German is full of anglicisms, English words which have been adopted into the German language. These words are sometimes called ‘Denglish’ as they are a mix of German (Deutsch) and English. Many of these words are used in the same way in both languages, but some are used differently and could cause confusion. Here’s a summary of Denglish words that do not have the same meaning in German and English:
1. Home office
This is one is everywhere at the moment! In German it’s possible to say you “have home office”, but in English, the only time we would use “home office” is to describe the room in which you work in at home. The action is most commonly described as “working from home” (WFH), but you might also hear native speakers talk about “home working”, “remote working” or “teleworking”.
This is a classic Denglish word. It seems logical that in Germany a small phone that you can hold in your hand would be called a “handy”, but in fact in English “handy” means something is practical or useful.
In English we just say “phone”, or maybe “mobile phone” (UK) or “cell phone” (US).
“Beamer” is another word that seems logical, but may leave native speakers of English confused. What German refers to as a “beamer” is called a “projector” in English.
One of the worst examples of Denglish gone wrong! German uses the word “peeling” to describe a scrub you use on your skin to remove dead cells and make your skin softer. In English we call this an “exfoliator”; the verb is “exfoliate”. The verb “peel” gives the idea that a whole layer is removed, like when you peel an orange. Not what you want when you buy a skincare product!
In German, an “oldtimer” is a vintage car, but in English an “old-timer” describes a person who has been doing something for a very long time and who is therefore usually good at that thing.
Whilst German speakers imagine a small suitcase with wheels that you can pull along when they hear the word “trolley”, English speakers will think of the large containers on wheels they use in the supermarket to put their shopping in or at the airport to put big suitcases on. In English, the small cases would just be called a “suitcase” or a “wheelie suitcase”.
In a business context, you might hear people talking about the “controlling” department in German. In English we would call this “management accounting”, or more generally “accounting” or perhaps even just “finance”.
It’s quite common for German to take English verbs and add an ‘ing’ to turn them into countable nouns. For example, while German speakers would talk about a “photo shooting”, English speakers say “photo shoot”. This is one to be particularly careful with because in English “a shooting” means someone is shot with a gun.
Other examples include “a casting” and “a voting”.
9. Open air
Whilst German has adopted “Open Air” as a noun to mean any event outside, in English it is still only used as an adjective, e.g. “open-air concert”, “open-air cinema”.
In German, “mobbing” has come to mean bullying, to be unkind to someone for a long time. However, in English “mobbing” means a group surrounds someone, either because they are angry and want to attack that person, or possibly because they are a fan of that person and want to get close to them.
For more examples of English/German false friends, take a look at this post.
Can you think of any more Denglish words? Feel free to share them below.