Six untranslatable German words you need for the fall

untranslateable words german fernweh

Fall has come – a season which not only changes the outer world by re-coloring leaves, cutting daylight hours short, and calling umbrellas back to life, but also affects our inner world. Below are six words unique to the German language, which gain relevance as soon as the summer ends.   

1. Fernweh

untranslateable words german fernweh
Photo: fcscafeine /

It’s wet, dark, and miserable outside… You’re probably starting to feel “Fernweh”. The term translates literally to “distance pain”, and describes the longing one has to be somewhere else, at a far-away place. When you’re in your cold, gray apartment, you might dream of a warm beach and start feeling Fernweh.

2. Sehnsucht

Sehnsucht german words
Photo: lolostock /

“Sehnsucht” can be a component of “Fernweh”, though it can also relate to missing someone or something. It contains the element of the unreachable. The term “Sehnsucht” is a forging of two words: “sehnen”, which means “to yearn for” or “to long for”, and “Sucht”, which translate to “addiction” or “obsessiveness”. Though, literally it means “obsessive yearning” that’s not what it actually describes, “intense yearing” would rather capture it.

3. Weltschmerz

weltschmerz german words
Photo: Herianus /

Fall is undoubtedly an introspective and often melancholic season. We head indoors as the temperature drops, and simultaneously, we withdraw into ourselves. The German language has another word for this somber and reflective mood: “Weltschmerz”. Literally translating to “world pain”, Weltschmerz denotes the feeling of anxiety or sentimental sadness that overcomes you when thinking of the ills caused by the world, or when comparing the actual state of the world to an ideal world.

4. Kummerspeck

Kummerspeck german words
Photo: Piotr Marcinski /

What do we tend to do when caught in a seriously melancholic mood? We eat chocolate, pizza, ice cream…and inadvertently gain a few pounds/kilos. This extra weight, caused by emotional overeating, has a name in German: “Kummerspeck”—literally: “grief bacon”.

5. Innerer Schweinehund

innerer schweinehund german words
Photo: AntGor /

If we’re being honest, our Fall problems don’t end with the Grief Bacon, right? We are also guilty of being horribly lazy. Fall is the time when being active outside turns into watching Netflix inside. In short, Fall is the season which unleashes our “innerer Schweinehund”, or “inner pig-dog”. Our inner pig-dogs keep us in bed, or on the couch, binge watching series after series. “Den inneren Schweinehund zu überwinden” (“to overcome the inner pig-dog”) describes getting up from your cozy cushion and getting outside, or putting on your workout gear and hitting the gym. But why is the couch so comfortable as soon as the summer ends?

6. Gemütlichkeit

Gemuetlichkeit gemuetlich german words
Photo: AlexRaths /

A warm, cozy bed feels even more “gemütlich” when it’s cold, rainy, and grey outside. There’s no word in English to describe the term “Gemütlichkeit”, which in German defines this cozy, warm, cuddly, peaceful atmosphere and state of well-being. Wrapped in a wool blanket, you lay on the couch in front of an open fire, you have a cup of tea in your hand as you cuddle with your partner; you feel safe and secure, comfortable and content. The feeling of security, your body comfortable and relaxed, your mind free of worries or stress – this is true German “Gemütlichkeit”.

Also in our blog: Wer eine Sternschnuppe sieht, für den geht ein Wunsch in Erfüllung. Wer in einen Hundehaufen tritt, darf sich glücklich schätzen. Aberglaube in Deutschland. Es geht noch weiter: Wer in Deutschland vor dem Geburtstag gratuliert, erntet ein aufgebrachtes „Das bringt Unglück“. Diese zehn Dinge bringen Pech. Auch interessant: #WhatMakesYouGerman: Eifrig tauschten unter diesem Hashtag viele Leute ihre Gedanken aus. Hier was zum Schmunzeln: Wir haben die besten Tweets für Sie rausgepickt.

Main photo: fcscafeine /

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