10 German words with no English equivalent
You can translate this one as “springtime fatigue.” It’s a state of lethargy, experienced between March and May, leftover from the winter period. Common in Germany, many experience it as tiredness, sensitivity to the weather, dizziness, headaches, irritability, pain in the limbs, or mild depression.
Though it’s not officially recognized as a medical condition, it’s estimated to affect over half of Germans.
This one translates to “head cinema,” built from kopf (head) and kino (cinema). It’s a label for the experience of playing out scenarios in your mind, whether it’s a series of images from the past or hypothetical scenes about the future.
The term comes from the notion of playing a film in your mind. This elaborate daydream can be pleasant or unpleasant, depending on the situation.
You know those moments when your friend is going through a rough time and you stop everything you’re doing and take them out or show up at their door because it’s the right thing to do, and you know they’d do the same for you? That’s Freundschaftsdienst, best translated as “friendship service.” We all know the concept, but Germans have a word for it, of course.
This is a word for unintentionally making things worse in the process of trying to improve them. You may know the feeling of trying to repair a rupture you’ve caused in a friendship by saying the right thing, only to dig yourself into a deeper hole when you realize it wasn’t the right thing to say after all.
Think of it as accidentally “improving things for the worse.” It’s a common enough experience that it deserves its own term, and the Germans already have it covered.
This term, derived from the words sehnen (to yearn) and sucht (addiction, craving) means longing, craving, desire, or yearning for someone or something. It connotes a sickness caused by this feeling.
You might experience it in anticipation of a friend’s arrival or use it to elaborate on a feeling of homesickness after traveling for a long time.
This is the feeling of having a dwindling amount of time to meet a goal. In English, it translates to “door-closing panic” or “gate-closing panic.”
It could refer more generally to the sense of having a narrowing window of time to meet a project deadline, or the more specific and unique feeling of getting older and not having found a partner or started a family yet. You can adapt it to whatever context is relevant for you.
Ever had what you thought was a brilliant idea, only to wake up and recognize its flair of insanity? This is a Schnapsidee, the kind of wild idea that you might have after a round or two of Schnaps, only to regret it later.
It can also be used to describe an idea that’s so silly it must have been thought of by a drunk person. Another handy term that doesn’t exist in English, though you’re likely familiar with the concept.
Feeling the weight of the world lately? That’s Weltschmerz, which translates to “pain of the world.” Maybe you’re overwhelmed by current events, or disillusioned with politics, or otherwise find yourself bemoaning the state of things. If so, this is the term for you.
You know the feeling of joy-tinged freedom when you’re finally off work for the day? That’s Feierabend, or “celebration evening.” Germans wish one another a nice time off work in this way, and it can even be used when it’s not technically evening, for instance by two colleagues getting off a night shift at 8am.
We all know the feeling but there isn’t quite a term for it in English. Again, German to the rescue!
This term, which translates as “distance sickness” or “faraway pain,” is nearly the opposite of homesickness. It means you’re pining for travel to distant lands, only satisfied when you’re drifting in that particular Bohemian way, happiest when seeing new places and meeting new people.
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