Favourite German words, according to German-lovers, learners and locals

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A little while ago, I turned to the internet hive mind, curious about their favourite German words. German, you see, is something of a ‘Marmite’ language: there are those who love its reliance on compound nouns, its 42-letter describer for the captain of a Danube steamship (that’s Donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän, for the curious) and its grammatical logic. Others, however, bemoan its ‘harsh’ sound, its seemingly infinite adjectival endings and its idiosyncratic word order rules, writing it off as too difficult or not ‘romantic’ enough compared to Italian and French.

Of course, as a German to English translator and editor, I’ve dedicated much of my life to this divisive tongue. To me, it’s not ‘harsh’ – it’s melodic, especially the soft and lilting accent of the Oberpfalz, where I spent a year teaching English. It’s not ‘idiosyncratic’ – it follows distinct and rational patterns, once you know how to find them. Its endlessly buildable vocabulary is like a self-replicating box of Lego: just keep piling noun on top of noun on top of noun. It’ll still make sense!

One of my favourite German words is Kummerspeck. ‘Kummer’ means ‘grief’ or ‘sorrow’, while ‘Speck’ is the German answer to bacon. So, while you might explain Kummerspeck as the weight gained due to emotional overeating, the literal translation is ‘grief bacon’!

Over on the Twittersphere, here’s what some of my German-loving comrades had to say…


So, do you have a favourite German word? Do you like or loathe the Germanic language?


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