Language Borrowing in German and English


English in German, German in English

The German Language > Language Borrowing

Young children attend a Kindergarten (“children’s garden”). Gesundheit doesn’t really mean “bless you,” it means “health” — the good variety being implied. Psychiatrists speak of Angst (fear) and Gestalt (form) psychology, and when something is broken, it’s kaputt. Although not every English-speaker knows that Fahrvergnügen is “driving pleasure,” most do know that Volkswagen means “people’s car.” Musical works can have a Leitmotiv. Our cultural view of the world is called a Weltanschauung by historians or philosophers. Such terms are commonly understood by most well-read English-speakers, and all of them have been borrowed from German.

See the related Prinzen music video below.

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Below you can learn more about how English and German have borrowed from each other – and from French and Latin.

Mencken book

H.L Mencken is perhaps best remembered today for The American Language (1919), a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States.

More English words borrowed from German:
(Notice how many have to do with food!) – blitz, blitzkrieg, cobalt, dachshund, delicatessen, ersatz, frankfurter, glockenspiel, hinterland, kaffeeklatsch, Munster and Limburger (cheeses named for German cities), pilsner (glass, beer), pretzel, quartz, rucksack, sauerkraut, schnaps, (apple) strudel, waltz, wiener. From Low German: brake, dote, tackle.

Germanic cognate terms:
(Shared in common; mostly family-related words, parts of the body, and old basic words) – der Arm, der Ball, der Bruder, die Hand, das Haus, das Ende, das Gold, gut (good), der Finger, lang, der Mann, die Maus, Montag (Monday), die Mutter, der Vater, die Schwester (sister), der Sohn, die Tochter (daughter), das Wasser, das Wort (word).

English in German:
The following German words have been borrowed from English. Usually the only difference is the use of the German article (the – der, die, or das – masc., fem., neu.) and the capitalization used for all German nouns. The pronunciation is usually similar to English, but sometimes with a unique German twist. They are usually German’s more recent borrowings. English terms: das Baby, der Babysitter, babysitten (to babysit), das Bodybuilding, das Callgirl, der Clown, der Cocktail, der Computer, fit (in good shape), die Garage, das Golf (der Golf is “the gulf” or a VW model), das Hobby, der Job, joggen (to jog), der Killer, killen (to kill), der Lift (elevator), der Manager, managen (to manage), das Musical, der Playboy, der Pullover, der Rum, der Smog, der Snob, der Streik, das Team, der Teenager, das Ticket, der Tunnel, der Trainer (coach), der Waggon (train car).

Loan Words from French (Französisch)
The following German words look like English words, but they are actually words from French that both English and German have adopted. They are more recent than the Latin borrowings below. French borrowings include: das Abenteuer (adventure), die Armee, das Ballett, die Chance, fein (fine), galoppieren, der General, die Infanterie, die Kanone, die Lanze (lance), der Offizier, die Parade, die Parole (saying, motto), der Platz (place, square), der Preis (prize, price), der Prinz, die Prinzessin, der Tanz (dance), die Uniform.

Loan Words from Latin (Latein)
Both English and German have borrowed heavily from Latin. Latin was the language of the universities in Germany and the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. Because such words are very old and have undergone changes over the centuries, some are not very obvious equivalents. For example, the German word Birne comes from Latin pirum which gave us the English word pear. Some other Latin loan words: aktiv, der Altar, der Atlas, die Disziplin, der Esel (ass, donkey), das Examen, die Feige (fig), das Fieber (fever), der Kaiser (Caesar, emperor), die Kammer (chamber), die Kamera, der Kanzler (chancellor), der Keller (cellar), das Klima, das Kloster (cloister), das Kreuz (cross), die Lilie (lily), der Markt (market), die Meile (mile), das Münster (minster, church), die Münze (money, coin), opfern (to offer, sacrifice), die Pforte (portal), das Pfund (pound), die Rose, der Student/die Studentin, die Tafel (tablet), der Wein (wine).

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Video: Die Prinzen – “Be cool, speak Deutsch”
A music video by the German group “Die Prinzen” (The Princes).

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