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German Words Used in English

"Gemuetlich" is one of those German to English cross over words which has become a part of the English language, and sums up a mixture of feelings just perfectly: friendly, cozy, comfortable, warm, pleasant.

Its origins are in the Old High German "muot", mind, spirit, joy, but centuries later it is recognized and used world wide where English is spoken, and frequently chosen to describe an atmosphere, mood or impression which otherwise would take several words to convey, and even then not as effectively.

It can, and is, applied to anything from an trip with family or friends to the dιcor of a home.

Many Germans worry about the recent invasion of English words settling into their own language, and producing the hybrid Denglisch, but it is a movement which has been taking place in the opposite direction for generations. "German to English loan words" began with the mass immigration into countries where the English language had already taken root.

There are many examples of these loan words in different languages, but here are a few which began life in German and have since become a part of the English language. So their "loan" became permanent, although some might have changed their meaning, their spelling, or have simply have been Anglicized, made to look and sound more English, along the way.

And we begin with:

Angst from die Angst "fear" - In English, a neurotic feeling of anxiety and depression.

Blitz from Blitzkrieg, "lightning war" - Used to describe the bombing of the UK during WWII, a team defensive play in American and Canadian football, and also to do something physical well. Such as "blitzing" a room, cleaning it thoroughly.

Cobalt a metal, from "kobold ore, goblin ore" - Because in medieval times miners blamed goblins for the danger and problems which this metal brought about.

Delicatessen from Delikatessen "fine food, delicacies" - A shop to buy cold cuts, cheeses, gourmet snacks and specialties.

Diesel from Dieselmotor - The engine named after its German inventor, Rudolf Diesel 1858-1913.

Ersatz a replacement from the verb "ersetzen" to replace - In English often implying an artificial, inferior substitute or imitation. Used as an adjective in English, in German as a stand alone noun or a part of compound nouns such as "Ersatzeltern", substitute parents.

Fahrenheit from D. G. Fahrenheit - Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit 1686-1736, born in Poland to a German Hanse merchant family, invented the alcohol thermometer in 1709 and the Fahrenheit temperature scale was named for him.

Geiger counter from Geigerzaehler – Named after the co-inventor of the instrument for measuring radioactivity, Hans Geiger 1882-1945.

Hamburger, Ground beef from Hamburg - Believed to have been invented as a snack in Hamburg by Otto Kuase, it was chopped beef and a fried egg placed between two pieces of bread. The egg was later left out.

Kaput from Kaputt – An often used phrase to describe something that has stopped working, is broken or tired.

Kindergarten from Kindergarten – a Pre-school named a "children's garden" by its originator Friederich Froebel, with the idea that children were to be cared for and nourished like plants in a garden.

Kitsch or kitschy from Kitsch or kitschig - Something vulgar, in bad taste, can be anything from a book, TV program, interior decoration of any form of art cheap, sentimental, gaudy items of popular culture.

Liverwurst, leberwurst from Leberwurst - liver sausage - Sausage filled with ground liver.

Mensch from Mensch – A person, human being, who is likeable, admirable, has integrity and honor.

Neanderthal from Neanderthal, in German Neander Valley - The remains of ancient man were found in this valley near Dusseldorf, which had been a favorite place for Joachim Neander 1650-1680, a writer of famous hymns and popular pastor in the area. The valley had been renamed in his memory and the human remains named for the valley where they were found.

Ostpolitik from Ostpolitik – Eastern Policy, politics originally involving Eastern Europe and now further east.

Poltergeist from poltern and Geist - a ghost which produces noises - Poltern is the German for "to make noise" and Geist is "ghost".

Quartz from Quarz - quartz is a common mineral, silicon dioxide, and the name is believed to originate from Middle German querch "dwarf" - Dwarves were considered responsible for minerals with a comparatively low value.

Realpolitik from Realpolitik, "politics of reality" - Foreign politics which have been based on practical concerns rather than ideology or ethics.

Rucksack from rucksack – In German Ruck is back, Sack is bag: Back bag = Back pack.

Schadenfreude from Schadenfreude – Literally "harm joy", joy from pain. Taking pleasure at the misfortune of others.

Seltzer is a type of soda. A trademark which has been derived from a German town called "Selters" which is famed for its natural springs.

Dollar is an Anglicized form of Thaler - The name given to coins first minted in 1520 from locally mined silver in the central European town of Joachimsthal, Joachim's Valley, in Bohemia. At the time a Germanic region of the Holy Roman Empire. The coin was originally called a Joachimsthaler it was shortened to "Taler" and "Thaler".

Wanderlust from Wanderlust – Wandern to hike, Lust desire, the yearning to travel.

Wunderbar from Wunderbar – Wunder is to wonder, marvel, Bar is able. Able to wonder or marvel Wonderful, Marvelous.

Volkswagen VW – Volks means folk, people, Wagen is "that which moves", a vehicle: Volkswagen - People's Car.

Yammer from jammern - to whine, complain, lament, moan.

Zeitgeist from Zeitgeist – Zeit is time, age, era, Geist is ghost, spirit. Spirit of the times or age.

English and German belong to the same language group even though they don't look or sound much like each other, but these Germanisms, sometimes known as "loan words", which is another phrase with German origins "Lehnwort" from "Lehnuebersetzung" literally "loan translation", are just some of those which have been adopted into the English language and added to life and culture far beyond Germany's borders.


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