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?
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!
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
As promised, I will leave you with three words that I consider to be potentially quite useful in everyday life.
- You can use this just like you would use the exclamation holy cow!
Example Sentence: Heiliger Bimbam you’ve gotten so tall!
- 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?
- 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.