Seven German Words To Tickle Your Fancy

German has a rep for being one of the harsher sounding languages. It’s a language that can make “butterfly” sound menacing. (Schmetterling! Argh!) But through two decades spent trying to tackle zee German language, I’ve encountered heaps of words that are fun, funny, or just a bit goofy. Hence, I’ve composed a list of seven German words that I think will tickle your fancy!

Don’t be afraid to unleash your Inner German!

That’s what I tell those who attend my Beginner German For Travelers class as I try to get them to pronounce some über-guttural word. Fahrvergnügen, anyone?

Fahrvergnügen is the pleasure of driving. Well what about Sprachvergnügen — the pleasure of language? Without further ado, and in the interest of Sprachvergnügen, let’s take a look at those seven German words, beginning with the dreaded:

7. Kakerlake

Kakerlake! Kakerlake! Kakerlake! Say it three times fast, and I dare you not to smile! Etymologically speaking, Kakerlake isn’t related to the German word Kacke. But it should be. They are both unpleasant brown things that start with a kak sound. (Kacke meaning “poop,” and Kakerlake meaning “cockroach.”)

While Kakerlaken are far more terrifying than Kacke and exponentially more disgusting than Schmetterlinge, the word Kakerlake is pleasantly goofy sounding. It has a nice alliterative quality to it.

Misleading, really.

6. Hochzeit

This one stands out for me because I vividly remember the first time I tried figuring out the meaning of the word. Like many German words, it’s actually a combination of words. In this case, hoch meaning “high,” and Zeit, meaning “time.” So, OF COURSE, when I first came across Hochzeit, I thought it meant “high time!” After all, in English we say it’s “high time we did such-and-such” all the time.

But it didn’t make sense in the context. So then I thought maybe it was “high” in the sense of feeling exalted or merry or even intoxicated. But that also made no sense in the sentence. Thus, I had to get my big fat tome of a dictionary out.

(I was studying German in the days before Google Translate, you guys! My homework assignments would have been so much easier now, with fantastic resources like leo.org.)

Long story short, Hochzeit means wedding, and those are generally pretty fun affairs. High time, indeed!

5. Brustwarze

Once again, two words are combined here to form the German word, Brustwarze. Brust means “chest,” or also “bosom” or “breast.” Warze means “wart” — you know, like the ones witches have on their nose and chin? So Brustwarze, broken down and recombined in English, is “chest wart.”

It means nipple, you guys.

Free the Brustwarze!

4. Gemütlichkeit

One simply does not go to Oktoberfest celebrations without hearing this word. And that’s because it’s German tradition to sing about it. In unison. Usually while lubricated.

Sing with me now! “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit!

You’ll likely hear the masses belting out those lyrics if you step into any of the fourteen ginormous beer tents on the Theresienwiese fest grounds in Munich.

Zum Beispiel: (For example:)

Roughly translated, “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit!” means “A toast, a toast to Gemütlichkeit!” But what is Gemütlichkeit? We don’t have an exact word for it in English. So let me try to break it down for y’all!

Firstly, Gemütlichkeit is the noun form of the adjective, gemütlich. If something is described as gemütlich, it connotes a quality of being comfortable, without any disturbing influences. Sitting by a cozy fire in a delightfully decorated room can be gemütlich. A holiday, a locale, or an atmosphere can be gemütlich.  It can also describe being in pleasant company, as in: enjoying a gemütlich evening with friends.

Something done slowly, without haste, can be gemütlich. Like taking a gemütlich stroll through the park. Gemütlichkeit is coziness and good cheer. It’s geniality and cordiality. It basically gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. So let’s hear three cheers for Gemütlichkeit!

3. Ohrwurm

Here’s another one that combines two words! Ohr is “ear,” and Wurm is “worm!” So that would be “earworm” in English! It’s basically the word Germans use when you get Aha’s “Take On Me,” Europe’s “The Final Countdown,” or some Britney Spears tune stuck in your head. Or worse, that obnoxious Badger Song, for example.

Getting any song hopelessly stuck in your head means you have an Ohrwurm. Let’s hope it’s not the Badger Song.

2. Wanderlust

I just love this word because it’s near and dear to me. As you might know by now, I suffer from an incurable case of Wanderlust. We have the same word in English, ’cause we borrowed it from zee Germans. But while in English one of the root words — “lust” — mainly refers to sexual desire or sometimes, greed for power, in German, the meaning is more varied.

It means the wish or desire to have something, which can include sex, as in English. But it also means “delight,” “appetite,” or being “keen” on something. And FYI, lustig, means “funny.”

1. Fahrt

Have you ever driven on the Autobahn? Then I’m sure you’ve seen an Ausfahrt sign. Ausfahrt isn’t a town in Germany. It means “freeway exit.” Likewise, Einfahrt is “freeway entrance.” The root word of both Ausfahrt and Einfahrt is Fahrt. Pronounced similarly to the English word, fart. Yeah, it’s lustig in a juvenile kind of way.

Then there’s also Kreuzfahrt, meaning “cruise,” or Kreuzfahrtschiff, meaning “cruise ship.” These words are all derived from Fahrt, meaning “drive,” “ride,” “tour,” “trip,” or “journey.”

I once heard Rick Steves talk about the word Fahrt. He said that whenever he sees his Dad before leaving on another trip for Europe, his Dad is always sure to tell him, “Have a good Fahrt!”

Those are words to live by! So please, whatever it is you decide to do in this life, just be sure to have a good Fahrt, y’all!


Now, please tell me, which awesome German words have I missed? I’m sure there are heaps more out there that deserve a mention! Please chime in with your favorite Deutsche Wörter in the comments section!

23 thoughts on “Seven German Words To Tickle Your Fancy”

  1. Wow! This was hilarious… Like most of your readers, I could only recognise and pronounce ‘wanderlust’ only. I really liked the meaning of the word ‘lust’ in German – delight, appetite – wow, that really described all the wanderlust souls like us.

    1. Thank you, Amrita! Glad you found it hilarious! 🙂 Yeah, Wanderlust def describes souls like us well! 🙂

  2. Haha was so funny reading through this post, one of my ex Girlfriends is German (well shes Bavarian) and she would come out with some ridiculous worlds and phrases – I know German and Baverians speak a different language to each other but ever she spoke to other Germans I would just laugh at the conversation. Thank you for this post, it brought a smile to my face.

    1. Haha, that’s awesome! You got to experience the German idiosyncrasies first hand! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  3. Wanderlust was the only word that I recognized and could actually pronounce hahaa. I’m hoping to check out Oktoberfest tho so I’ll have to remember gemütlichkeit!

  4. How about a misunderstood concept, “Autobahn”? Most Americans, unless they have been to Germany, really do not understand it. Many seem to think that it is a single, huge 12 lane, or so, highway that cuts through the heart of Germany with no speed limit. It is actually like our interstate system, which has various speed limits for different traffic patterns, sometimes with unlimited speeds.

    1. Yes, that’s very true! It’s often misunderstood. The no-speed-limit stretches aren’t the entire Autobahn. You could get yourself into trouble thinking that! 🙂

  5. Haha I love how tough most words in German are to pronounce, at least for me! But I did not know you have the word ‘wanderlust’ in German too. And Fahrt? That’s just funny 😀

  6. I love Germany and the German language so much! I too suffer from an incurable case of wanderlust. My husband and I also have a game called Kakerlaken Poker (cockroach poker). I didn’t know that was German! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Kyntra! And that’s so funny that you have a game called Kakerlaken Poker! Haha! Now you know the meaning behind it! 🙂 Hope your wanderlust has felt fulfilled lately! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Daniela! My mom is German, but she didn’t speak German to us growing up, so I had to learn it the hard way as an adult. It’s been fun learning though, and I do love the German language, even though I’ll always make mistakes and speak it with an American accent! 😉

  7. Hochzeit is a great term, thanks for introducing it! Learning another language is so important and fun too. Love that wanderlust is actually German!

    1. Yeah, language learning really is the best way to get a glimpse into another culture. Fernweh is also a German word I love, meaning an ache or longing for the far-away! 🙂

  8. Hahaha I speak a little German and I love how unconventional these words were. Definitely good to know some basic vocabulary when traveling to a new country!

    1. Thanks, Wallis! I agree! Even if everyone speaks English, it’s nice to make the effort to try to speak the local language. I’d say people definitely appreciate that! 🙂

  9. I learned a fun (and VERY useful) word from a Rick Steves tour guide while visiting Germany a few months ago:
    Entschuldigung! = pardon me/excuse me/I beg your pardon

    Learning that word came in handy …. a LOT. LOL!

    (Hey! Your Welcome pic! I have that t-shirt, too! 😀 )

    1. Thanks! Yes! Entschuldigung is a good one! And useful! 🙂 We’ve both got the shirt, so we’d better keep on travelin’! 🙂 🙂

    1. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I didn’t know that one! Hilarious! Haha! And I’ve seen a few in my time! 😉 🙂

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