For many of us, myself included, learning German is like climbing the Himalayas Mountains. If the grammar or the articles don’t get to you, the compound words without exact translation into English will – because in some German compound words the stem words don’t keep their meaning. The beauty of it is that once you do learn their meaning you grasp their beauty.
Literally: Three + cheese + high
Meaning: the loving nickname you would give a small child who is only as tall as three wheels of cheese stacked on top of each other.
Precious! Reminds me of Heidi!
Literally: donkey bridge
Meaning: a mnemonic device, a memory aide
Flak is an acronym for a pre – World War 2 anti-aircraft gun: Fliegerabwehrkanone
Fliegerabwehr means “defense against air attack” and Kanone means cannon.
Literally: Distance + pain
Meaning: It describes the feeling you get when you want to be somewhere else, a yearn for the freedom and adventure of travel. Similar to wanderlust (see below).
Literally: hand shoe
How very logical, right?
Literally: Glove + snowball + throwe
Meaning: a wimp.
If you ever tried to through more than one snowball without your gloves on you will not agree with this meaning. I second that.
Literally: Children + garden
Friedrich Froebel, a 19th Century German educator, was one of the first to believe that children needed some formal education, through play and exploration, before primary school.
Froebel opened his first kindergarten in 1837, and the curriculum included playing with toys, playing games and singing songs. By the 1880s, kindergartens opened in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Hungary, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States.
The word itself came into English in 1852—the same year that Froebel died.
Literally: head cinema
Meaning: your vivid imagination
Literally: cool + cupboard
To the point!
Literally: Sea + little pig
Meaning: guinea pig
Literally: literally: naked snail
Literally: Ear + worm
Meaning: This describe that song stuck in your head, the one you are singing over and over again.
Not exactly a compound word, schwarmerei is derived from the German verb schwärmen, which means to swarm.
Schwarmerei refers to excessive and uninhibited enthusiasm and also puppy love.
Literally: Storm (tempest) + free
Meaning: When you have the house to yourself and everyone else is away
I wonder who they refer to as the “tempest” here…
Literally: day + thief
Meaning: a dilly-dallier, a lay about, a loafer
Literally: Gate + shut + panic
Meaning: The fear we get, as we age, that time is running out and important opportunities are slipping us away.
Tick-tock, says your biological clock.
Literally: Stairs (staircase) + joke
Meaning: The joke you came up with but the moment to share it has already passed.
Literally: Make something worse + to improve
Meaning: Making something worse by trying to improve it.
Sound like any home DIY to me…
Literally: Migratory / travelling + desire / appetite
Meaning: An aching desire to travel and get away.
Desire to turn into a peripatetic, a walking wanderer.
Literally: World + pain/ grief
Meaning: A feeling of melancholy or pessimism, of having lost all faith in the world and humankind.
The word Weltschmerz was born during the Romantic literary movement of the 19th century. It was first used it to describe Lord Byron’s cynical loathing for the world.
Literally: Pull / tug + force
Meaning: Forced to make a decision when under stress or pressure.
The longest German composed word stretches at 80 letters:
The “Association for Subordinate Officials of the Head Office Management of the Danube Steamboat Electrical Services”.
The longest English word in the Oxford Dictionary has 45 letters:
“an artificial long word said to mean a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust.
The longest word to be found in Britain is a Welsh place name with 58 letters:
You might like to read: 20 Afrikaans words with interesting English literal translations
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