10 beautiful and memorable German words

Learning German is a life exercise because it is an idiom that tests us on a daily basis. Even Mark Twain, the american writer known for his troubled relation with German, a language that he didn’t particularly love but found very stimulating, said: “on the basis of my philology studies I came to the conclusion that a person prone to languages will be able to learn English (excluding the grammar and pronunciation) in 30 hours, French in 30 days and German in 30 years. It is obvious that the German language needs to be remodelled and repaired. If it were to remain as it is, it should be shelved, with gentleness and reverence, amid the dead languages, because only the dead have enough time to learn it”.

As follows we would like to propose 10 beautiful German words that have a very special meaning and that are unique in their own way to the German culture. Each of these words not only will help you expand your vocabulary, but will deepen your knowledge of this new world.

1. Sehnsucht

Amid different definitions, which vary from yearning, desire and/or craving, Sehnsucht is a feeling of longing for something unknown and indefinite. Who studied or is studying literature and in particular German Romanticism will surely have encountered this word whose roots reside in high German, meaning “illness of the painful whim”.

2. Weltschmerz

Translated as the “pain of the world” or “world-weariness”, Weltschmerz is the feeling of deep insatisfaction and pain which derives from the realization that the physical world can’t fully comfort the desires of the mind. The term was firstly coined by German Romantic author Jean Paul.

3. Torschlusspanik

The literal meaning would be the panic deriving from a closed door, but in everyday language it describes the anxiety felt when being close to a deadline. In English in fact Torschulsspanik could be translated as „last minute panic“, or the awareness that time passes by inexorably and that one has to act quickly. The door closing conveys a missed decision or action that we then might regret.

4. Fernweh

How to translate this word? Dictionaries talk about „having itchy feet“ or a „wanderlust desire“, however the similar Heimach talks about homesickness and nostalgia. The root of the word in fact indicates a sense of nostalgia projected not towards our home, but towards a different place, whether known or not. Fernweh is about the longing feeling to pack a bag and depart to the discovery of a place to always bring in our heart.

5. Zweisamkeit

When we talk of solitude in English we think about a person that is alone, isolated from others. In German it’s not really the same thing. Robert Musil, in the novel “The confusions of Young Törless” when talking about life in a couple says “being in two is no more than doubled solitude”. Even spending time with our loved one, isolated from the world, mens living in solitude, however the two elements of Zweisamkeit don’t complain, because they feel perfectly complete.

6. Backpfeifengesicht

The meaning of this word is far more familiar than what you might think. Do you know those kind of people whose face is enough to make you want to slap them? Well, from today you could also call them with the German word, instead of “punching-bag face”.

7. Feierabend

If you have just arrived in Germany and recently found a job, you will often hear your colleagues say “ich mache Feierabend” and ask yourself why and how every night they are going out to party (without inviting you, by the way) whereas you are always heading home dead-tired. Feierabend actually doesn’t refer to any party, but indicates that moment of the day dedicated to unwinding and to anything that is not work related.

8. Reisefieber

To have Reisefieber is literally to have a “travel fever”, and indicates that state of compulsive anxiety that manifests itself before a trip, usually but not only tied to the preparation of the luggages and necessary documents. Not everybody suffers it, but each of us know that someone affected by Reisefieber, whom will come to the airport 3 hours prior to departure, after having weighed at least 10 times the luggage and repeatedly checked to have all the documents in their backpack.

9. Vorfreude

Awaiting for pleasure is itself pleasure” said Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and with Vorfreude the allusion is precisely to the anticipation of a pleasure yet to come: it is the enjoying of a dream and expectation that we have.

10. Waldeinsamkeit

We talk about the “solitude of the forest”, that feeling you get when you are walking in a forest on your own. Waldeinsamkeit is a very dear term to the tradition of ascetic monasticism and to the movement of German romance, which promoted the rapprochement of Man to Nature.


Is German stating to intrigue you? Then take a look at the German courses that Berlino Schule organizes! 

Cover photo © pixabay.com CC BY SA 2.0

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