Slide 1
Slide 2
Slide 1

All languages have developed their own unique vocabulary and idioms that cannot be translated literally into other languages. Each language has followed a particular pathway through history that makes it stand out from other languages.

No Real English Translation

Take German, for instance. There are hundreds of German words that have no translation. Part of the reason for that is that German has a large number of compound nouns that combine several words into one. Many of these compound nouns have a very specific meaning in Germany or one of the other German-speaking countries (Austria and Switzerland), but can only be translated into English by what might seem to be a rather clumsy phrase.

Here are Some German Words That Have No Real English Translation or German words that cannot be translated:

● The German earworm, the “ohrwurm.” The ohrwurm is definitely not what it might seem to be, a wriggly thing that has got caught in your ear. It refers to a catchy song or phrase that you just can’t seem to forget. It keeps recurring inside your head, or ear, anyway!

● Have you ever thought that someone has got your goat (try translating that into German!) so much that as soon as you see their face, you feel like slapping it? No? Well, maybe you are just too polite. Obviously slapping an annoying face comes more naturally to some people. German speakers have invented the word “Backpfeifengesicht” to mean a face that just deserves to be slapped!

● Just when you are doing something rather sneaky, you get caught in the act and have to come up with an excuse or explanation that sounds convincing. It’s the sort of thing kids do all the time when found on a stool in the kitchen with their hands in the cookie jar. In German, this is called “Erklärungsnot.”

● Considering the number of Germans on the move traveling anywhere else other than Germany, Fernweh must is a common feeling. Fernweh means the desire to get up and go somewhere else than the place you are right now. The closest expression in English is “itchy feet.”

Have you ever tried to something well that turns out to be a disaster? You decide to decorate your living room, for instance, but the paint drips too much and the wallpaper sags. You have experienced “Verschlimmbessern,” a single word meaning you have made something worse even though you tried to make it better.

There are many other German words that have no real translation into English except through an explanation or that cannot be translated.