Wednesday, April 15, 2015

German Loanwords: Part 1

It has been ages since we last looked at some of the most fascinating loanwords in the English language! Way back in September we looked at Persian loanwords, but over the next few days we're shifting our focus to the German language, which is closely related to English due to their common Germanic roots.

Most of the German words we'll be looking at were first borrowed by the English language in the last 100 years. However, we are skipping over well-known food terms like hamburger and bratwurst, as well as the numerous dog breeds that come from German, including dachshund and schnauzer.

Blitz - This word is a shortened form of the German word Blitzkrieg, which means "lightning war". The term was originally used to describe a series of quick attacks used by the Nazis during World War II, and eventually became a general term in English for any sudden, overwhelming attack. Around 1959, the term was adopted by American and Canadian football, which use it to refer to a defensive play when numerous players try to disrupt the quarterback.

An insanely long foosball table in Germany that
accommodates 11 players on each side!
Foosball - Some English speakers refer to the game of "table football" or "table soccer" as foosball. Its name is thought to come from Fußball, the German word for the sport.

Gesundheit - Instead of saying "Bless you!" when someone sneezes, some English speakers prefer to use the German term Gesundheit, which means "health". Some prefer the German term because it doesn't have religious connotations, while others simply think it's much more fun to say.

Kindergarten - You probably already knew this one: the German word Kindergarten literally means "children's garden" in English. The term was coined by German educator Friedrich Fröbel in 1840, who believe that young children should be nurtured, just like plants. Within about a decade, kindergartens could be found all over the world, including English-speaking countries.

Poltergeist - It turns out that this German term literally translates as "noisy ghost". If you're not familiar with the term poltergeist, it generally refers to a paranormal being that causes physical disturbances. If your coffee cup has suddenly started levitating or sliding away from you across a table, a poltergeist is the likely culprit... if you believe in the paranormal.

Schadenfreude - This term couldn't look any more German if it tried. It refers to pleasure derived from the misfortune of others, or as literal translation puts it, "harm joy".

Wanderlust - We love this German term, probably because we frequently have wanderlust. Its definition is pretty clear... "lust for wandering", or perhaps the more apt "yearning to travel".

We'll have several more interesting German loanwords for you on Friday!