18 fun German words and phrases you need to learn

Fun German words are the frequent target of ire from language learners. Many find plenty to laugh at in their militant tones and often incomprehensible length, especially compared to other languages.

But once you start to break it down, you’ll find that the real humor isn’t in how German looks or sounds. Instead, it’s the dizzying array of highly literal and incredibly specific nouns and adjectives.

In fact, Germans have such a knack for creating words that perfectly describe certain feelings and situations that we’ve even adopted some of them into the English dialect.

Take, for example, ‘wanderlust’ and ‘doppelgänger.’

Learning more of these colloquial funny words makes it a lot easier to chat to other German speakers – and a lot more fun, too.

Here are 18 funny German words and phrases to help you on your ongoing journey to fluency in the German language. If you want to learn German at ease and with joy, try out my courses here.

1. Weichei

Our first funny German word, Weichei, might seem like an innocuous choice at first glance.

After all, its literal English translation is soft egg, and breakfast food isn’t exactly peak humor.

But this word is commonly used idiomatically by native speakers to refer to someone whose personality resembles, well, a soft egg.

It’s the German equivalent of calling someone a wuss or a wimp, but like many of the language’s slang terms, it’s curiously food-related.

2. Backpfeifengesicht

The German language is liberally peppered with lengthy compound nouns that describe oddly specific situations and feelings. Backpfeifengesicht is one of them.

If you deconstruct it, you get Backpfeife – a slap – and Gesicht, which means face.

Put them together and you get a useful little descriptive word with an English meaning that means ‘a face in need of a slap.’ A slap face!

Probably one that’s best left off your Tinder bio!

3. Schnapsidee

We’ve all found ourselves in the clutches of a Schnapsidee from time to time.

In fact, your decision to learn German might even have been one. This is a word that means exactly what you might suspect it does – its closest literal translation is ‘Schnapps idea’, or booze idea.

It refers to those brainwaves we have when we’re a few steins down. Genius at the time? Maybe. Ill-advised in the groggy-headed aftermath? Almost always.

This has become such a common phrase in everyday parlance that you can use it to describe any questionable idea – even those that don’t originate in a barrel.

4. Zungenbrecher

‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’ and ‘she sells seashells by the seashore’ – have we unlocked a school memory yet?

The tongue twister – or, literally, ‘tongue breaker’ – isn’t just a curio of the English language.

You can actually find them in every language. Committing a few to memory can actually help you get more comfortable with learning new words and speaking at speed.

Here’s one that’ll ensure you nail the sometimes-tricky German ‘r’: Fischers Fritze fischt frische Fische. Frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritze.’

5. Sitzfleisch

This is one of those German words that looks and sounds so close to its English meaning that you might think it’s a red herring.

But no, Sitzfleisch really does mean ‘sit flesh’ or, quite unappealingly, ‘seat meat’. This faintly queaze-inducing term doesn’t just refer to your posterior, though.

Instead, it’s a compliment most often found in the workplace. To have Sitzfleisch means that you’re able to sit and work productively for long periods of time. Constant coffee-breakers need not apply!

6. Feuchtfröhlich

If you clocked that ‘fröhlich’ looks suspiciously similar to the English word ‘frolic’, then you’re already better at the German language than you think.

‘Fröhlich’ means happiness or joy, while ‘Feucht’ means wet or – sorry – moist.

Moist joy might not sound all that appealing, but this is a highly specific word that doesn’t have a literal translation in English.

It refers to that warm feeling of pure joy and ease that you get when you’re enjoying a drink in great company. It probably comes one or two drinks before the Schnapsidee!

7. Kummerspeck

We’ve all been there: after a break-up or a lost job, you settle onto the sofa with a feast of beige foods and Ben & Jerry’s, ready to get down to some serious comfort eating.

But too much of this sort of behavior and you’ll end up with a few pounds of Kummerspeck, or ‘grief bacon.’

This word refers to the excess fat gained from drowning your sorrows in food.

8. Der Drahtesel

Continental European countries tend to be miles ahead of the rest of us when it comes to cycling culture.

If you’ve ever attempted to drive through any of its cities, you’ll know that cyclists rule the roads. So, it stands to reason that there’d be some hierarchy within their ranks – and some strangely adorable trash talk, too.

Draht signifies ‘wire’ and Esel is a masculine word that means donkey. So, Drahtesel literally translates to ‘wire donkey!’

What began as a way to insult someone’s rusty bike has now been widely adopted as a common replacement for ‘das Fahrrad’.

There’s a fancier version too, in ‘das Stahlross’ – in English meaning ‘a steel steed.’ But if a donkey was good enough for Jesus…

9. Der Wasserhahn

Why use the dull and unimaginative ‘tap’ or ‘faucet’ when you can refer to Der Wasserhahn? The literal English meaning is ‘water rooster.’

It’s a stretch, but if you squint, you can sort of see the resemblance…

10. Fernweh

Consider this the opposite of homesickness – Fernweh. This is made up of the word ‘Fern’, or distance. ‘Weh’, or ache, is a deep longing to be abroad.

It’s decidedly less sexy than the ubiquitous ‘Wanderlust’ that’s been universally poached from the German language.

However, Fernweh, which first appeared in the early 1800s in a book by Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Pückler-Muskau, also speaks to something more urgent and painful than wanderlust.

It’s not just a desire to see the world, it’s a ‘distance pain’ that can only be stemmed with adventure. It’s never been more relatable than right now, has it?

11. Die Speisekarte

This one’s considerably less weird than some of its compatriots, but it’s a great example of one of the little ways you might trip up while learning German.

In English, what we refer to as the menu at a restaurant is called die Speisekarte – the dish card – in German, while das Menü refers to a set multi-course meal.

12. Erklärungsnot

If you’ve ever been caught doing something you probably shouldn’t, you’ve known the panic-inducing feeling of Erklärungsnot, or ‘explanation poverty’.

It refers to the moments in which you grapple for a way to explain yourself, but that explanation just isn’t presenting itself to you.

13. Die Sehenswürdigkeiten

“I know what this looks like…”, you might stammer, but there’s nothing forthcoming after that!

Ahh, German. Sometimes it’s delightfully descriptive and idiomatic, with its grief bacon and wire donkeys. At other times, it’s so extraordinarily direct that you get whiplash going between the two!

Die Sehenswürdigkeiten is a perfect example of the latter. We refer to these as landmarks in English, but this lengthy German word literally means ‘things that are worthy of seeing’.

Catchy, right?

14. Der Innere Schweinehund

Inside of you, there are two wolves, as the saying goes… and one of them is probably your ‘innerer Schweinehund’ or inner pig dog.

This naughty guy is the devil on your shoulder that encourages you to stay for another beer, say yes to a second helping of food, or grab an extra slice of cake.

And while the presence of this inner pig dog can lead to an excess of Kummerspeck, he’s also the source of much of your Feuchtfröhlich.

That’s a trade-off we’re willing to make.

15. Wildpinkler

Split this funny German word into its two root words, and you might be able to work it out. A Wildpinkler is someone who, um, pinkles in the wild.

This is an oddly charming term for someone who has no problem unzipping for a nature pee – or, more commonly, an utterly unsubtle wizz in the corner of a train station or doorway.

16. Der Scheinwerfer

There are many fun German words - Der Scheinwerfer is one of them. Literally it means shine thrower but it is actually a headlight or a spotlight.
Der Scheinwerfer

The German word for car headlights is unsurprisingly literal: it translates to ‘beam thrower’ in English.

But this is a real trip hazard for language learners, who might be tempted to add in a rogue ‘w’ (and forgivably so, since German is a language that truly treasures the use of ‘Schwein’).

We’re not sure what your mechanic will come up with if you ask him to fix your pig thrower, but it might be safer to ask for help with your Glühbirne – that is, your glow pear.

You might know it as a lightbulb. Makes sense, right?

17. Quatschkopf

That’s a Quatschkopf – a talkative person who says things that need to be taken with more than a pinch of salt.

Have you ever met someone who talks at you, rather than to you?

Take care when using this – you can call someone a Quatschkopf to their face without causing offense, as it’s often taken as a fond ribbing.

However, if you call someone a Quatschkopf behind their back, it has more of a negative connotation.

18. Der Hexenschuss

Lower back giving you some trouble? You might be suffering from Der Hexenschuss – that’s a witch’s shot.

In English, we refer to this as lumbago, which is a pain in the muscles and joints of the lower back.

What is the most difficult German word?

It’s all fun and games, of course, until you stumble upon the German words that are notoriously hard to pronounce.

Practice those Zungenbrechers, because they’ll prepare you for…

  • Eichhörnchen (squirrel)
  • Quietscheentchen (rubber duck)
  • Streichholzschächtelchen (matchbox)
  • Arbeitslosigkeitsversicherung (unemployment insurance)
  • Kreuzschlitzschraubenzieher (Phillips screwdriver)

How do I swear in German?

If you want to swear in German, you’ll be delighted to hear that the language’s penchant for compound nouns is liberally sprinkled throughout its more colorful words.

In fact, these don’t even need the English meaning spelled out…

  • Scheisskerl
  • Friss Scheiße
  • Fettarsch
  • Hurensohn
  • Leck mich (doch) am Arsch

Of course, if these are thrown your way and you’d rather not rise to it, you can simply say “Eigentlich bin ich Pazifist” – “actually, I’m a pacifist.”

The German Language: Those were our favorite fun German words

A huge part of learning languages, especially learning German, is getting to grips with how native speakers really talk. Committing a few of these funny German words and phrases to memory won’t just help you attain fluency, it’ll also make the process a lot more enjoyable. Learning German while having fun, check out my courses here.

Just try to avoid being ‘ein Wildpinkler’ at ‘die Sehenswürdigkeiten’, or letting your ‘innerer Schweinehund’ give you too many ‘Schnapsideen’.

Otherwise, you could become a real ‘Quatschkopf’ the next day while your colleagues are just trying to exercise a bit of ‘Sitzfleisch’!

And as you are here, why don’t you find out about 10 Hilarious Ways To Say Hello in German that we found and that might just provide you with the right amount of non-chalance to get a German native’s instant respect?

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