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German has created words to perfectly express complex feelings and emotions
German has created words to perfectly express complex feelings and emotions | Pixabay

15 Beautiful German Words and Phrases We Need in English

Picture of Megan King
Updated: 16 April 2017

One of the fun things about the German language is how you can build words by simply joining a number of words together, which sometimes means you can get a word that is almost a page long! Don’t panic, it’s just a word on a word, and the language is well-known for building new, hyper-specific words that express life more perfectly than any English word ever could.


Schnaps idea’: When alcohol does the talking, that idea you came up with while drunk – the one that sounded so good and clever at the time – really, really wasn’t.


Malicious joy’: reflects happiness derived from somebody else’s misfortune, injury or pain.


World pain’: happens when we realise the world fails to live up to our expectations – the depression that follows comparing an ideal with an actual.


Closing-gate panic’: the fear which creeps in with age that time is slipping away, taking any significant opportunities with it. It’s also the sense of urgency to achieve or do something before it’s too late.


Grief bacon’: the excess weight a person gains from emotional overeating. During a breakup or a stressful time, it is not uncommon for a person to put on a bit of kummerspeck.


Preserving the past’: the struggle to come to terms with the past. Since the 20th century, the term has come to describe key processes in the study of post-WWII German literature, society and culture.


Explanation poverty’: a handy word for politicians, cheaters and children who forgot to do their homework. It’s the precise moment of getting caught in the act of some untruth or misdeed and trying to make up some sorry excuse.


Pickle time’: the off-season, when nothing happens because everybody is on vacation. This refers to the typical German holiday period, which can last three to six weeks in July through August.


Peas tally’: what anyone obsessed with details does (like counting their peas) – a control freak even by German standards.


Staircase joke’: the all too familiar concept of coming up with the perfect response or comeback, which would have given you the deepest sense of satisfaction – if only you’d thought of it at the moment, instead of 10 minutes after the conversation.

Innerer Schweinehund

Inner pig-dog’: the gremlin that lives inside most of us, the one who keeps us from getting up on time, going to the gym or finishing our work until the last minute. It’s basically the struggle to do what we need to when the inner pig-dog just wants a life of idleness.


Donkey bridge’: a little trick to help memorise something, like a mnemonic device. Donkey bridges were shortcuts, bridges built across rivers to transport goods via donkey, just as mental cues are shortcuts to remember something.


Distance pain’: the feeling of wanting to be elsewhere; the infinite longing for some place that isn’t where you are now.


Here’s one of those long (18 letters, to be exact), intimidating words. ‘Springtime lethargy’: the general sense of weariness ushered in the springtime, specifically mid-March through mid-April.


Fox-devil wild’: Pure animal rage.