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The German Language Series: Part I - German Loanwords and Basic Pronunciation

Updated on September 5, 2011

What follows is Part I of a series on German language basics. What you will find in this and each successive Hub will be a themed summation of some element of the German language.

This initial introduction will orient the learner by listing a number of English words derived from German, as well as providing a written and audio pronunciation guide to the alphabet.

German Loanwords

Here is a small collection of words that you are already familiar with which are used in the English language.

English: German: Meaning

  • Angst: Angst: “fear”
  • Aspirin: Aspirin: Medication
  • Blitzkrieg: Blitzkrieg: “lightning war”
  • Cobalt: Kobalt: Chemical element
  • Coffee Klatch: Kaffeeklatsch: Coffee get together
  • Delicatessen: Delikatessen: A shop selling cooked meats, cheeses, etc.
  • Doppelgänger: Doppelgänger: Look-alike
  • Ersatz: Ersatz: Replacement
  • Fahrenheit: Fahrenheit: Temperature scale
  • Fest: Fest: Celebration
  • Gestalt: Gestalt: A being or shape
  • Hamburger: Hamburger: Ground beef
  • Hertz: Hertz: Unit of frequency
  • Kaput: Kaput: Broken
  • Kindergarten: Kindergarten: Grade level
  • Neanderthal: Neanderthal: Classification in human evolution
  • Realpolitik: Realpolitik: Power politics
  • Rucksack: Rucksack: Back pack
  • Umlaut: Umlaut: Diactrical mark
  • Verboten: Verboten: Forbidden
  • Wanderlust: Wanderlust: Longing to travel
  • Zeppelin: Zeppelin: Airship
  • Zinc: Zink: Chemical element

The Alphabet

Letter (Buchstabe): Pronunciation (Aussprache)

  • Aa: ah
  • Bb: beh
  • Cc: tseh
  • Dd: deh
  • Ee: aye
  • Ff: ef
  • Gg: geh
  • Hh: hah
  • Ii: ee
  • Jj: yot
  • Kk: kah
  • Ll: el
  • Mm: em
  • Nn: en
  • Oo: oh
  • Pp: peh
  • Qq: kuh
  • Rr: er
  • Ss: ess
  • Tt: teh
  • Uu: ooh
  • Vv: fau
  • Ww: vay
  • Xx: eeks
  • Yy: irp-se-lon
  • Zz: tsett

With Umlaut

  • Ää: ay
  • Öö: eu
  • Üü: eywe
  • ß: ess

Double Vowels (Diphthong)

  • ai/ei: eye
  • au: ow
  • eu/ äu: oi
  • ie: ee

The key to pronunciation is to say each an every letter in the word. There will be slight variations in sound according to context just as in any other language. Still, this guide allows for a basic foundation in sounding German words.

Look below to hear the alphabet and examples of each letter pronounced.

German Alphabet Audio

Pronunciation Practice

German Pronunciation


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    • Lilith Eden profile image

      Lilith Eden 6 years ago from Memphis, TN


      There is no shame in being able to call on a traditional -and perhaps overly morbid- German folk song when the situation allows! Good thing I'm here to provide you with said situation. It will surely keep your skills refreshed :)


      Oh, and in regards to the fan mail: nice to make your acquaintance as well. Pleasure's all mine.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 6 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      Vor vielen Jahren habe ich 3 Jahre des Deutsch in Sekundärschule und zwei Semestern in Hochschule gedauert. Meine Hochschulkurse waren während des Sommers und der Professor hat nur lehrt uns deutsche Lieder gemacht. Kein Machen Spaß wie: „Wen die soldaten, in der stadt marcheren ofnen die madchen fenster und tieren, Ei warum, Ei darum, Ei warum, Ei darum, Ein bloss weg dem shunderlase bunderlasa sa sa „“ und viele andere! Ich kann noch sie singen. Ihre Naben sind groß - gute Erfrischungen für mich! Ich erinnere mich nicht, an was "Ein bloss weg dem shunderlasa bunderlasa sa sa" „Mittel :-)

    • Lilith Eden profile image

      Lilith Eden 6 years ago from Memphis, TN

      @ kschimmel:

      As a native German speaker, I could not agree more. It is an incredible language. I'm glad you took your time to read the hub and appreciate it. Thank you!


      That sounds like a great experience for your son. How lucky he was to have been able to do that! Linguistics is a very lucrative field if he can find the perfect niche. I wish him the best of luck!

      And believe me, I want to go back too!

      Please, keep checking in and send your son this way. I will try to have one or two new German hubs a week for the next few oncoming months.

      Thank you for reading!


    • profile image

      crochet48 6 years ago

      This is really fantastic! My sons both took German, with my youngest progressing to the fourth level in the U.S. – AP level. He was able to travel to Berlin and Mosbach with his class a few years ago and, with the German he had already learned, attended classes in the gymnasium with his "exchange sister," toured the countryside and got to visit with other exchange school students and their families.

      He is thinking of majoring in Linguistics and a foreign language.

      We (older son, then-husband and I) lived in Germany for three years several years ago and I want so badly to return!

      This series is a great review for him – I will be letting him know about it. Thanks!

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 6 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I love the German language. More English speakers should learn German, since our languages have a lot of vocabulary in common, e.g. drink and trinken, think and denken, thank and danken....