learning german For Members

German word of the day: Kater

Author thumbnail
Ana Dilley - [email protected]
German word of the day: Kater
Image: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Whether you prefer to spend your weekend partying or hiking, you may find yourself requiring the word ‘Kater’ in order to explain to your colleagues your less than cheerful demeanour come Monday morning.


Depending on the apparent state of the person who expresses ‘Ich habe einen Kater’ they have either acquired a male cat or, more likely, an alcohol-induced illness featuring a pounding headache and a penchant for greasy foods -- also known as a hangover.

Der Kater is actually the German word for a tomcat, die Katze being the more widely-used noun which technically refers to a female cat but is used for cats of either gender.

The origins of the colloquial use of Kater for a hangover is not thought to be related to cats, but rather to the Greek word katarrh. Katarrh, or catarrh in English, is essentially the common cold, whose symptoms could also be conflated with those of a hangover.

If you have had a heavy night of drinking, you may seek a Katerfrühstuck as a cure. For Germans, this ‘hangover breakfast’ can often include bizarre ‘cures’ such as Rollmops and Konterbier.

READ ALSO: Cats in southern German town ordered into summer lockdown

Another cat-related word for a hangover is der Katzenjammer; literally ‘cat’s wail.’ In this instance, the feline reference is believed to stem from the similarities between a cat’s screams and the laments of the hungover individual. It could also allude to how everyday noises may sound like a cat howling when you are suffering from a hangover.

der kater

If you hear someone say, ‘Ich habe einen Kater’ they have either acquired a male cat or, more likely, a hangover. Photo: Pixabay | svklimkin

Kater also features in one of the German language's numerous compound nouns- der Muskelkater. Literally meaning ‘muscle hangover,’ this refers to post-sport muscle ache, technically the painful build-up of lactic acid post-exercise.


How it's used:

Ich bin soooo verkatert’.

I am soooo hungover.

Ich habe im Zimmer einen Kater‘.

I have a tomcat in my room (in this case not likely a reference to a hangover).

Gestern bin ich ins Fitnessstudio gegangen und jetzt habe ich schrecklichen Muskelkater in Beinen.

I went to the gym yesterday and now my leg muscles ache so much.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also