Words made in Germany

I previously did a post about untranslatable words, which had some lexical curiosities from around the world. I particularly enjoyed the German ones such as:

backpfeifengesicht: a face that cries out for a fist in it. (German)

fensterln: climbing through a window to avoid someone’s parents so you can have sex without them knowing.

korinthenkacker:  a “raisin pooper” — that is, someone so taken up with life’s trivial detail that they spend all day crapping raisins.

scheissenbedauern: the disappointment one feels when something turns out not nearly as badly as one had expected. (German)

schlimmbesserung: a so-called improvement that makes things worse. (German)

tantenverführer: a young man whose excessively good intentions suggest suspicious motives. (literally aunt-seducer) (

torschlusspanik: the fear of diminishing opportunities as one gets older (literally: gate-closing panic), often applied to women worried about being too old to have children. (German) 

I was looking through Adam Jacot de Boinod’s The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World and here are a few more words and expressions that are made in Germany:

betriebsblindheit: organizational blindness.

eine Kröte schlucken to swallow a toad (make a concession grudgingly)

er gibt seinen Senf dazu one who always has something to say even if no one else cares (literally, he brings his mustard along)

Knisper! Knasper! Knusper! the sound made by Rice Crispies.

fisselig: flustered to the point of incompetence.

folterkammer a gym or exercise room (literally, a torture chamber)

geisterfahrer  a person driving on the wrong side of the road

grüebelsucht an obsession in which even the simplest facts are compulsively queried

gurtmuffel  someone who doesn’t wear a seat belt.

Hals und Beinbruch, for example, takes the spirit of the English expression ‘break a leg’ and goes one step further – it translates as ‘break your neck and a leg’

katzenjammer a very severe hangover (literally, the noise made by extremely miserable cats)

krawattenmuffel one who doesn’t like wearing ties

kummerspeck, a word that describes the excess weight you will gain from emotion-related overeating (literally, grief bacon).

leben wie die Made im Speck to live like a maggot in bacon (life of Riley)

nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben, ‘not to have all the cups in the cupboard’ (not to have all one’s marbles).

nie fragt sie: ist gefegt? Sie ist gar fein she never asks: has the sweeping been done? She is very refined.

ohrwurm a catchy tune that gets stuck in the brain or rapidly obsesses an entire population (literally, an ear worm)

pomadenhengst a dandy (literally, a hair-cream stallion.

technonomade someone who conducts most of their business on the road, using laptops and mobiles.

urlaubsmuffel, or person who is against taking vacations.

verheult puffy-faced and red-eyed from crying.

warmwassergeige a souped-up motorcycle (literally, warm-water violin)

zechpreller someone who leaves without paying the bill


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