7 Untranslatable German Words

Untranslatable German Words

German, because it is part of the West Germanic language tree, is said to be easy to learn for English speakers. However, due to the number of compound words, there are typically many untranslatable German words. Here are some examples below.

Verschlimmbessern

Verschlimmbessern is a complex compound word and is one of a number of untranslatable German terms.  The verb verschlimm literally means “to make things worse” while the verb verbessern literally means “to improve.” So, in an English translation it doesn’t make much sense as it literally means to make something worse while in an act of attempting to improve it.

Luftschloss

Luftschloss in English means “delusions of grandeur.” But, in German, it has a stronger and much more negative meaning than just alluding to somebody as a daydreamer.

Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

This untranslatable German word translates literally to mean “spring fatigue.” It is the name for the temporary moody and physical condition of people living in the northern hemisphere from mid-March to mid-April. This is a period when people lack energy and feel tired.

Backpfeifengesicht

Backpfeifengesicht is one of many untranslatable German terms when translated roughly means to “cheek”. Germans use the compound word when they think somebody needs to be slapped hard in the face, preferably with a chair!

Erbsenzähler

Germans use this untranslatable word in German to mean anybody who is a serious nit-picker or a control freak. Translated literally, erbse, a noun, means “peas” while zähler is a numerator or tally, which when put together describes somebody who maintains a tally, or to be more specific, counts their peas.

Geborgenheit

As a virtually untranslatable German word translated literally, this means to have feelings of security. Geborgen, an adjective, means “secure,” but in fact means a lot more than that. For example, it could be used for a cherished time when someone is snuggled up on a sofa with a loved one, knowing that all is how it should be. This word is also used to mean protection, warmth, happiness, peace, comfort, love and trust.

Kuddelmuddel

This, as one of the untranslatable German terms, has nothing to do with cuddling somebody. It actually describes a chaotic state, a terrible mess or a hodgepodge, like a child’s bedroom or the state of a house following a party.

These are just a few of the untranslatable German terms and untranslatable German words that occur when trying to translate German compound words into English.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *