Earlier this week I heard the word Schadenfreude and it really intrigued me – that this very non-English sounding word was being used in English. It is a German word that means to take pleasure in someone else’s pain – for which we have no exact one-word translation in English. That got me thinking of other German words that we use regularly that were obviously ideally suited to describe something better than English could and so were adopted into the English language.
Fahrvergnugen – the love of simply driving – this is another German word that has no exact English translation. This word was used in German car ads and so became quite well known.
Wanderlust – intense desire to travel – this German word is so commonly used in English that I didn’t realize it was not an English word.
Doppelganger – a double who looks exactly like another person – this is another which is used regularly because there is no one word to capture its meaning in English. I’ve noticed the usage of this word seems to have gone up a lot and I see it quite a lot in Instagram – maybe people find their doppelgangers a lot more because of social media.
Zeitgeist – the spirit of the times – another German word that describes the spirit of the times better than any English word could.
Kindergarten – children’s garden – interestingly another German word.
Kitschy – something that’s tacky – this is another German / Yiddish word that describes something tacky particularly with reference to art or decorations.
Hinterland – backwoods – another lovely German word that does the job better than English could.
Bildungsroman – a literary term most high schoolers who have read “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” know only too well – and now we know the word is German.
Deli short for Delikatessen – another common work which comes from Germany.
Interesting how English adopts words and adapts itself – maybe that’s why it’s the most widely spoken language in the world!!