German Words that Just Don’t Have an English Equivalent

German English Translation

It’s quite amazing that not all words have equivalent meanings in other languages which can make it difficult at times for a German translator who works for German translation services where a variety of different types of translation have to be done for different clients. The expectation of anyone paying for a German translation into English for example is that the translator will be able to match the two languages with exact meanings.

When a speaker of any language engages in a conversation in the same language communication rarely falters and understanding between the two communicators normally is relatively easy. The problem with languages is they never evolved with the intention of being translated into other languages and there are simply some language forms that have no immediate equivalent in other languages. A language is not simply a string of words but some words are put in a certain sequence to portray a certain meaning. If any of those words is missing in the string all intended meaning may be lost.

Attempting to offer a perfect translation into another language such as English is a difficult skill that may take years for German translators to develop.

There are 4 words described below which indicate how difficult it is to provide an exact meaning from German to English.

The literal meaning of the word ‘drachenfutter’ is ‘dragon food’ which means a gift you can buy for your wife when you may have taken part in something that she would not like. The word‘dragon’ is meant to be alluding to your female partner.

‘Kummerspeck’ is a word meaning the consuming of comfort food which causes weight gain.. The word with a direct translation into English means ‘grief bacon’ which doesn’t sound too much like weight gain unless you are German speaker.

The word ‘schadenfreude’ when translated into English means the pleasurable emotion someone experiences when they sight someone who is experiencing misfortune. This is not so easy to explain in the original language let alone trying to translate it into English.

Geisterfahrer has a literal meaning of ‘ghost driver’, but in reality it is the word used for a person who is not driving on the right side of the road.

Words such as those described above have to be cleverly translated by a German translator into English so that the meaning is not lost.