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10 German Words that are the same in English

I have had a lot of time on my hands, as I wait for my new visa for my new job, and I had been taking some time to dust off some of my German skills. I had taken some classes in Los Angeles, and in Berlin, but I have not been really speaking it. I can understand many words, and I noticed the similarities between the languages. English and German are both Germanic languages. I think English has more French, Latin and Dutch influence as well. It is amazing sometimes how I will be speaking to someone who speaks German and they are thinking for the English word for “normal” pronounced (nor-mall) as in “Al bundy” in German, and I say, “Oh, you mean normal!” I tell them to just think about pronunciation and the English alphabet when it comes to the differences in the way that we would both say that word. There are many other words in both languages that fit into this same issue.

1. die Nation

“Die Nation” is the same as the Nation in English. Easy word to learn, and remember, I do not use this word myself in daily conversation.


2. der Kindergarten

This literally means child garden. I guess this can be the term could be use in reference to the knowledge that one gets in kindergarten. Fredrich Froebel is known as the “father of kindergarten.” He started the first Kindergarten in 1837.” His kindergarten developed theories and practices that
are still being used today in kindergarten classrooms. His ideas were that children need to have play time in order to learn. Kindergarten should be a place for children to grow and learn from their social interaction with other children.Friedrich Froebel wrote a book based on his theories and practices concerning the kindergarten environment. The book was burned by the German community. They did not believe children needed to play in order to learn. They thought his theories were outrageous.” 1(source below)


3. die Schadenfreude

According to Webster’s, schadenfreude means: “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” What a wonderful word. It’s actually the first German word that I learned, back in high school. I guess the modern day term for this is a “hater.”


4. der Tourist

The word tourist seems to be another French/German/English word.’Tourist’ appears to be an English word (or rather, coinage) from around 1800 (1803 in French), with the English word ‘tour’ (“le mot anglais”) meaning ‘voyage circulaire’.
This English word ‘tour’ is obviously in itself a loan (14th C.) from French (tour, tourner).

In early 19th C. France, the word ‘tourist’ was predominantly used in an ‘English context’, refering to people going to England.
Stendhal’s Mémoires d’un touriste might indicate that by 1838 the French meaning of the loanword ‘tourist(e)’ started to get used in other, broader contexts (viz. somebody traveling for fun, whether or not to England), though the dictionnaire historique suggests that the wider meaning of the word ‘tourist’ was inspired by that publication.


5. der Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist, literally translated means “time spirit.” It was first seen in 1848, from German Zeitgeist (Herder, 1769), “spirit of the age,” I only started hearing this word in the last few years with those Zeitgeist movies on youtube.


6. die Gesundheit

It has history since 1914 (at least being used in English), from German Gesundheit, literally “health!” I love when people ask, so what do you say when you want to say “Bless you? You know the English word for Gesundheit?”


7. die Pause

This word apparently is from Middle French “paused”, from Late Latin pausare “to halt, cease, pause.” I find it interesting how the three language converge, and how many Latin words are in German to be honest. Of course it is pronounced differently in German.


8. der Doppelgänger

This word literally means “double goer.” According to wikipedia, this word was first defined as: “a look-alike or double of a living person who is sometimes portrayed as a harbinger of bad luck. In some traditions, a doppelgänger seen by a person’s relative or friend portends illness or danger while seeing one’s own doppelgänger is said to be an omen of death.

In contemporary vernacular, the word doppelgänger is often used in a more general sense to identify any person that physically or perhaps even behaviorally resembles another person.”


9. das Vitamin

This one had an interesting background. In “1920, [it] originally vitamine (1912) coined by Polish biochemist Casimir Funk (1884-1967), from Latin vita “life” (see vital) + amine, because they were thought to contain amino acids. The terminal -e formally was stripped off when scientists learned the true nature of the substance; -in was acceptable because it was used for neutral substances of undefined composition.”


10. “der Umlaut”

Basically it is those points above some German words, that denote to pronounce a certain letter differently. “From 1852, from German umlaut “change of sound,” from um “about” (see ambi-) + laut “sound,” from Old High German hlut. Coined 1774 by poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803)” I did not know it was the same word in English.


1. Kindergaren.

2. Etymology guide.


  • Old Boss,New Boss, Meh!

    Kimberly, you’ve been in Berlin for a while now. Honest question, do you still feel like an American or do you regard yourself as a European these days? I’m a Brit by the way.

    • kimnberlin

      I will always consider myself to be an American. I feel like I am more interesting that way.

      • James Dimes

        I am a Brit, Kiminberlin we shoudl meet for a chat and coffee

  • Sojourner Wright

    Hello there. I am a black female identified American performance artist coming to Berlin next week. Do you know of any galleries for performance or art run by black folk in Berlin? Thanks! Best.