The Germans Have A Word For It

25 Catchy Compound Nouns.

English is a beautiful language. It is incredibly creative and allows you to use awesome words like mushroomed or flabbergasted. It’s just

…sometimes you’re lost in translation. Hardly ever is there an equivalent for what you really mean to say. Sometimes in your own language there is just the perfect word to describe something. Judge for yourself; thanks to the beauty of the compound noun, the German language has endless possibilities to express all kinds of emotions and issues (and there are a lot of issues and emotions Germans feel the need to express.) Here are some of my favorites:

Beziehungsfett

noun (n.): relationship fat

refers to the pounds people put on in a happy relationship, related to Beziehungshintern, noun (m.): relationship bum
They’ve put on quite a bit of relationship fat since they moved to the suburbs.

Blinkerwasser

noun (n.): indicator water

Driving instructor’ favorite, students are told to look for Blinkerwasser under the hood, also used to refer to people’s inability to indicate when turning
He must be out of Blinkerwasser.

Feirerabendbier

noun (n.): after work beer

Feierabend, noun (m.): Celebration evening, is a beautiful word by itself, let’s make it sweeter
It’s beer o’clock, mate. I’m gonna go out for a Feierabendbier.

Fernweh

noun (n.): distance pain

Describes the longing to be somewhere far away or travel, opposite of Heimweh, noun (n.): homesickness
Heimweh is looking back, Fernweh is looking forward.

Fremdschämen

noun (n.): exterior embarrassment

the ability to feel ashamed for other people’s actions or misfortunes, can be used as a verb, in which case it is reflexive (ich schäme mich fremd) but let’s not go there
I felt dizzy watching Toddlers and Tiaras.

Gesichtsfünf

noun (f.): face five

face that would get a 5 in a 1-5 school rating, failed
He was quite a Gesichtsfünf.

Gretchenfrage

noun (f.): Gretchen question

relating to Goethes Faust, it is asked to find out about someone’s faith or get right to the core of an issue, often with an unpleasant answer
Do you tell your kids there’s bunny heaven?

Großraumdisko

noun (f.): big room disco

refers to night clubs with different areas to accompany diverse styles of music, often in the country, attended by school kids, country folk and people who like top 100 hits, over 30 parties or beer, can be used as an adjective
She looks pretty großraumdisko with that tan.

Halbwissen

noun (n.): half knowledge

not knowing or remembering all facts
His speech was nothing but argument salad and dangerous half knowledge.

Herrenfrühstück

noun (n.): Gents breakfast

which consists of a beer and a Korn (Schnapps), also related Sektfrühstück, noun (n.): Champagne breakfast and Frühschoppen, noun. (m.): pre-lunch drinks. Germans may be famous for drinking but they also really cherish breakfast.
Let’s catch up for Herrenfrühstück.

Kaffeeklatsch

noun (m.): coffee gossip

to get together for a cup of coffee and a chat
Every Wednesday, the ladies get together over coffee and cake to discuss recent happenings in their circle of friends and the expected impacts on absentees.

Katzenjammer

noun (m.): cat wailing

pretty bad hangover (Kater) or feeling blue
The morning after nothing but Katzenjammer.

Kopfkino

noun (n.): head cinema

the movie in your head that starts rolling over the feeling something is going to go wrong, occasionally used for positive films in your head
While buying the pregnancy test her Kopfkino was rolling.

Kummerspeck

noun (m.): grief bacon

refers to pounds people gain during difficult times, e.g. after a relationship ends
Warning: Kummerspeck may lead to frustration eating.

Meckerkultur

noun (f.): complaining culture

refers to the habit of constant meckern (complaining), which is said to take place in certain parts of Europe
I cannot possibly handle this Meckerkultur any longer and that’s why I really need to complain about this to you.

You can take the German out of Germany but you cannot take Germany out of the German.

Ohrwurm

noun (m.): ear worm

song that is stuck in your head
You can get rid of your Ohrwurm by passing it on to another person.

Schadenfreude

noun (f.): malicious joy

the ability to experience happiness over somebodies misfortunes.
I’ll always remember that woman walking into the glass door in Amsterdam.

Schnappsidee

noun (f.): schnapps idea

crackpot idea, not necessarily developed after too many drinks
I’ll quit my job and join the circus.

Schweinehund

noun (m.): pig dog

describes the inner battle we have to win before we can get ourselves to do something
I couldn’t overcome my Schweinehund; it took me two months before I could make myself clean that window. (I feel better now, tomorrow I might …)

Sitzfleisch

noun (n.): sitting meat

patience to sit through slow times

His Sitzfleisch was gold during chess.

Torschlusspanick

noun (f.): gate closing fear

refers to the feeling slowly creeping up when people over a certain age are still not married, had children or reached other milestones, often in combination with drastic actions
Tick tack, said the biological clock and he went out to buy a red sport’s car.

Warmduscher

noun (m.): person who takes warm showers

used as a serious insult against someone considered weak and unmanly (a real man takes a hot/cold shower)

also popular abasements (and there are hundreds of them!)
Birkenstockträger (person who wears Birkenstock shoes), Gebrauchsanweisungsleser (person who reads the instructions), Handy-am-Gürtel-Träger (person who wears cellphone on his belt), Pina-Colada-Trinker (man who drinks Pina Colada), Schattenparker (shadow parker), Sitzpinkler, (man who urinates sitting down), Socken-in-Sandalen-Träger (person who wears socks and sandals), Turnbeutelvergesser (person who used to forget his gym bag for school), Weichei (soft egg)

Weltschmerz

noun (m.): world pain

term to describe the pain and sadness experienced thinking about the state of the world
I had Weltschmerz watching the news.

Wochenteilungstag

noun (m.): week dividing day

hump day

Because the weekend starts on Wednesday.

Zeitgeist

noun (m.): time spirit/mind

coined by Hegel, refers to certain spirit of a certain time
The essence of our time is hipster.

What’s your favorite German word?

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17 thoughts on “The Germans Have A Word For It

  1. This is a great post! I love all the insults. Some people are good at that sort of insult in whichever language they happen to speak, but it’s always handy to have some stock phrases up your sleeve. Kummerspeck seems to be a chicken and (bacon and) egg situation: does frustration eating lead to Kummerspeck, or is it the other way round?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for exploring. I am just getting started here and am really keen for feedback. Are you familiar with Quatsch mit Soße? Maybe I’ll get some phrases together…

      Like

  2. By the way, do you think it’s good idea having people rate your posts? I always want a conversation, and I’m concerned that rather than comments, people might just rate you, which is fine if that’s what you want. I’m just curious.

    Like

  3. Isn’t great to be able to speak multi-languages? You’re so correct about certain languages that are so rich in symbolism. I’ve put on a bit of Beziehungsfett just reading your post 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. toller Beitrag!!! 🙂

    aber gerade zur “Gesichtsfünf” gibts doch noch unendlich viele Synonyme “Gesichtsopfer”… oder auch das gegenteilige
    Sie ist eine “Zehn” oder eine “Zehnerfrau”, wahlweise mit “21” (als Blackjackvariante)…

    nächste mal dann in Englisch 😉

    Like

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