5 English words that you didn’t know come from German

German and English are more closely linked than you might think. Both languages share the same roots, and therefore a great deal of vocabulary is similar (around 60% of the lexicon).

If you choose to take on the courageous task of learning German, you’ll be relieved to discover that many words are similar in both languages. 

Today, we examine 5 words of German origin commonly used in everyday English.

Rucksack

This first term can take a hike, are we right? First recorded in the 1850s, the word “rucksack” takes its origin from the Alpine-German dialect word Rück (“back”) – or der Rücken in German – and Sack (“bag”). 

Did you know? As opposed to “backpack”, “rucksack” is a military term which refers to a more sturdy bag made of strong, waterproof material able to carry heavier loads.

Kindergarten

Picking up your kids at kindergarten to hug and/or disinfect them? Perhaps you know that this word is taken from the German kinder (“children”) and garten (“garden”), so literally… a garden full of children. Be sure to water your children regularly.

The term dates to the 19th century and comes from educator Friedrich Froebel, who created the first kindergarten in 1840 and coined the term.

Note: in UK English, the term “nursery” is a more commonly used term to refer to “kindergarten”.

Noodle

Slurping your umpteenth ramen while reminiscing about your trip to Japan? The word “noodle” comes from the 18th-century German word nudel, thought to come from the German word Knödel which means “dumpling,” or, more literally, a “turd”. Guten Appetit, as always.

Did you know? In English, the word “noodle” can be used as a slang term for the head, and by extension the brain (“use your noodle!”). We’re still unsure how pasta and brain came to be linked, but an interesting fact nonetheless.

Fest

Truth be told, we do love a good fun fest at our Gymglish office – and that’s before we knew about its German origins. We’re still comfortable with it, but a bit less. The English suffix “fest” is a derivative of the German word of the same spelling. The term comes from Middle High German veste which means “strong” or “firm”. Note the connection to the terms “feast” and “festive”.

Note: While fest is still very commonly used, your German Freund is just as likely to invite you to eine Party.

Angst

What is life without a healthy bit of angst.

Originally, the German word Angst, meant “fear”. However, in English, the word has taken on a new meaning and is generally used to express a sense of anxiety, insecurity and/or unhappiness. English speakers will often talk about “existential angst” or “teenage angst”.

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