Words From:
Asian Languages
Slavic Languages
Old English
New World Languages
Words You Need To Know

Words from German

English and German are in the same language family, and because of that you might expect that they would look more like each other than they do! While many words of German origin in English have some telltale signs, others have been anglicized (made to look and sound more English). Therefore, you might not know at first glance where they came from. Most English borrowings from German happened relatively early in the history of English, but occasionally there are new arrivals. These tend to become English with fewer spelling changes than the early borrowings did.

Now You Try

  1. 1. A surprising number of words in English for dog breeds come from German. On our list there are five: rottweiler, schnauzer, and weimaraner, spitz, and dachshund. See if you can fill in the blanks in the following words to correctly spell some other dog breeds from German:

    dr_ht_a_r: Show Answer
    p___le: Show Answer
    affenp__sch__: Show Answer
    Do___m_n: Show Answer

    That's Correct! The breeds are dachshund, poodle, affenpinscher, and Doberman.

  2. 2. The el spelling at the end of words such as streusel, pretzel, and dreidel is typical of German words that end with this sound. The le spelling of this sound in noodle, cringle, and prattle, on the other hand, is more typical of English. What generalization can be made about the differences in these spellings?

    The terminal sound \əl\ is spelled el in the German style and le in the more English style.

  3. 3. The vowel combination au in words from German is usually pronounced about the same way when these words arrive in English. Looking at umlaut, sauerbraten, autobahn, schnauzer, langlauf, graupel, and pickelhaube, which word would you say has been more anglicized in its usual pronunciation? Why do you think this is?

    The word autobahn has a more anglicized pronunciation, probably because of the influence of auto and automobile.

Spelling Tip

Don't shy away from consonant clusters! German words often have combinations of three or more consonants that don't occur in thoroughly English words. Examples include ngst in angst, sch in schadenfreude, schn in schnauzer, and nschl in anschluss.

Spelling Tip

A \k\ sound in a word from German is usually spelled with k at the beginning of a word or syllable (as in kitsch and einkorn) and often with ck at the end of a word or syllable (as in knapsack and glockenspiel).

Spelling Tip

A long i sound (\ī\) usually has the spelling ei in words from German, as in fräulein, Meistersinger, zeitgeber, and several other words on the list.

Spelling Tip

The \f\ sound, especially at the beginning of a word, is sometimes spelled with v in German words as in vorlage. Other examples include the non–study-list words volkslied and herrenvolk.

Spelling Tip

The letter z is far more common in German than in English. Note that its pronunciation is not usually the same as English \z\. When it follows a t, which is common, the pronunciation is \s\ as in spritz, pretzel, blitzkrieg, and several other words on the list.

Spelling Tip

The \sh\ sound in words of German origin is usually spelled sch as in schadenfreude, whether at the beginning or end of a word or syllable. In schottische, you get it in both places!

Spelling Tip

A long e sound (\ē\) usually has the spelling ie in words from German, as in blitzkrieg and glockenspiel.

Spelling Tip

The letter w is properly pronounced as \v\ in German, as you hear in one pronunciation of edelweiss and in wedel and Weissnichtwo. Many German words, however, have become so anglicized that this pronunciation has vanished. Most Americans, for example, say "bratwurst," not "bratvurst."