As German has developed into its own unique language, it’s now far more difficult to guess what German words mean in English. This is because the German language has built up a fascination for devising compound words that are hard to translate easily and there is no literal English translation.
Of course, any serious German language learner won’t be put off by the uniqueness of the German language and they are only too happy when they find that some German words in their original form are found in the English language and no one would even guess they come from German. Two of these are kindergarten and wanderlust. Both are compound words which are difficult to translate literally into English but English speakers just know what they mean.
Migration has without a doubt had an influence on the German language, particularly with colloquial language. Spoken language appears today to be far less complicated and differences between written and colloquial German are widening. The German vocabulary is also growing and now has some 5.3 million words with more being added all the time.
Language is good at adapting to everyday reality. Some of these words are literally borrowed from another language and aren’t altered at all but people just get to know what they mean. For example, in Berlin, the commonest words seen everywhere are “Fastfood,” “Coffee to Go” and “Women’s Wear.” These have no German origin whatsoever and are in fact English words through and through.
Below are some Quite Funny German Compound Words that can be Quite Hilarious when Translated Literally into English:
Handschuhe is a compound word meaning ‘glove,’ but if translated literally into English means ‘hand shoe’. During long German winters, why have a special word for the glove? It’s necessary to cover one’s hands in the same way feet are covered and that’s by putting on shoes!
Klobrille is a funny compound German word which when translated into English and means ‘toilet glasses,’ but it’s actually a toilet seat!
Stinktier means ‘stink animal’ when translated literally but a polite way of saying this is to use the word ‘skunk,’ which is an animal known to smell unpleasant.
German becomes not only fun but quite interesting when it comes to the word ‘slug’ as the word in German is Nacktschnecke, which means a ‘naked snail.’ A slug is a snail that doesn’t possess a shell.
Vielfraß means quite literally ‘eat-a-lot’ but it’s a word used for a wolverine which it appears eats all day long without a break.
Eselsbrücke means ‘donkey’s bridge,’ but when translated correctly into English it means a mnemonic device used by people to help them remember something.
Donnerbalken is quite an amusing word in German as it means literally ‘thunder beam,’ but for Germans, it’s a military lavatory even though today it is an informal word for a lavatory. In English slang, a ‘thunder beam’ means ‘thunderbox,’ so the word beam is referring to the seat-like bar and the “thunder” is a noise that is sometimes made in a lavatory.
Durchfall when translated means through flow and for the Germans this is the word for ‘diarrhoea’ which originates from Greek origin meaning ‘through-flow’ as in German.
Wildpinkler means literally wild pee-er which is actually someone who often prefers not to use a toilet. So a Wildpinkler is someone who if possible has a preference for relieving him /her self outside and not using a toilet. Recently there was a news report in German which stated that Wildpinklers were adding to the erosion of Ulm Minster church’s aging walls. This building has the tallest spire in the world which has made it quite famous.
The great thing about the German language is its uniqueness, meaning learning the language is experiencing a unique language.