12 Cool German Words That Don’t Exist in English
If you’ve been studying German, you may have noticed that German has some pretty interesting and colorful words. They’re often long, have interesting meanings, and are always fun to say.
It seems like there’s a German word for just about everything — including some words and concepts you’ve may not have ever thought about.
While these words are not ones you’ll use in day-to-day life, they do shed insight into German culture and they’re just flat-out interesting! Get prepared to expand your vocabulary and your mind with these twelve interesting and cool German words.
If you’re actually looking for a day-to-day common German Vocab list for language learning, check out our article on Basic German Words for Beginners.
Cool German Words at a Glance
to make something worse in trying to improve it
very awkward situation of feeling embarrassed for someone else
hygge, agreeably pleasant, cozy
punchable face, face of someone who looks like they deserve a slap across the face
the unique feeling of becoming older and not having found a partner yet or not having started a family yet
an ache for distanct places, the craving for travel
intense longing or feeling of nostalgia when you miss something or someone
the end of a working day and points to the unwinding and relaxing that's just around the corner
legal expenses insurance company
lit. ear worm, a way to describe a song that you can't get out of your head
weight someone gains from eating junk food during a period of grief
Fun and Cool German Words
Verschlimmbessern describes the act of making something worse while trying to make something better. Besser means “better”, but schlimm means “bad”, so the world is really a mix of better and worse.
Als ich den verschütteten Kaffee aufwischen wollte ist die Lampe runter gefallen, also habe ich die Situation verschlimmbessert.
As I wanted to mop up the coffee I had spilled, the lamp fell down, so I made the situation worse while trying to make it better.
Fremdschämen describes the very awkward situation of feeling embarrassed for someone else, more commonly known as second-hand embarrassment. Have you ever seen someone attempt to parallel park in public and fail? The uncomfortable icky feeling you get is called Fremschämen in German.
Hast du den Mann mit den Socken und den Sandalen gesehen? Ein echter Fall von Fremdschämen.
Have you seen the man with the socks and the sandals? A true instance o of Fremdschämen.
You might be familiar with the Danish word hygge, which is the Danish version of gemütlich, which has become a popular word in recent years. Hygge, or in German gemütlich h, describes a cozy, homey atmosphere, in which you might find a fireplace, tea, a good book, and lots of blankets.
Es hat geregnet und ich habe einen gemütlichen Nachmittag zu Hause verbracht.
It rained and I spent a cozy afternoon at home.
One of the best German words might be Backpfeifengesicht , which describes the Gesicht face of someone who looks like they deserve a Backpfeife, a “slap across the face”. This is similar to how English speakers might describe a “punchable face“. It is used in a derogatory way for someone who doesn’t look like they’re the brightest. A word that’s closely related is Ohrfeige. The literal translation means “ear fig”, but it simply describes a slap across the face.
Nachbar hat so ein Backpfeifengesicht, der verdient eine Ohrfeige!
My neighbor has such a slappable face, he deserves a slap across the face!
Torschlusspanik describes the unique feeling of becoming older and not having found a partner yet or not having started a family yet. It is often used to talk about rash, impulsive decisions surrounding marriage and having children.
Meine Kollegin hat ihren Freund nach drei Monaten geheiratet, bestimmt hatte sie Torschlusspanik.
My colleague married her boyfriend after three months, she surely was afraid of losing her last opportunity for marriage and children.
If you are familiar with Wanderlust, the feeling of a strong desire to travel, you might know Fernweh as well. Fernweh describes the longing one feels to be far away, to go on adventures and travel the world.
Als ich die ganzen Flüge auf der Anzeigetafel am Flughafen gesehen habe, habe ich Fernweh bekommen.
When I saw all the flights on the panel at the airport I felt a strong desire to travel far away.
Sehnsucht is another beautiful German word, similar to Fernweh. It describes an intense longing, but is more often used when you miss someone or something, such as a family member or your favorite childhood meal.
Meine Sehnsucht nach Dir ist so groß, Ich kann kaum schlafen.
My longing for you is so strong, I can hardly sleep.
Feierabend is a great German word, and every worker’s favorite word. Feierabend describes the end of a working day and points to the unwinding and relaxing that’s just around the corner.
There are a few expressions surrounding the concept of Feierabend such as Feierabend haben “to be finished with work”, Feierabend machen “to finish work” or das Feierabendbier “the end of the workday beer”.
Ich genieße jetzt meinen Feierabend mit einem Feierabendbier.
I am enjoying my end of the working day with an end of the work day beer.
Vorfreude is hands-down one of my favorite words. It’s a beautiful German word that describes the anticipatory joy one feels before an exciting event such as a birthday, a trip, or Christmas. There’s even a popular German saying that uses the concept of Vorfreude and affirms that Vorfreude is better than actual Freude, normal joy.
Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude.
Anticipatory joy is the best kind of joy.
Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaft , often hailed as one of the longest, most difficult German words to pronounce certainly deserves a place on this list of cool German words! Though it doesn’t exactly have the sexiest translation – legal expenses insurance company. Germans have a habit of creating very long words by simply adding various nouns together. Here are a few more examples:
- Table lamp
- Motor vehicle liability insurance
- Cookie sprinkles
- Desk chair
This cool German word Ohrwurm means “ear worm” in English. You can use it when you have a song stuck in your head on repeat and you just can’t get rid of it. An Ohrwurm can be a song you really like but also an annoying melody that is stuck in your head. How to unstick an Ohrwurm? You can get rid of the annoying song in your head by singing another song. We hope that that doesn’t turn into an Ohrwurm too.
Das neue Lied von Silbermond ist ein richtiger Ohrwurm.
The new song by Silbermond is a real ear worm.
Kummerspeck describes the pounds you put on from eating candy or junk food when you’re sad or heartbroken. Kummer means ”grief”, or “sadness”, and Speck is “bacon”. To get rid of Kummerspeck you have to fight your innerer Schweinehund, your “inner pig-dog” which keeps you lazy and unmotivated.
Nach meiner Trennung habe ich mir ganz viel Kummerspeck angefressen.
After my separation I put on a lot of grief bacon.
The German language has a cool word for every occasion. When in doubt, you can just make your own word by connecting a few nouns! Make sure you practice the pronunciation of the Zungenbrecher “tongue twister” Rechtschutzversicherungsgesellschaft before you go and impress your German and non-German friends alike.