Best German words

10 German words the world needs to know

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'Staircase jokes' and 'world pain' perfectly describe those unexplainable emotions that English has no words for.

1. Weltschmerz – world pain

A state of depression at how the world keeps falling short of expectations.

Example: After watching the news, all Megan could feel was Weltschmerz. She should stick to looking at pictures of Hawaii and throw away her TV.

2. Torschlusspanik – gate-closing panic

The fear, as you are getting older, that time is running out and that you are missing out on important opportunities.

Example: Looking at my social media feed of engagements, weddings and babies, Torschlusspanik is starting to set in and I’m not liking it one bit.

3. Treppenwitz – staircase joke

The witty comeback you should have said but that you only thought of when it was too late (when you were in the stairwell on your way out).

Example: I’m writing down all the Treppenwitz I’ve ever thought of so maybe I can them use one day.

4. Bildungslücke – knowledge hole

The lack of a piece of information that should be known when reaching a certain age.

Example: Yes, I would say that not knowing how babies come into the world at age 21 is a pretty serious Bildungslücke.

5. Backpfeifengesicht – a face badly in need of a fist

Someone whose smurk and general attitude irritate you to the point of violence.

Example: Piers Morgan / Marine Le Pen / Kevin O’Leary is such a Backpfeifengesicht that I almost punched the TV last night.

6. Schadenfreude – harm-joy

A feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the misfortunes of other people.

Example: My co-worker, the one who’s constantly brown-nosing the boss, is sick and won’t come to work for one full week.

7. Fremdschämen – foreign shame

The embarrassement you feel when someone is making a fool of themself.

Example: I could not help but feel Fremdschämen at the sight of my friend walking around with his 'dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians' shirt.

8. Feierabend – celebration evening

An evening of relaxation and drinks after a hard day’s work.

Example: Every night, from Monday to Friday, should be a Feierabend.

9. Fernweh – far-sickness

Feeling homesick for places you’ve never been to.

Example: A good traveller experiences Fernweh on a daily basis and the only remedy is to pack your bags and go somewhere new.

10. Reisefieber – travel nerves

Travel-induced anticipation, excitement and worry.

Example: You know you’ve a got a bad case of Reisefieber when you check that your passport is safely in your pack 10 times in an hour.


Morgane Croissant / Reprinted with permission of Matador Network.

Morgane CroissantMorgane was born and raised in France, and is a lead producer and contributing editor for Matador Network. She enjoys reading fiction and drinking coffee – activities that usually take place simultaneously. She is also a passionate environmentalist and a staunch feminist.

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