Do German Imports Make English Rich?

Here we’re collecting some of the German words now used in English. Languages often import words when they need or want an exact word which they lack, or they just like a foreign word better. 


Double Woman's Head

Does everyone know what Doppelgänger means? The article under the heading “True Stories of Doppelgangers” (note the lack of ä umlaut) was spotted by HE Translations Marketing Consultant Chris Mawer.  The umlaut means gänger is properly pronounced  to sound like the E in the word “length.”

A  Doppelgänger  may be an unseen shadow or an actual entity, an example of being in two places at once, which is termed Bilocation.  The word is sometimes jokingly used to refer to a person so similar in appearance they could be taken as a copy of another, and in fiction this can be a dark and threatening figure.

German Meaning: A Double. Doppel means double and Gänger means one who walks.

Handheld Glockenspiel

Came across “Glockenspiel” in an interesting BBC interview with Cathal Smyth (formerly Chas Smash of Madness), in which he refers to “Life Part 3” and a previous “Civic Duty” period. I dare say the Glockenspiel he referred to was the ‘other type’, but in any case, I’m not sure how exactly the term entered the English language – any offers? Anyway, thanks to Chris for drawing my attention to the interview.

German Meaning: Bell play, playing of bells. Glocke means bell and Spiel means play.

country road

Quote from the Deveron Arts “The Town Is The Venue” web page:
“Huntly, our town, is based in the North East of Scotland. Its people, history and environment provide us with the context for our work. Our town is about 4,500 people-strong and serves a rural hinterland with a similar amount of people”.
Usually refers to remote areas of a place, well away from the coast or the main rivers and probably also major towns.

German Meaning: Land behind or beyond, back-country. Hinter means behind, Land means country.

Example: "The BBC series Hinterland places a London detective in isolated rural Wales."
kindergarten drawing

An introductory school for pre-literate children before they start formal school, usually involving creative activity and group play in short sessions.

German Meaning: Literally means a children's garden.

Example: "Princess Diana sent her children to a kindergarten in Kensington."
Cat's eyes staring

Pleasure, satisfaction or enjoyment in observing or hearing of the losses, suffering, setbacks or misfortunes of others. A unique and untranslatable mix of “I told you so,” “Serves them right,” and “Got what was coming.” Usually a secret guilty pleasure akin to “Glad to hear it though I can’t say so.”

German Meaning: Joy in damages or losses. Schaden means damages, Freude means joy.

Example: "We felt a certain Schadenfreude at hearing they lost the election after ignoring our advice."


English has also been enriched by Romans, Greeks, Celts, Arabs, Persians, Russians, Indians, Italians, Vikings, Spaniards, Normans and more recently Twitter, and the process continues.