German word of the day: Sympathisch

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
German word of the day: Sympathisch
Photo credit: Francesco Ungaro / Unsplash + Nicolas Raymond / flickr

A very difficult German word to translate into English, sympathisch is generally a wonderful compliment or way of describing a person.


What does it mean?

Sympathisch may sound like “sympathetic” in English. But while a sympathisch person may well express sympathy for people, sympathisch covers a lot more than this, which is why it’s so hard to translate.

The closest English translations are "likeable", "congenial" or "friendly", but none of these words quite convey the exact meaning of sympathisch.


Sympathisch often describes a nice energy that you get from a person. You may find someone likeable and friendly, but a sympathisch vibe indicates that you instinctively like or trust them based on intuition. You could say that it's about "vibing with someone" - not necessarily in a romantic way, though. 

You may find someone friendly, but not necessarily sympathisch, if you like them but also think they might be hiding something from you, to use one example.

How do you use it or where might you see it?

Sympathisch is an adjective used mostly to describe a person, and you’re likely to encounter it reasonably often in everyday conversation and in German language media and popular culture.

You’ll often see it in a sentence like this:

Findest du ihn sympathisch? – Do you vibe with him? 

Warum ist uns jemand sympathisch und anderen nicht? – Why do we find some people likeable and others not?

READ ALSO: Eight German words that are impossible to translate into English


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