55 Really Cool German Words You’ll Want To Start Using

German is often touted as one of the most challenging languages to master, and I can personally attest to this claim.

My journey with German was like a weird dance— taking two steps forward, one step back. The grammar, the loooong compound words, and those tongue-twisting pronunciations left me at times feeling utterly defeated.

Hours of practice would sometimes feel as though they evaporated in mere seconds when faced with a real conversation.

Yet, amidst these formidable challenges, I can’t deny the parts of the language that were undeniably beautiful, profound, and, yes, cool.

It’s these unique gems, woven intricately into the fabric of the language, that we’ll dive into today.

Emotions and Feelings

The following words weave into our lives in delightful ways, sometimes with a dash of humor and often with a profound understanding of the human experience. They help show us how the German language is so heartfelt and artfully crafted, which is one of the reasons I love it for.

Weltschmerz: World-weariness.

I found this word in a German novel and felt it perfectly described my feelings after a week of hard work, on Friday afternoon. It’s like the world’s fatigue in one elegant word.

Heimweh: A longing for home

On a cloudy day at my new home in Germany, I stumbled upon this term. And I suddenly wanted to pack my bag and see when is the first airplane back home.

Heimweh is one of those words that transcend language barriers, resonating with anyone who’s ever been far from home. It’s a sad reminder (it doesn’t always have to be sad, though) that there’s always going to be that part of us that longs for the familiar and comforting embrace of the past.

Fernweh: A longing for distant places.

On that same day, I stumbled upon this term, too. Suddenly, I felt the urge to pack my bags and explore a far-off land, guided by my newfound Fernweh.

Schadenfreude: Pleasure derived from someone else’s misfortune.

Watching a comedy show on TV, the comedian explained Schadenfreude, and the whole room laughed. “It’s not mean,” he said, “it’s just German humor!”

Backpfeifengesicht: A face that’s begging to be slapped.

A German friend told me this word as we were joking about a movie villain. “You know,” he said, “a true Backpfeifengesicht!”. My immediate thought was “How doesn’t every language has this word, too?”

Gemütlichkeit: Comfortable coziness.

Given how cold winters are in Germany, whoever you are, you’ll start to cherish the warm evenings you spend inside wrapped in a warm blanket, sipping hot cocoa. It’s not just cozy; it’s a way of life.

It definitely deserves a top spot as a cool word.

Torschlusspanik: Fear of opportunities passing by, gate-closing panic.

A coworker used this term as we were discussing career choices. “Don’t let Torschlusspanik guide you,” he said with a wise smile, “but do embrace every opportunity.” I didn’t really get it in the conversation, but as I googled it, I realized how deep his thought was.

Kummerspeck: Excess weight from emotional eating, grief bacon.

When a famous German actor was asked about his weight gain for a recent role in a talk show, he laughed and attributed it to “Kummerspeck.”

He explained that his character was going through a tough breakup in the film, so he indulged in his character’s love for comfort food.

Fremdscham: Secondhand embarrassment

At a local theater, I watched the audience cringe as an actor forgot his lines on stage. The audience’s collective Fremdscham was palpable, but the actor recovered gracefully, reminding everyone that to err is human.

Treppenwitz: The witty comeback you think of too late

While chatting with German colleagues at a café, one mentioned a recent Treppenwitz moment. “I had the perfect reply… but only hours after the debate ended!” she laughed. It’s a universal feeling, that witty retort that always comes just a tad too late.

This should definitely be a word in every language.

Unwort: A non-word.

During a panel discussion on language and society in Munich, the topic of Unwort came up. A linguist explained that while words evolve, some terms might be deemed inappropriate or even harmful over time, leading to their “non-word” status.

Nature and Scenery

Waldeinsamkeit: Forest solitude

In a popular German nature documentary, the term Waldeinsamkeit was used to describe the peaceful solitude one can find in the deep forests of Germany.

Viewers around the world were captivated by the serene scenes, and the word became a popular hashtag symbolizing a return to nature and a break from the bustling city life.

Geborgenheit: Feeling of warmth, security, and love

A celebrated German poet penned a collection of poems entitled “In the Arms of Geborgenheit.” This collection explores the human connection with nature, capturing the essence of being at home in the world.

It managed to resonate with readers globally, making the word synonymous with warmth and comfort in any setting.

Wanderlust: Desire to travel and explore the world

Wanderlust was the title of an international hit song by a famous German band. The lyrics describe a yearning to explore new horizons and see the beauty of the world.

And the rest is history… As the word Wanderlust now graces countless travel blogs, becoming sort of an international word inspiring others to embark on adventures.

Himmelschlüssel: Keys to Heaven, primroses

Himmelschlüssel is the name of a critically acclaimed German art installation that features stunning visual representations of primroses.

This art piece toured major cities worldwide, and viewers were invited to unlock their imaginations and see the world through the “keys to heaven.”

Naturverbundenheit: Connectedness to nature

Naturverbundenheit is often used in German literature to express a deep, intrinsic connection to the natural world.

Mutterseelenallein: Utterly alone

When you’re by yourself in the forest’s vastness, with its quiet whispers, it can make you feel both small and profoundly alone. It’s a term that captures the depth of solitude one can sometimes feel, even in familiar settings.

Streicheleinheit: A unit of caressing

It’s a beautiful term that reminds us to appreciate moments of affection and the gentle touches that connect us. Touch, at the end of the day, is a love language.

Quirky and Unique

Image of attractive happy friends sitting in cafe eating and drinking alcohol.

Ohrwurm: Earworm, a catchy tune that gets stuck in your head.

It’s a universal term anyone can relate to, especially when a song plays on repeat in one’s mind for days.

Sitzfleisch: Sitting flesh, the ability to sit through or tolerate something boring.

The term humorously captures the endurance required in tedious situations.

Fingerspitzengefühl: Finger-tip feeling, an intuitive flair or instinct.

This term delves deep into the world of intuition and the subtle art of reading situations.

Schattenparker: Shadow parker, a person who always looks for shade to park their car.

On a sunny day, we all want the spot under the tree (and hope there aren’t many birds there). But should there actually be a word for it? Well, in German there is 🙂 and it’s a whimsical term that teases those who are overly protective of their vehicles.

Kabelsalat: Cable salad, tangled cables.

I heard this the first time at a local store where a customer was asking for a solution to his Kabelsalat problem. This term humorously addresses the all-too-familiar issue of tangled wires and cords in our tech-filled lives.

Stammtisch: Regulars’ table, a table in a pub or restaurant which is reserved for the same guests at the same time every day or week.

Stamm-something generally means our favorite/regular something. Can also be said to the supermarket we do most of our shopping at (Stammsupermarkt). And as the customer who regularly goes to that supermarket, they call me there a Stammkunde! 😉

Dreikäsehoch: Three cheeses high, a term for a small child or someone of short stature.

I heard this in a park when a who seemed like his grandmother affectionately referred to the youngest of the group as a Dreikäsehoch. Now, I don’t know if that can only be said in a cute way or also be used to bully.

Kummerschlucker: Sorrow swallower, someone who hides their pain or sorrow.

This evocative term sheds light on the depths of human emotion and the masks we usually hide behind.

Wortverkettung: Word chaining, the linking of words in a playful or poetic manner.

A German poet, for example, was celebrated for his mastery of Wortverkettung, creating mesmerizing verses that flowed seamlessly. This term celebrates the beauty of language and the art of weaving words together.

Unexpected Two Words Mixes

Feierabend: Celebration evening, marking the end of a working day.

The term, which I haven’t found yet in any other language, beautifully describes the relief and joy of concluding a productive day and the anticipation of evening relaxation.

Dachshundewelt: Dachshund world, used to describe a narrow, limited view of the world.

We all know these people whose views can sometimes be as narrow as a dachshund’s field of vision. So that’s a useful vocabulary. If I’m being honest, I also use it to describe my past self in some areas.

Handschuh: Hand shoe, which simply means a glove.

The direct translation in a class full of foreigners is sure to bring smiles to the students, poking fun at the German’s literal yet charming approach to naming things.

Zugzwang: The obligation to move, especially in a game like chess where moving can put you at a disadvantage.

In a suspense-filled chess match, a commentator mentioned the term Zugzwang, highlighting the player’s dilemma. The term captures those moments when taking action might feel counterintuitive or even detrimental.

Flugzeug: Flying thing, which translates to an airplane.

This is another example of how German is both easy and hard. Who would have guessed you simply call a plane “a flying thing”?

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

Please bring this one to all of the languages. I mean, how genius! Those well-intentioned efforts that don’t always pan out as planned are universally relatable.

Sonntagsfahrer: Sunday driver, someone who drives slowly and uncertainly.

This term teases those who take their time, whether they’re enjoying the scenery or just driving cautiously. Chapeau to them, I say. What are we rushing for?

Mahlzeit: Mealtime, a common greeting around lunchtime or just after someone sneezes.

In an office in Dresden, as the clock neared noon, colleagues greeted each other with “Mahlzeit!” This term is a nod to the cultural importance of meals and the shared experience of eating together.

Rabenmutter: Raven mother, used to describe a not-so-good mother.

A character on a sitcom humorously referred to herself as a Rabenmutter for forgetting her child’s school event. While the term is light-hearted in some contexts, it also touches on the societal pressures and judgments mothers often face.

Aufschnitte: Slices, often referring to cold cuts or spreads for bread

From cheeses to cold cuts, this term, when noticed on the ground, helps showcase both the variety and simplicity of German morning meals, which is something I came to appreciate.

Modern Life and Technology

Datenkrake: Data octopus, referring to entities or services that collect vast amounts of user data.

This term underlines the expansive reach of data-hungry corporations, painting a vivid picture of their many “tentacles” accessing personal information.

Handy: Mobile phone.

The term, borrowed from English but given a unique twist in German, reflects the nation’s quick adoption and adaptation of tech terms.

Bleisure: A blend of “business” and “leisure”, describing a trend where business trips are combined with leisure activities.

The modern approach to work is seemingly here to stay, where boundaries between professional and personal life are increasingly blurred.

Netzfreund: Internet friend, referring to friendships formed online.

The global connections made possible by the internet are expanding further and further, and we definitely need names for them. Another word in English I also appreciate that’s a tad similar is Parasocial, describing the relationship between the celebrities and the consumers.

Smombie: Smartphone zombie, someone who walks around oblivious to their surroundings because they’re engrossed in their smartphone.

This was intended to be humourous, but to be honest, the number of “smombies” on the streets all the time is becoming sad and scary. I don’t know where this is leading; this modern phenomenon of being so engrossed in our devices that we become oblivious to the world around us.

Digitaler Nomade: Digital nomad, individuals who work remotely and travel the world.

At a co-working space in Berlin, workshops get held for “Digitaler Nomade” enthusiasts. The term captures the new-age work culture, where freedom, travel, and technology converge.

Bildschirmbräune: Screen tan, jokingly referring to the “tan” one gets from spending too much time in front of screens.

In an online tech meetup (the fact that the meetup was also online will be funny when you finish reading the example), a developer humorously mentioned his impressive “Bildschirmbräune” after a coding marathon. The term is a nod to the indoor lifestyle of many tech enthusiasts.

Funkloch: Radio hole, areas where there’s no mobile phone reception.

During a hiking trip in the Bavarian Alps, the guide pointed out a “Funkloch” where hikers shouldn’t expect any calls.

Textblindheit: Text blindness, the phenomenon of overlooking errors in a text even after multiple readings.

At a book launch in Leipzig, an author humorously mentioned her bouts of “Textblindheit” during the editing process. The term resonates with writers and editors, highlighting the challenges of spotting every tiny mistake in a manuscript.

Words of Wisdom and Reflection

Altersweisheit: Age wisdom, the wisdom that comes with age and experience.

This term holds deep respect for the insights and perspectives that come with years of life experiences. And my belief, is that the importance of this word comes from the vast percentage of elderlies in German. It gives you a bit of a framework on how you should interact with them.

Lebenskünstler: Life artist, someone who might not have much but makes the most of life with what they have

In a documentary about life in post-war Germany, the term Lebenskünstler was used to describe those who found joy and meaning amidst hardships. It embodies the spirit of resilience and the art of living fully, regardless of circumstances, which is very hard to do, especially in an age where we have everything at our fingertips.

Bildungslücke: Education gap, something that everyone should know but is somehow missed

The term is a light-hearted acknowledgment of those occasional lapses in our knowledge regardless of how well-educated we might be. Often times, for those who point out our Bildungslücke, think that it’s for everyone else as basic as the alphabet.

Lebensfreude: Joy of life, the exuberance and zest for living

I have read this term describing the atmosphere at a carnival. The word captures the essence of living life to the fullest, embracing every moment with joy and enthusiasm.

Tiefgang: Depth, often used to describe a person with profound thoughts or a conversation with deep meaning.

Depth, whether in thought, conversation, or character, is much appreciated these days. This term is basically a nod to the richness of such introspection.

Wanderjahre: Wandering years, traditionally a time when craftsmen would travel and learn new techniques before settling down.

In a historical museum in Dresden, exhibits showcased us the “Wanderjahre” of ancient craftsmen. The term delves into a tradition of exploration and learning, underscoring the value of broadening one’s horizons.

Vorfreude: The joy or happiness in anticipation of something good.

As Christmas approaches each year, children (and sometimes, us, grownups) are described as being filled with Vorfreude.

To me, this term is epic because it reminds us of the importance of enjoying the anticipation period. Christmas, in this example, is one day. But its Vorfreude lasts a month (two and a half for me (before, and two and a half after. (just kidding. (no I’m not kidding.))))

So it’s for our own happiness to learn to root ourselves in those moments, and not keep waiting internally for whatever the thing might be to “happen”.

Schnörkellos: Without frills, straightforward.

The elegance art of getting straight to the point is underrated. But, as with anything, allocating a word for it helps it maybe get some of it value?

Nabeel Kallas

Nabeel Kallas is the writer behind and founder of Calling Germany Home. He is a 26-year-old medical doctor, who decided to call Germany his and his career's new home. Nabeel's unique combination of medical expertise and keen cultural curiosity equips him with a distinctive perspective, enabling him to bring insights and experiences from Germany to the whole wide world.

Recent Posts