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Ten words that sound prettier in German than in English

Cotton or Baumwolle in German.
Cotton or Baumwolle in German. Photo: Bgabel/Wikicommons
German doesn’t have much of a reputation for beauty. But the language of Goethe and Schiller can’t be all bad. We’ll even go out on a limb and say there are some words that are nicer in German than in English. Read on to see if you agree.

Ok, ok. Everyone knows that German isn’t viewed as the most attractive European language.

But really, look around you, German speakers. Smell the Blümchen. There are some beauties hiding out in plain sight. Here are some lovely German words that we think trump the English versions every time.

1.(die) Umarmung – hug/embrace

Take this lovely, cozy word for starters. The German noun for “hug” sounds as friendly as its meaning. And as with all of the best German words, it does what it says on the tin. Literally, “around-arming.”

2. (die) Glühbirne – light bulb

This word just shows that sometimes, German really does have it all. A smooth, padded kind of sound and a cute image to go along with it. We’re sure you’ll agree with us that “glowing pear” is a million times more romantic than “light bulb.”

Lightbulbs om a table.
Lightbulbs or glowing pears. Almost poetic. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Florian Schuh

3. (der) Himmel – sky

As in Gott im…This pleasing sing-song word has more than one meaning. It can mean “sky” but is also closely related to the English “heaven.” This in turn gives rise to the pretty himmelblau, which we think is much nicer and poetic-sounding than plain old sky blue.

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4. (das) Kuddelmuddel – mess

This endearing word not only trips off the tongue in a satisfying rhythm but even has an internal rhyme to boot. We also think it hides a visual clue to its messed up, mixed up meaning.

5. liebäugeln – to flirt/consider/ogle

One pretty German word, many English meanings. Literally, it means to love with the eyes, whether you are using it to refer to your crush or a new car.

'I love you cookies' hang up at a stall in Heidelberg.
‘I love you cookies’ hang up at a stall in Heidelberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

6. (die) Baumwolle – cotton

Nice rhythm, soft sounds, ’nuff said. And, come on, “tree wool,” you’ve got to love that kind of logic, even though Baumwolle or cotton comes from a bush and not an actual tree.   

7. zauberhaft – magical

We like this word. A lot. Maybe it’s the legacy of all of those z sounds from magical childhood favourite, The Wizard of Oz – or maybe it’s do with our affinity with pizza – but somehow the z in the German just makes it sound more dazzling than the English.

8. bärenstark – very strong

We like the mix of hard and soft sounds in this much more visual version of the English. And we’re of the school of thought that, if you can express something using a passing reference to a bear, then you should. We hear that the bärenstärksten (strongest) people live in Berlin, which has a fearsome bear as its mascot on its flag.

Statues of Berlin bears outside the Olympic Stadium in the capital.
Statues of Berlin bears outside the Olympic Stadium in the capital. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Gora

9. gegenüberliegend – opposite/opposing

Come on, you’ve got to admit it, this is a great word. This higgledy-piggledy adjective may have a pretty dull meaning, but hearing the announcer saying our train is leaving from the “gegenüberliegenden Gleis” (opposite platform) always puts a smile on our faces. It’s like jazz, man. Have you heard such a melodic announcement anywhere else?

10.  (der) Föhn – hair dryer

And lastly, just to show that German can also be short, sweet and cuter than the English. We think this word makes a mundane everyday item – the humble hair dryer – just that little bit more adorable. It’s not, ehm, as dry of a word as it sounds.


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