When reading a German sign, advertisement or something online, you might notice an English word in the middle of all the German. Or at least, it looks like an English word, but it doesn’t always mean the same thing in a German context as it would in an English one. There is a range of words like this, and it’s called Denglish.
Ready to build on your Denglish vocabulary? Let’s look at some examples:
What is Denglish?
Denglish is the mash-up of English and German and it has a few forms. There’s the anglicized version of a word in place of the German word with the same meaning, a word that sounds like English but is not actually used in the English language, anglicized grammar constructions and anglicized spellings that don’t fit German spelling conventions.
But is it Denglish or Denglisch? It depends on which language is your native one. If you’re an English speaker, you’d probably spell it as Denglish, but Germans would probably go for the German version of the word English to form Denglisch.
Mixing English with another language isn’t an uncommon phenomenon. There’s Spanglish (Spanish and English) and Franglais (French and English), but language purists worry about the effect all this linguistic mixing has on their original language.
English doesn’t feel threatened, but it’s a language full of loanwords, and as the dominant shared language across the world – 1.35 billion people can speak it worldwide – it’s not in danger of becoming irrelevant.
Now that you know what it means, here are 10 common Denglish words you’re sure to encounter in German:
In German, a Handy is a cell phone or mobile phone. While this is an English word, it has nothing to do with cell phones. to be handy describes being able to fix something or a convenient thing.
No English speaker would know what a Handy was in the German sense, and when you’re first learning German, this can be very confusing!
As we say this word in English so often, it’s easy not to notice when a German speaker uses it.
But technically, the German word for a TV show would be Fernsehsendung or even just Sendung – think of the popular German kids’ show Der Sendung mit der Maus (The Show with the Mouse).
Germans also say TV-show in the same way English speakers do.
The proper German term for the verb to download is herunterladen. You put the prefix ge- in the middle to use it in the past tense, so to say ‘I downloaded the app’, you would say: Ich habe die App heruntergeladen.
Hilariously, the verb to download gets a Germanified past tense sometimes in Denglish – it’s not uncommon to hear: Ich habe die App downgeloadet. It’s like a double Denglishification! Using an English word in German, but also making it sort of use a German conjugation.
Although the term ‘home office’ is widely used in both English and German, the German usage is broader.
People will use it to describe the whole concept of working from home, such as Homeoffice-Pflicht – the term that describes the obligation for organizations to offer working from home.
You can spot the Denglish version of this word as it’s always squished into one word with no space – Homeoffice.
It’s hard not to be shocked when you hear this word from a German speaker, as the most common meaning in English is a violent event involving guns. But in German, this Denglish word means a photoshoot. It even has a plural – Shootings.
The word Beamer is one of those Denglish words that sounds like it’s English, but it isn’t. There is the slang word Beemer, to refer to a BMW car or motorcycle, but it’s not that common.
Beamer in Denglish refers to a projector you would use to beam your presentation from your laptop to a big screen, which is presumably where the word came from.
While in English you may use this term to describe the out-of-control behavior of shoppers on Black Friday – “They were mobbing the shoe section!”, it’s not a very common way to use this verb.
In German, however, it means something completely different. Mobbing is the term used for bullying, particularly in schools.
If you’re looking at the word Basecap and tilting your head to the side, trying to figure out what this Denglish word means, you’re not alone.
It is what an English speaker would call a baseball cap. Somewhere along the way, the Denglish version lost the ‘ball’ part.
A Pullunder sounds like English, but it isn’t. The English word is “sweater vest”.
The Pullunder comes from Pullover, another Denglish term, that means a sweater or jumper, often shortened to Pulli. Interestingly, a Pullunder used to be called a Westover – also not an English word!
Another unnerving loanword, Bodybag in German does not mean a large sack for a dead body, as it does in English. A Bodybag is a fanny pack, one of those small bags on a strap that can be worn around the waist or slung over a shoulder.
Be careful with the term “fanny pack” though, because fanny is a slang word for a woman’s sexual organs in British English (they prefer the term bumbag). This will make North Americans snicker, so there is no winning when it comes to this word, in either English or German!
Brush up on your Denglish
Now that you’re familiar with some common Denglish terms, it won’t make you do a double take when you hear a German speaker talking about how many Bodybags to bring to the fashion Shooting.
Even though some German-language purists want to stop the use of so much English in everyday German speech, languages always change over time, often due to new speakers adding their own flavor to it.
It only makes learning a new language that much more fascinating.
Erin McGann is a Canadian freelance writer focusing on travel, living abroad, parenting, history, and culture. After nearly a decade living in the UK, Erin settled in Heidelberg, Germany with her husband and son. Dragging her family to every castle and open-air museum is a favorite activity, along with sewing, archery, and historical reenactment. You can check out her travel blog, and follow her obsession with half-timbered houses on her Instagram account.