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Funny German Words

Despite stereotypes of clipped speech and clinical precision, German is an expressive, clever, and often very amusing language. The language is dotted with funny phrases, literal translations and a quirky, often avant-garde outlook on life.

If you're not sure whether you want to learn the language, or are starting out from scratch, have a look at our Lean German and German Alphabet pages for some excellent reasons to learn German and a quick lesson on German grammar. In the meantime, here are some funny German words to practice.

10 weird German words

Like any language, German has its own strange and peculiar words and phrases. Here are ten weird German words and their meanings:

Ohrwurm (ear worm)

This German word refers to having the melody and/or lyrics of a song stuck in your head for an extended period. Anybody who has ever experienced this can attest to just how annoying the Ohrwurm can be.

Weichei (soft egg)

In German, a "soft egg", means someone who is a coward or weak-minded – they’ll just go with the crowd or what is easy instead of standing up for what they think is right, but with the right person and intent, it can have a lighter, more humorous meaning.

Backpfeifengesicht (Slap face)

Backpfeifengesicht describes someone who you feel needs a slap in the face. You may want to be careful if and when you use this one: it's best used among good friends unless you’re wanting to cause tension!

Erklärungsnot (Explanation poverty)

Erklärungsnot describes the state you might find yourself in when no excuse will get you out of the trouble you're in. No sufficient explanation for not doing your homework or lying to your wife? That’s Erklärungsnot.

Purzelbaum (Tumble tree)

Every child in Germany knows all about this one. It may sound like it's part of the plant kingdom, but, a Purzelbaum describes a somersault on the ground, often landing in the dirt and usually resulting in dirty knees.

Zungenbrecher (Tongue breaker)

Zungenbrecher is much less gruesome than it sounds. It means "tongue twister" or a phrase that’s very hard to pronounce due to its sequence of similar sounding letters. A very well-known one is: Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut und Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid. Can you say it ten times, quickly?

Schattenparker (Shadow parker)

This is actually an insult for men who are seen to be engaging in unmanly behavior; for example looking for shaded parking, according to the literal translation. Similar in meaning, a Warmduscher is someone who showers with warm water.

Kuddelmuddel (muddled mess)

Kuddelmuddel describes mess, chaos, or hodgepodge arrangements or scenes. Clever alternatives which mean the same include Tohuwabohu, Wirrwarr, Mischmasch, and Kladderadatsch

Luftschloss (air castle)

This refers to an impossible or unrealistic dream -- like building a castle in the air -- and is used to describe that which, sadly, just cannot be achieved.

Kopfkino (head cinema)

The word Kopfkino refers to mentally playing out an entire scene in your mind, as if in a movie theatre.

Cultural context

For cultural context, this word is often used to refer to women who feel the need to settle down with the right partner, as the ‘biological clock’ is running out, although this is becoming an ever-more outdated concept in progressive Germany.

10 Funny German Words with literal translations

Here is a list of funny German words that have all-too amusing literal translations and their meaning:

Speisekarte (Dish card)

This is the German word for a menu and is a simple, widely used German word that is easy to learn and repeat as you travel through Germany, enjoying some of the country's gastronomic delights.

Eselsbrücke (Donkey's bridge)

The word Eselsbrücke has nothing to do with donkeys and everything to do with mnemonics. A mnemonic helps you to remember information; for example, "Now We Shall Eat" may help you remember the directions North, West, South and East on a compass. Kummerspeck (Grief Bacon)

Kummerspeck (Gaining weight from comfort eating)

This one refers to the weight one might gain after a bad relationship break up. This may be one of the strangest literal German/English translations there is.

Innerer Schweinehund (Inner pig dog)

If you never sort out your cupboards or are always too lazy to go to the gym, it's the fault of your innerer Schweinehund or inner pig-dog. This is your disorganized inner voice (who is, in your defense, fully accountable).

Fremdschämen (Exterior shame)

Cringing in phantom pain or shame when others make a fool of themselves is known as Fremdschämen to Germans. Painful though it might be, you can't be accused of lacking empathy.

Torschlusspanik (Closing-gate panic)

Torschlusspanik is the feeling of panic as time runs out.

Treppenwitz (Staircase joke)

If the best line, joke, or comeback always occurs to you after speaking to someone who needed to hear it, that’s Treppenwitz. It’s usually a snappy comeback that comes to your mind on the way out of the door, after you've finished speaking.

Lebensmüde (Life tired)

This describes the feeling of being utterly done with it all: beaten down and tired of everything or weary and gloomy about the whole world.

Dreikäsehoch (Three cheeses high)

This is a (hopefully humorous) way to describe a person who is lacking in height, implying they’re the approximate height of three wheels of cheese placed on top of each other. Often (and, again, hopefully), this term is reserved for small children.

Sitzfleisch (Sit or seat meat)

If you possess ample seat meat, you are able to sit through hard or boring meetings, parties or speeches - basically because you carry your own cushion or "seat meat".

Words in German

You may find that some words which only exist in German perfectly describe situations or moods that cannot be expressed so well in your mother tongue… so why not introduce your non-German-speaking friends and family to these phrases?

5 German words that only exist in German

Some words are unique to the German language. See these and exemplifying the original thinking and culture of the German nation:

1. Schnapsidee

This is a quirky German word that means, "schnaps idea" or "booze idea". It's often used to indicate an idea so incredibly stupid, unwise, or pointless that it's originator must be slightly (or very) inebriated. It's generally used to refer to any idea that seems foolish, stupid or improbable.

2. Weltschmerz

Weltschmerz or "world pain" is used to sum up a feeling of melancholy due to unknown reasons. In short, sadness even when everything is going well.

3.Verschlimmbesserung

If you tried to comfort yourself with ice-cream and it fell on the ground, it can only be described as Verschlimmbesserung. While this German word doesn't have a simple literal translation, it describes an attempt at improving a bad or hopeless situation, but this attempt only makes things worse.

4. Fernweh

Fernweh describes the feeling of wanting to be somewhere else. Fernweh is not quite homesickness, but more a longing for a distant place, the best remedy being, probably, a vacation.

5. Zeitgeist

Simply put, Zeitgeist, which is now often used in English too, refers to the mood of contemporary culture and society or an understanding of the "spirit of the times".

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