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Word Geek: German words we have come to love

By Katie Reed | October 19, 2022 | Blog Languages Word Geek

English may be the most widely spoken global language, but it has always embraced other cultures which in turn has enriched the language.

Many words English has adopted from German relate to concepts or ideas rather than tangible items, though we do have some of those too, like Kindergarten and Delicatessen. In this blog, we’d like to highlight some of our favourite German words, in use in everyday English.


The spirit of the time, first used by Hegel in Phenomenology of the Spirit in 1807. It is now commonly used to describe the intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era.


Directly translated as double walker or double goer, it usually refers to someone who seems to be your exact double; who walks, talks, dresses and acts just the same as you.


Taken from the German words Schaden meaning damage and Freude meaning joy, this simply means enjoying the misfortune of others.

First used in mid-1700s Germany, it became part of popular culture following an episode of The Simpsons in October 1981. Lisa explains what schadenfreude is to Homer, who is gloating at his neighbour’s failure. Homer replies “those Germans have a word for everything.”

And, here are a few more German words we think would be interesting additions to the English language.



Literally translated this means world pain or feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. Whether it’s watching a documentary about starving children or reading the news and feeling like it it’s just all bad, it’s something that’s all too common at the present time.


On a more positive note Gemütlichkeit, that warm fuzzy feeling epitomised by relaxing on the sofa with a warm blanket, holding a hot chocolate, surrounded by good company; metaphorically warming your heart. 


Another word for yes, doch is used in response to a negative question or statement, e.g. do you not want to go to the cinema? Doch is the equivalent of “yes, I do”. It’s a short and satisfying way of expressing what would take 3 words or maybe more in English!


And finally, language feeling, something we love at The Language Factory. Quite simply a knack for learning languages or intuitive feel for the correct word to use in whatever language you’re speaking.

What German words would you like to add to everyday English language?


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