We’re shaking it up a bit (doing something different) this week on the Bespeaking blog! People always ask me if German is a hard language to learn and my answer always goes a little something like this: “To an extent, yes.” The grammar can be quite difficult. But when it comes to English vocabulary words themselves, it’s relatively easy.

If we are talking about loan words, or words that have been borrowed from another language, English usually takes the cake as the “cool” language to borrow words from. But did you know that these four English vocabulary words are actually German loan words?


When you feel angsty – you know that strange mix between fear and depression – you can thank the Germans for having the proper word to describe what you’re feeling. (They’re good at that.)

Angst in German means “fear,” so a sentence I had to learn rather quickly was Ich habe Angst vor Spinne (I’m afraid of spiders).

For example:

  • He felt a lot of angst about having to go to the party. He doesn’t like being around people.
  • I hope you don’t feel too much angst about your new job. I’m sure you’ll do great!


James Joyce published my favorite Bildungsroman in 1916 with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which tells the intellectual and religious journey of Stephen Dedalus over four years.

A Bildungsroman is a book that primarily focuses on the intellectual or spiritual awakening of the main character. Some other famous examples of a Bildungsroman are Gone with the Wind, The Kite Runner, and The Catcher in the Rye.

For example:

  • It’s very common for teenagers to have to read a Bildungsroman in English class.
  • He hated reading books about people finding themselves, so he never read a Bildungsroman. He loved a good political book, though!


Do you have a favorite delicatessen that you go to? Because there’s nothing quite like a good American deli, is there?

But what if I told you that the word delicatessen is actually German? It’s true. The German company Dallmayr opened the first deli in Europe in 1700.

For example:

  • Do you want to get lunch together? There’s a good delicatessen down the street.
  • She doesn’t really like deli meats, so she tries to avoid them when she can.


Do you drink ersatz coffee when you’re out of the good stuff, or do you have an ersatz key lying around the house?

Well, you have the Germans to thank for that, too. Ersatz in German means a replacement or substitute, which is usually of inferior quality. Don’t you just love those really descriptive German words?

For example:

  • Since I live abroad, I can’t always find the ingredients I’m used to when I’m cooking. Sometimes I have to find an ersatz.
  • Sorry, I’m out of espresso. I only have instant coffee. I apologize that I only have this ersatz coffee!

Stay tuned next week for five more German loan words that can help with your English vocabulary! Stay tuned!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Taboo words in English7 Synonyms for Being Drunk7 American English Slang Words, or these Sports Idioms used in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and would never drink ersatz coffee.

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