8 Words or Phrases That Don’t Translate Well From German to English That You Wish You Had

Anyone who loves the study of language knows that there are some words that simply don’t translate well from one language to another. When it comes to German, the grammar may be difficult, but there are some fantastic words that don’t have a direct translation but express ideas we need in English, even if we didn’t know we needed them.

1. Schadenfreude

Most people don’t want to admit the feeling of Schadenfreude, but it is a universal and natural condition. While less common in adults, it can be liberating to admit that sometimes we don’t feel sympathy when we are witnessing others’ misfortune. Sometimes instead we feel outright joy.

2. Fremdscham

The opposite of Schadenfreude is Fremdscham. The idea of “stranger shame” is that when witnessing the misfortune of others, those watching may identify closely with the unfortunate souls, feeling embarrassed or ashamed for them.

3. Weltschmerz

Especially in these days where the Internet brings tragedy to our attention so frequently, Weltschmerz becomes an important concept. It is the feeling of knowing about all the terrible things happening in the world and not being able to do anything about it. It literally means “world pain.”

4. Mutterseelenallein

Another universal feeling with no direct translation from English is Mutterseelenallein. Directly translated as “mother’s souls alone,” it describes the feeling of being so alone that not even one’s mother wants to be around.

5. Gemütlichkeit

Gemütlichkeit seems like a simple concept. English speakers might try to translate it as “cozy,” but it is so much more. That feeling when the temperature is just right, only friends and family are around, the furniture is comfortable, and warm blankets and hot chocolate are involved? That begins to describe Gemütlichkeit.

6. Kummerspeck

Literally translated as “grief bacon,” Kummerspeck is that emotional binging we do when we are overwhelmed by anxiety, anger or worry. The German language allows speakers to acknowledge this perfectly normal response to life.

7. Innerer Schweinehund

That feeling of being too fat and lazy to get a move on? That’s just the inner pig dog, or Innerer Schweinehund. Don’t listen to it!

8. Torschlusspanik

The feeling of Torschlusspanik, or “closing gate panic,” is that worry that there have been important opportunities missed in life. Choosing one path in life means missing other paths.

Sometimes a literal translation isn’t much help, and sometimes the concept is bigger than the words. With Professional English to German translation service, users can feel comfortable knowing they are getting the best results for the intended meanings.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.