Funny German Words Translated into English

What do bicycles and noses have to do with each other?

Many German words are created through compounds. That is when two or more words are placed together to form a longer word. Compounds allow really long German words to be formed (If you haven’t read about long German words yet, you can find it here).

Compounds also allow objects to be described clearly (and sometimes quite exactly!) in German, meanwhile making non-German speakers giggle a bit.

In this article, we’re going to cover 10 funny German words and what they actually mean in English (with three bonus words). Get ready to be entertained and educated.

Note: Following each German word, you’ll get a hint. Try to guess what the word means before reading on. Let us know how many you guess correctly!

Let’s begin, shall we?

1. Nacktschnecke

Hint:

            nackt means naked

            Schnecke means snail

Oh no – there’s nothing more embarrassing than a snail finding out it’s forgotten to get dressed…

Can you guess what Nacktschnecke could be?

Well, nothing other than a slug!

2. Nasenfahrrad

Hint:

            Nase means nose

            Fahrrad means bicycle

What could a nose riding a bicycle mean? Or is it a bicycle riding a nose?

This one is pretty tough. In fact, you might even be able to fool some Germans. Nasenfahrrad is another word for glasses.

Can you picture it now?

3. Glühbirne

Hint:

            glühen means to glow

            Birne means pear

You just might be able to guess this one.

Did you guess that a Glühbirne is a lightbulb? Pretty clever imagery, isn’t it?

4. Faultier

Hint:

            faul means lazy

            Tier means animal

No, it’s not a nickname for your friend or sibling – although you could use it that way…

A Faultier is a sloth. It is the perfect description of the adorable animal if I do say so myself.

5. Feierabend

Hint:

            feiern means to party

            Abend means evening

Despite what you may be thinking, this word doesn’t mean an evening out with friends partying the night away.

Feierabend is the end of the workday.

I guess we know how the Germans feel about work, and even more, how they feel about after-work.

6. Schnapsidee

Hint:

            Schnaps means Schnaps (the alcohol)

            Idee means idea

Since we’re on the topic of partying – what do you think a Schnapsidee is?

A Schnapsidee is a crazy idea.

Some people get ideas when reading books while others get them from being in nature. Maybe the craziest (best?) ideas come when drinking Schnaps.

7. Warmduscher

Hint:

            warm means warm (of course)

            Duscher means someone who showers/showerer

Who doesn’t love a warm shower? Well, unless it’s 30 degrees outside.

Do you have any idea what or who a Warmduscher is?

A Warmduscher is wimp or a coward. So, be careful when you tell a German that they’re a warm showerer. They might take it personally.

8. Fremdschämen

Hint:

            fremd means foreign

            schämen means to be embarrassed/feel ashamed

First of all, I think this kind of word displays the beauty of the German language because this term describes a feeling that I’m going to assume you’ve had before.

Can you understand this feeling from the photos? Fremdschämen is when you feel embarrassed for someone else.

Now, how brilliant is it that there is a single word for exactly that feeling in German?

9. Jein

Hint:

            Ja means yes

            Nein means no

Speaking of brilliant words – For those of us who can’t make up our minds, this is our word.

Jein means exactly what it means: yes and no!

So, the next time you’re not really sure you want to go to that birthday party, you can just answer with jein.

10. Sprachgefühl

Hint:

            Sprache means language

            Gefühl means feeling

I bet you can guess what this word means using your Sprachgefühl. Still, it wouldn’t be appropriate to end this list any other way.

Sprachgefühl indeed means a feeling for languages. Unfortunately, English doesn’t a word for this concept, although Chinese does. Is there a word for this in your language?

Bonus Round

As promised, I will leave you with three words that I consider to be potentially quite useful in everyday life.

Heiliger Bimbam!

  • You can use this just like you would use the exclamation holy cow!

Example Sentence: Heiliger Bimbam you’ve gotten so tall!

Kuddelmuddel

  • This word is used to describe a mess or something being jumbled (jumbo mumbo).

Example Sentence: You’ve made quite a Kuddelmuddel here. What are we going to do now?

schnabulieren

  • What do you do when watching Netflix? Du schnabulierst – what is movie watching without snacks and munchies. Schnabulieren means to munch.

Netflix and Chill was so last year. It’s now Netflix and schnabulieren.

Example Sentence: What do you want to schnabulieren for our Star Wars marathon?

Heiliger Bimbam! We’re done already.

We hope you got a Schapsidee from this article, but try to avoid creating a Kuddelmuddel. However, given your Sprachgefühl, we’re certain no one will be fremdschämen you.

How did you score out of 10? Let us know in the comments below!

Are there unique or funny words in your language? We would love to hear your thoughts.



As an American native, Joy translates profficiently marketing content from German and Chinese into English. She is one of our in-house translators.

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1 thought on “Funny German Words Translated into English”

  1. In Romanian we have:

    1. A duce cu zăhărelul. Hint:
    a duce means to carry on
    cu zăhărelul means with sugar

    A duce cu zăhărelul actually means cheating.

    2. a se uita ca mâța în calendar . Hint:
    a se uita means to look
    ca mâța în calendar means like the cat in the calendar

    a se uita ca mâța în calendar actually means to know nothing in a field.

    3.a călca pe bec . Hint:
    a călca means to step on
    pe bec means the light bulb

    a călca pe bec actually means getting pregnant while unmarried

    4. a avea o piatră pe inimă. Hint:
    a avea o piatră means to have a stone
    pe inimă means on the heart

    a avea o piatră pe inimă actually means being heartless.

    There are also words that cannot be translated exactly into English:

    5. cuminte meaning good.

    6. When you are missing someone, you say: mi-e dor.

    Reply

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