Last week here on the Bespeaking blog, we started our exploration into German loan words in English. And while we won’t finish that this week (a teacher’s work is never done!), we’ll dive a bit deeper still.
Here are five more German loan words in English. Are there any that you find surprising?
Did you ever hear the term gestalt mentioned in your psychology (the science of the mind) class in college? If you did, you have the Germans to thank for it.
In German, Gestalt is a shape or a form, and this is part of what’s behind the theory (an idea to explain something) as well. Gestalt theory in psychology is that the human mind forms a group of something and perceives (sees, understands) the group as different than the parts that make it up. It can be a bit complicated, but so can German! We borrow this word because one in English simply doesn’t exist!
- The United States has a gestalt of the individual, which is not always reflective of how things actually are.
- Certain tech companies have a whole collection of items that work together and are considered to be a gestalt.
I love a good bit of glitter, glitz, and glamour (much to the dismay of one of my friends). But did you know that the word glitz is a German loan word, too?
The German word for glitter is Glitzer (remember that if you go to a party in Berlin), which just makes me feel fancier just talking about it.
- On New Year’s Eve, many people like to dress up in glitzy dresses and celebrate in style.
- I’ve always loved the 1920s. I think the fancy, glitzy parties would’ve been very fun to attend!
A good bit of kitsch can be fun sometimes. You know what I mean, right? Those kinds of tacky, mass-produced knick-knacks and bric-a-brac. Well, kitsch is definitely a thing in Germany; so much so, that they invented the word for it.
Kitschig is one of my favorite words in German because I think it sounds so sweet when it’s said out loud. Even though I trip over it every time I say it.
- She enjoys walking through antique stores, and always looks for a bit of kitsch for her apartment.
- His grandmother always had interesting kitsch in her house. From small statues to weird paintings, there was always something interesting to look at there.
Did you know that the word for our great-great-ancestors was a German loan word?
Well, it is! “Tal” in German is a valley, and the first Neanderthal fossils were found in the Neander Valley, which is about 7.5 miles (12 km) east of Düsseldorf. Looks like we’re all descended from Germans!
- Neanderthal can sometimes be used as an insult meaning dumb, but scientists think that Neanderthals were actually quite intelligent.
- His favorite exhibit at the museum showed how Neanderthals used to live.
In recent years, Schadenfreude has made its way into the English language. It’s a great descriptive word for when you take a certain kind of pleasure or happiness in someone else’s misfortune.
Let’s just hope you don’t have to use it that often!
- He didn’t like Steve very much, so every time something bad happened in Steve’s life, he felt a bit of schadenfreude.
- She always thought that taking pleasure in other people’s pain was very mean, so disliked the feeling of schadenfreude the most.
More than just the car sharing company, Uber, über is the German loan word for “over,” in addition to other prepositions. It has a bit of a different meaning in English, where we use it more as “over the top,” or “really” or “very, very” something, or when someone seems to be able to do it all (Martha Stewart, anyone?). For example, “Our puppy is über excited when we come home from work!”
- She would always get über excited when she was at a party, which made her very fun to be around.
- He was über happy that he was able to see his family at Christmas. He wasn’t expecting to this year!
Have you heard of any of these German loan words before? Have you used any of them? Share with us in the comments below!
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Check out these other popular blogs: Taboo words in English, 7 Synonyms for Being Drunk, 7 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 love to have a puppy, even an über excited one.