10 Untranslatable German Words

Sometimes, it is impossible to capture the meaning of a word in another language. There are also thousands of words that simply can’t be translated.

So, the next time you are struggling to express yourself in English and can’t find the right word, think in German for a change. In this article, you will find some perfectly beautiful, untranslatable German words that everyone should know!

1. Der Weltschmerz

Coined by the German author Jean Paul in 1827, “Weltschmerz” is a term that best describes the feeling experienced when you believe that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind.

Considering what is going on in the world right now, this unique German word seems very appropriate, don’t you think?

2. Verschlimmbessern

Have you ever tried to fix something and actually made it worse? Here is another German word with no English equivalent – “Verschlimmbessern” (“verschlimm” comes from “verschlimmern” – “to make things worse” – and “verbessern,” “to improve”). The more you try to make something better, the worse it actually becomes.

3. Die Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is extremely relatable to those in the Northern Hemisphere. This German word that doesn’t exist in English refers to the state of general fatigue and depression that typically arises in early spring.

Did you know that although Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is not a diagnosed illness, an estimated 50–75% of people in Germany have experienced it?

4. Der Kabelsalat

We bet you’ll never guess the meaning of this word!

Kabelsalat refers to the tangled cables and wires sitting behind your TV, covered in dust.

5. Das Fingerspitzengefühl

This next oddly specific German word adopted by the English language as a loanword can be literally translated to “fingertips feeling,” meaning intuitive flair or instinct.

Fingerspitzengefühl describes being perfectly aware of the situation, responding most appropriately and tactfully.

6. Die Schnapsidee

Our list of German words that don’t exist in English wouldn’t be complete without Schnapsidee. The truth is, we’ve all been there and done that.

Schnapsidee is a term for a ridiculous idea that you can only come up with when drunk. How many German beers would it take you to get one?

7. Das Backpfeifengesicht

Have you ever met someone who you think deserves a high five right in the face, with a chair? That is what Backpfeifengesicht means.

8. Die Geborgenheit

Geborgenheit is considered by many to be one of the greatest German words, implying a reassuring sense of security which encompasses everything from protection to trust, to happiness and peace, and to comfort and love.

We find it to be a great example of German philosophical terms.

9. Der/Das Kuddelmuddel

The word “Kuddelmuddel” sounds a bit chaotic, and rightfully so.

Both a masculine and a neuter noun, Kuddelmuddel is used to describe a situation where everything is kind of in a mess, yet it doesn’t necessarily have a negative meaning. It can be a vibrant mix of different things, like languages.

10. Das Honigkuchenpferd

If a German catches you with a big dorky grin across your face, they may be tempted to tease you by saying that you’re grinning like a Honigkuchenpferd (literally “honey-cake-horse”).

The origins of the word remain unclear, but it may refer to Honigkuchenpferd gingerbread cookies that have big grins painted onto their face with icing. These cookies are often found in marketplaces and fairgrounds all around Germany.

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