a set of discrete values of a parameter, k, in an equation of the form Pψ = kψ, in which P is a linear operator (that is, a symbol denoting a linear operation to be performed), for which there are solutions satisfying given boundary conditions. The symbol ψ (psi) represents an eigenfunction (proper or characteristic function) belonging to that eigenvalue. The totality of eigenvalues…

[To top/bottom of page] Gesundheit!

Bless you! (used in response to a sneeze. [reported by David Kitz Kramer, gmail.com]

This term seems not to be used in a toast as in German, for which the english equivalent is "to your health".

[To top/bottom of page] Hinterland (n.)

The combination of Expo and bridge made the project one of urban and even regional regeneration: the bridge will link the northern edge of Lisbon with roads that lead ghrough the Poruguese hinterland and Spain and into the heart of Europe. [Time, August 25, 1997, p24]

[To top/bottom of page] Horst und Graben (n.)

[Britannica.com:] Elongate fault blocks of the Earth's crust that have been raised (horst) and lowered (graben), respectively, relative to their surrounding areas as a direct effect of faulting. Horsts and grabens may range in size from blocks a few centimetres wide to tens of kilometres wide; the vertical movement may be up to several thousand feet. [reported by Philipp Wild, rocketmail.com].

The term horst also means the nest of a bird of prey (e.g. eagle, crow), eyrie.
The term
graben (ditch) seems not to be used in english other than in the earth and environmental science.

[To top/bottom of page] Kindergarten (n.)

This was the first German word I discovered in the English language when I started to learn it. It must have been introduced together with the nursery institution just in the same manner as the word «butterbroda» (buttered slice of bread) came to the Russian language with the German soldiers.

[To top/bottom of page] Lebensraum (n.)

Although nowadays this word is common to describe an environment (e.g. for animals) it was coined by the Nazis to argue for more living room for the German people. This word was used when justifying the need to expand to the east.

[To top/bottom of page] Noodle (n.)

Pasta of all sorts is the domain of Italians. Nevertheless the German word noodle came to use before the big impact of the Italian kitchen to the northern regions. Noodles are made from thin stripes of sheets of dought which then are dried.

[To top/bottom of page] Poltergeist (n.)

Many castles in Great Britain seem to host a poltergeist, a ghost knocking an rocking around, throwing things down the staircase etc.

[To top/bottom of page] Rucksack (n.)

The generation of backpackers know what a rucksack is: a backpack. You can carry very heavy loads with a rucksack, because the weight is close to the spine and loaded symmetrically. Climbers are fans of rucksacks.

[To top/bottom of page] Schadenfreude (n.)

However, while poorer Italians may register an uncharacteristic flicker of schadenfreude at the news that their richer compatriots are cutting back, they won't have much time to gloat.
[Read in 'Words in the News' on BBC Learning . com by Hans Grämiger from Wädenswil]

[To top/bottom of page] Schmooze (v.)

The German word schmusen describes the gentle kissing, touching of a couple, but also the intimate contact between mother and young child.

[To top/bottom of page] Shlep (v.)

Neopost's PC-Stamp uses a modem-size box containing an encryption chip, which attaches to a PC. With a digital scale connected to the system, the PC can calculate postage and produce a bar code, or «indicia», that's printed on the envelope. Instead of shlepping the postage meter to the post office to get it reset, or resetting it remotely, you can get it refilled through your modem. [PC Magazine, July 1997].

Here's an interesting category — portable CD burners with flash slots. They're used to save photos while traveling, so you don't need to schlep around a full notebook. [What's New Now from Ziff Davis, 2004-09-30]

This word come to use with the not so light weight portable computers. These items where considered to be shleppable. The first time I heard this word was in connection with the IBM P70 which weights about 8 kg (17 pounds) around 1990.

There seems to be no English word as an equivalent to the German schleppen.This is a mixture of carrying and dragging. A not so heavy trunk can be carried a long way without fatigue. But when the item has more weight, one frequently must rest, change arms, drag it for a short distance on the floor etc. The German word for this is «schleppen». In German the word is also used for people, who have difficulties to put one step after the other (ill, tired): «Hans schleppte sich zur Haustüre, um dem Gast zu öffnen».

«I believe further research will show that schlep came to English from Yiddish, not German. Of course, Yiddish began as a German dialect in Hamburg in the early 15th century...nonetheless, this particular word came via Yiddish.» [tphyll, aol.com, 2001-15-27]

[To top/bottom of page] Schnitzel (n.)

A schnitzel is a cut part from anything, mostly from meat. The shape of a schnitzel can vary, but mostly the term is used for a slice. A Wienderschnitzel is made of a thin slice of veal.

[To top/bottom of page] Verboten (adj.)

I even tried a verboten approach of using a different printer instance (a Tektronix 840) to generate the PS file--nothing.

I did not find this in my 1000+ pages dictionary, but assume that it means a very strict form of forbidden, not allowed, even spelled with a taboo.

[To top/bottom of page] Wunderkind (n.)

The mania was aptly led by ex-hippie baby boomers and their naive 20-something minions, who honestly believed that just because they graduated from Stanford Graduate School of Business, they acctally know something. These wunderkinder became the CEOs, the rage, then the scapegoats. [John C. Dvorak in PC Magazine october 30, 2001]

The term most likely was coined by the film Wir Wunderkinder by Kurt Hoffmann 1958. Indicating German Summary of the film.

[To top/bottom of page] Zeitgeist (n.)

This word is the 'invention' of Hegel, a German philosopher.

[To top/bottom of page] ... And even more words

Nick Tullius (Ottawa/Canada), Sonja Lücke rported these findings:

Ersatzkaffee (coffe substitute)
Götterdämmerung (probably found in a description of the Wagner opera with the same name)
Schutzhund (protecitve dog)
Sturm und Drang

Sonja Lücke from Memphis, TN argues that some words like "Putz or Patz" may have arrived in English via Yiddish.


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