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10 German words that English should adopt

The German language has the ability to describe feelings or experiences in ways that simply isn't possible in English. Here are 10 linguistic gems we think should be adopted into English immediately.

10 German words that English should adopt

1. (das) Kopfkino

Finding your thoughts drifting to a romantic scenario with a colleague? Imagining what it would be like to win the lottery? 

This German word explains this situation perfectly. Literally meaning “head cinema” it describes the mental images we have when we let our thoughts run wild. 

It’s much more descriptive than the nearest English equivalent “daydream” as it expresses how vividly we can picture made-up scenarios in our minds. 

2. (der) Ohrwurm

This German noun is a prime candidate for direct adoption into the English language.

Meaning literally “ear worm” the word vividly describes the sometimes-unpleasant situation of having a tune stuck in your head – as if a musical worm has crawled in your ear.

3. (die) Erklärungsnot

When you have to explain something but don’t know how to, you can find yourself in an Erklärungsnot – clumsily translated as “explanation difficulty”.

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For example, when your child asks why Santa Claus looks so much like his uncle, or when your boss wants to know how far you are with the report you haven’t started yet.

This is not exactly a desirable state, but one that everyone experiences at some point, which is why we think it deserves a place in the English language. 


Wegen der Gasumlage kommt die Bundesregierung immer mehr in Erklärungsnot.

Because of the gas levy, the federal government is increasingly in need of explanation.

4. (der) Warmduscher

With tough energy-saving measures on the horizon this winter – this insult is a particularly topical one at the moment.

Meaning “warm showerer” this term perfectly describes someone who is afraid to leave their comfort zone in a tongue-in-cheek way. 

5. (die) Mitfarhrgelegenheit

If ever you wanted to demonstrate the beautiful simplicity of German compound nouns, use this example.

Literally translated to “opportunity to drive with” the word can mean carpooling or simply giving someone a lift. It’s particular advantage over its English equivalents is how it can be used to ask politely if you might be able to get a lift from someone. Instead of saying “Can I get a ride”, you can say “gibt es vielleicht eine Mitfahrgelegenheit?” 

You’ll charm your way to the backseat every time. 


Ich suche eine Mitfahrgelegenheit von Berlin nach Haldern für das Festival.

I’m looking to share a ride from Berlin to Haldern for the festival.

Vergleiche Züge, Busse und Mitfahrgelegenheit in einer Suche.
Compare trains, buses and carpooling in one search.

6. unsolidarisch

Most people will probably be able to guess what this adjective means just by looking at it but will have difficulty translating it into English exactly.

Unsolidarisch means not having solidarity with someone or with a cause. It was famously used by the former Chancellor Angela Merkel in neighbouring Germany when she addressed the nation at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, calling panic buying vollkommen unsolidarisch (completely lacking solidarity).

READ ALSO: Eight German words used in English – but with different meanings

There’s no direct equivalent of this adjective in English and the sentiment instead requires a few extra words to really get its meaning across, whereas in German you only need one.

7. (der) Hoffnungsträger

This word, which literally means “carrier of hope” is most commonly translated into English as “beacon of hope” or “hopeful”.  But neither of these quite equal the image of someone being the carrier of hope that the German word evokes. 


Heute ist die Windkraft der größte Hoffnungsträger für den nachhaltigen Umbau der Energieerzeugung.

Today, wind power has become the greatest beacon of hope for the conversion to sustainable energy generation.

8. Übergangsjacke

For that time of the year when it’s not quite hot and not quite cold outside, you need a jacket that can fit both temperatures – and a word to describe it.

In German, that word is Übergangsjacke meaning literally “transition jacket” or more accurately: “in-between-seasons jacket”.

9. (das) Fernweh

(Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP)

While homesickness (Heimweh in German) is a concept we’re all familiar with, in German, Fernweh describes the exact opposite.

Literally translated it means “distance-pain,” and, more figuratively: “A longing for distant places”. 

10. Verabredet 

Last but by no means least is one of the most quintessentially Austrian words. Verabredet sein means to have an agreed appointment with someone and is used widely in German for informal meetings with friends and for formal appointments.

It’s an extremely useful word as it concisely conveys the fact that there is a meeting with a strong sense of commitment: Ich bin mit Sonia verabredet suggests a more solid arrangement than how it might be translated into English (“I’m meeting Sonia”) and with it, a suggestion that the appointment can’t easily be cancelled without a good explanation. 

Wir waren doch verabredet!
But we had an appointment!

Du bist zehn Minuten später, als verabredet.
You’re 10 minutes later than agreed.

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For members


7 ways to talk about money in German

With many of us having to tighten our belts at the moment, here are some uniquely ways to talk about the hot topic of money in German.

7 ways to talk about money in German

1. Geld wie Heu haben

If you’re lucky enough to be extremely wealthy, you may be able to say “Ich habe Geld wie Heu”, though it won’t make you very popular.

The English translation of this widely used phrase is “to have money like hay” –  in other words, to have so much money that it’s barely countable.

As most people don’t have huge hay reserves these days, the phrase likely dates back to the Middle Ages, when the gap between rich and poor, namely between the rural population and the nobility, was particularly stark.


Seine Eltern haben Geld wie Heu!

His parents have got money to burn!

2. Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist den Talers nicht wert

This thrifty phrase translates as “he who does not honour the penny is not worth the taler” – taler being an old silver coin. It’s similar in meaning to the phrase “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” in that it reminds us to appreciate even the small things, and that many small coins add up to a large sum.

(Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP)

The origin of this phrase goes all the way back to the time of Martin Luther in the 15th century, who is said to have written the older version of the phrase Wer den Pfennig nicht achtet, der wird keines Guldens Herr (“He who does not respect the penny will not be the master of a Gulden”) above his kitchen stove in chalk.

3. Geld zum Fenster hinaus werfen

This expression is about wastefulness, and means “throwing money out of the window”.

The phrase is said to have originated in the Middle Ages in Regensburg, where the ruler would stand at the town hall window and throw money to his subjects.

But, since it was their tax money he was throwing, the citizens coined the phrase: “Throwing our money out the window” to describe wastefulness.


Du hast schon immer das Geld zum Fenster hinausgeworfen.

You have always thrown the money out the window.

Statt das Geld zum Fenster hinauszuwerfen, sollte er besser mal sparen.

Instead of throwing money down the drain, he’d be better off saving it.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get free vouchers to learn German in Vienna

4. Geld auf die hohe Kante legen

This phrase goes back to a time when banks were seen as untrustworthy and people preferred to save their money in a hidden place in their homes.

(Photo by Andre Taissin on Unsplash)

The phrase meaning, “to place money on the high ledge” is still widely used today, as a way of saying “put a bit of money aside” and to save.


Die Deutschen legen immer einen Teil ihrer Einkommen auf die hohe Kante.

Austrians always put some of their income on the side.

5. Zeit ist Geld

Ok, so this one doesn’t originate from Austria or Germany, but it’s certainly widely-used in the German language.

The expression comes from Benjamin Franklin, the American scientist and politician who wrote it in his “Advice to Young Merchants” in 1748.

READ ALSO: TEST: Is your German good enough for Austrian citizenship?

It since found its way into the German language, which is hardly surprising. And the Germanic famous punctuality fits well with the idea that wasted time is costly.


In dieser Situation gilt: Zeit ist Geld.

In a situation like this, time is money.

6. das Geld aus der Tasche ziehen

This unpleasant phrase means “to pull something out of someone’s pocket” and is mostly used to refer to scamming, rather than theft.

It usually means to induce someone, in a cunning or fraudulent way, to spend money, or to take financial advantage of someone.


Wolltest du mir das Geld aus der Tasche ziehen?

Were you trying to con me out of my money?

Trickbetrüger zeigen sich immer kreativer, wenn es darum geht, ihren Opfern Geld aus der Tasche zu ziehen.

Con artists are becoming increasingly creative when it comes to taking money out of their victims’ pockets.

7. Blank sein

Blank sein – meaning to “be broke”, is a situation most of us have probably found ourselves at one point or another.

The term blank originally meant “bright” or “shiny”, but later, the word came to mean “free of” or “stripped of”, eventually leading to this expression, meaning to be “free of money”.


Ich würde dir eins abkaufen, aber ich bin blank.

I would buy one from you, but I’m broke.

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