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10 words that English borrowed from German

I'm back with another installment in my series 10 words that English borrowed from… and the focus today is on German!

I don't speak a word in German, except for these words that are used in English. I'm sure my pronunciation is completely off, so it's a good thing that you're reading it and not listening to it!

I had no idea, before writing this post, that "noodle" derives from a German word! The original word has a slightly different spelling: nudel.
When I hear the word, I always think of a Chinese or Japanese dish, but I know that's probably just me :)

It can also be written with a double "t" as in German. The German word actually derives from the French word "capot" so, maybe, this should be listed under 10 words that English borrowed from French? If you don't know what it means, it is "no longer working", "broken".

The general spirit of an era as in "the new movie really captured the 'zeitgeist' of the 60s".

"Kinder" means children and "garten" means, well, "garden" (you didn't see that coming, right?)
Here's a video with a brief explanation of how the word found its way into English.

The name of one of the most famous American sandwiches derives from the name of the city of Hamburg in Germany.

If you love dogs, you'll know that these words refer to dog breeds. I had never realized until now that they are all words that come from German.

Poodle: it derives from "Pudel", which is short for "Pudelhund".
Rottweiler: there is a city in Germany called Rottweil.
Schauzer: it derives from "Schnauze", which means snout.

This word meaning "over, beyond" has been adopted as a prefix in English as in übermodel, überfamous, übercool, and so on. Let me ask you something: are you übertired of hearing people using the prefix "über"?

I love this word, but I don't know if I like it for how it sounds or for what it means. All I can say is that from time to time I'm taken by wanderlust and I wish I could succumb to this strong desire to travel.
This word is also an example of how similar English is to German in some occasions.

Raise your hand if you learned the meaning of this word by watching the 80s movie!
In German, "poltern" means "to knock" and "Geist" means "spirit" (as in #3 zeitgeist).

And I couldn't resist embedding the original movie trailer from 1982:

As we're approaching Halloween, I thought I'd finish the list with "Poltergeist" and "Doppelgänger" as I believe you can have students working with these two words to generate many scary stories.
"Doppelgänger" refers to a double. It can either be a ghostly one or not, but it usually is the cause of much fear and angst.

So, tell me, did you know all of these words? Are there any German words commonly used in English that I should have included?

Thanks for reading!

Read: 10 words that English borrowed from Japanese

Read: 10 words that English borrowed from Spanish

Read: 10 words that English borrowed from French


  1. English is a Germanic language. There are more similarities between the two languages. When I studied German and Spanish, I noticed that English structure is more similar to German. Where I am from in Pennsylvania, we had a "deutsch" dialect that you didn't find anywhere else in the United States. Until the past about 20 years, the people who lived in the valley had lived there for generations, and most of them were of German descent. We would do things like not inflect our questions (which I still have trouble doing.) I remember my German teacher, who was German, would constantly say "Ask it like a question." I neer could figure out what she wanted.....

    1. In Japanese, people don't inflect their questions either so I understand what you're saying. When I studied Japanese, I had the opposite problem: I would ask questions as questions :D

      And English and German are from the same family, but that didn't help me much in Germany…

      Thank you for stopping by!

  2. My favourite word that the English borrowed from German and even added an English ending is the word "abseiling" from the German verb "abseilen", "ab" meaning "down" in this context and "Seil" meaning "rope".