“Kuddelmuddel” and 9 Other Untranslatable German Words

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December 19, 2021
By Sarah Angela Almaden
“Kuddelmuddel” and 9 Other Untranslatable German Words

Unsplash: portuguesegravity

Deutschland, the land of Wurst, Bier, and Einstein, otherwise known as Germany. Now don’t forget about Oktoberfest and Beethoven! But what else comes to mind when you think of Germany?

If you ask me, I would say German words right away! German words might look scary and hard to pronounce, but don’t let them fool you. German words can be quite unique because sometimes these words have no English equivalents. How cool is that?

Below are zehn (ten) very special and specific German words that add an extra zing to your not-so-boring days.

1. Fernweh /fern.vee/

Meet Fernweh, the word that literally translates to “far-sickness.” Fernweh describes this certain longing and aches to travel to faraway lands. It is that feeling of being “homesick to the places you’ve never been.” With the ongoing pandemic, many of us have been stuck at home, our desire to travel and start our new adventures somewhere get stronger each day and Fernweh is that perfect word to describe our itchiness of feet.

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2. Reisefieber /rei.za.fi.buh/

Reisefieber is the “travel fever” feeling you get before traveling. This certain feeling of anxiety and excitement usually happens before an upcoming trip. If you or someone you know experiences Reisefieber, expect the constant rechecking of documents, the reweighing of luggages, and maybe losing sleep because you just need to ensure everything is set. Uh, what time is the flight again?

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3. Zungenbrecher /zu.ngen.bre.sher/

Now, be careful as this word is a “tongue breaker.” Zungenbrecher actually means “tongue twister” and what better way to practice your German than saying a tongue twister! She sells seashells...I mean...Acht alte Ameisen aßen am Abend Ananas (eight old ants eat pineapple in the evening). Now, try saying the word Zungenbrecher eleven times!

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4. Luftschloss /luft.schlos/

Do you plan and daydream a life you wish you had, more times than none? The word to describe such a scenario is Luftschloss. Luftschloss literally translates to “air castle.” As beautiful as Luftschloss sounds, it means an impossible or unrealistic dream, a dream so surreal that you cannot even achieve it, how tragic. Just don’t get Luftschloss confused with Lufthansa because that is a different word. See you in the skies.

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5. Innerer Schweinehund /in.ne.rer.Schveine.hund/

Do you sometimes or most of the time feel like a potato, that you end up procrastinating your duties? This is your innerer Schweinehund (inner pig dog) making you feel like this, telling you to just relax a little longer because you will maybe finish those duties in about 10-ish minutes or within the next 3 hours. Next time you find yourself in this situation, don’t put the blame on your precious self because it’s not you, it’s your innerer Schweinehund making the decisions for you.

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6. Kummerspeck /kum.mer.speck/

When you hear the word Kummerspeck, do you think of the phrase “grief bacon?” Maybe not, but Kummerspeck literally means “grief bacon.” This word describes that time of your life where you’re just eating away the pain, the grief, and the heartache of your breakup. You might even binge-eat five 14 ounces of your favorite Haagen-Dazs ice cream and that’s okay! I mean who says no to ice cream, right? #shoutouttomyex #wearenevergettingbacktogether #seeyounever

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7. Treppenwitz /tre.pen.vitz/

Treppenwitz is that unsaid response that forever haunts you because you never came up with it during that friendly banter. Treppenwitz literally means “staircase joke” because you end up thinking of such a snappy comeback when you’re already at the bottom of the staircase. And this is usually followed by the infamous saying of “Oh dear heavens! Why didn’t I think of that earlier?!”

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8. Kuddelmuddel /ku.del.mu.del/

Kuddelmuddel–don’t you just love saying the word Kuddelmuddel? I mean the word itself expresses this effortless rhyme and flow that just really goes. Despite its rhyme and sound, Kuddelmuddel means crazy chaos, an unstructured mess, a mingle-mangle. Say it with me, Kuddelmuddel, and it is ‘e’ before the ‘l’ just like in the word Strudel.

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9. Gemütlichkeit /ge.mut.lich.kite/

Saying that Gemütlichkeit means comfort is a total understatement. For one, Gemütlichkeit was named as the most beautiful German word in 2019. Gemütlichkeit describes the entire experience of that one-of-a-kind warm and cozy and snugged feeling, from the comfy couch to the warm atmosphere and the comforts in between. It’s that snug as a bug in a rug moment with your loved ones, with a cup of hot chocolate in your hands, and the exchanges of laughter is what gives you Gemütlichkeit.

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10. Vorfreude /vor.freu.de/

They say "patience is a virtue” and as you await, feelings of joy and excitement arise. This sentiment is known as Vorfreude, an untranslatable German word, describing the feeling of joyful anticipation while awaiting future pleasures like a simple vacation or a grand family gathering. Take it from the Germans as they say “Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude” meaning anticipation is the greatest joy.

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Despite the stereotypes, German is a beautiful and expressive language. Sometimes, its words are untranslatable, yet they are so unique and clever that you can’t help but love them. I mean, who knew there was a word for that particular feeling, eh? The Germans did!

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