German words that don’t exist in English

Sunset over Hamburg. Photo by the author.
Sunset over Hamburg. Photo by the author.

Some German words are unique, funny and to the point. They don’t have a direct equivalent in English and are therefore worth learning. Here are my 10 favorites:

1. Der  Ohrwurm (noun)

Everyone knows the ‘ear worm’: A catchy tune that’s stuck in your head for hours or even days  like a worm crawling in your ear that you cannot get rid of.


2.  Der Kummerspeck (noun)

Gaining weight after experiencing a loss or defeat. ‘Grief bacon’, usually some extra pounds on your hips.

3. Die Schnapsidee (noun)

A ‘schnapps idea’ might come into you head when you’ve had a few drinks already and is usually a crazy idea you will probably regret.


4. Das Kopfkino (noun)

Someone tells you a story, and you visualize it immediately in your own ‘head cinema’.

5. Das Fremdschämen (noun)

Did your friend say something stupid and embarrassing again when having dinner with your parents? The state of ‘being ashamed for someone else’s behalf’ is perfectly captured in this German word.

6.  dickköpfig (adjective)

Someone who is referred to as ‘thick-headed’ is stubborn, unreasonable and carries on with their plan, regardless what you will say to them.


7. Die Eselsbrücke (noun)

Literally a ‘donkey-bridge’ that helps you remember something. For example a rhyme, a picture or a person that reminds you of a certain word when learning new vocabulary.


8. Die Frühjahrsmüdigkeit (noun)

Not only a phenomenon amongst students, being tired in spring is a very German thing. Try to pronounce the word and you know why.


9. fuchsteufelswild (adjective)

‘Foxdevilwild’. A very accurate description of being in rage, angry or furious about something.


10.  Das Fernweh (noun)

A longing for places far away from your home. The way you might feel when wanting to travel to Germany 🙂 .

–> What’s your favorite word from the list or do you know more? Post them in the comments!