Denglisch (German spelling) or Denglish (English spelling) is a portmanteau of the German words Deutsch and Englisch (English), and can also be used to refer to a portmanteau of English and Dutch. The term is used in all German-speaking countries to refer to the increasingly strong influx of macaronic English or pseudo-English vocabulary (and other features of the language such as grammar and orthography) into German.[1] Many synonyms exist, including Germ(l)ish, Gerglish, Angleutsch, Genglish, and Engleutsch as well as Pseudo-Englisch. Both these and Denglish are also used to refer to incorrect English that is influenced by German.[2]

To some extent, the influence of English on German can be described in terms of normal language contact (which is active also in the reverse direction, see list of English words of German origin). The term Denglisch is however mostly reserved for forced, excessive exercises in anglicization, or pseudo-anglicization, of the German language. The forced introduction of anglicisms, especially in marketing and business terminology, experienced a peak during the 1990s and the early 2000s, but the ubiquity of the practice has since made it much less fashionable or prestigious and since then, many publicistic commentators have argued against it.[3] Zeit Online (itself an example of the prevalence of English loans in IT terminology) in a 2007 article, while granting the possibility of excessive linguistic purism among those arguing against anglicizing influence on German, criticises ubiquitous use of English (citing as example the fashion to label information desks at train stations, formerly simply known as Auskunft, with the anglicistic Service Point), and as an extreme case cites the pseudo-anglicistic Brain up! chosen by then-minister for education Edelgard Bulmahn as a campaign slogan in 2004.[4] The same slogan had already been satirized by Frankfurter Allgemeine in 2004.[5] That newspaper described how even the English-speaking sphere was mocking the unreflected and basically unnecessary kowtow as "German linguistic submissiveness".[6]


German vocabulary has numerous cases of English loanwords now fully "naturalized" as German words, including full inflection. English had only very limited influence on German before the mid-19th century. Such loanwords as there are mostly concern nautical vocabulary, loaned into Low German (e.g. tank, ultimately from Indo-Aryan; Tanker (tanker (ship)) is early 20th century).

In the 19th century, it was still more common to use loan translation for the vocabulary of industrialisation (Dampfmaschine for "steam engine", Pferdestärke for "horse power", etc.). To some extent, this continued in the early 20th century: Wolkenkratzer for "skyscraper", Kaugummi for "chewing gum", Flutlicht for "flood light", Fernsehen for "television".

English loanwords became more common in the early 20th century. A notable example from this period is Test (ultimately from Old French test "earthen pot"). Test was compatible both with German phonology and orthography so its nature as a loan is not evident.

Early loanwords (19th to early 20th century) often describe garments or foodstuffs: Jumper (19th century), Curry (19th century loan from English, ultimately from Tamil), Pyjama (early 20th century loan from English pyjamas, ultimately from Urdu), Trenchcoat (1920s). Other loanwords are boykottieren "to boycott" (1890s) and Star ("film star", homonymous with the German for starling).

Direct influence of English, especially via US pop culture, became far more pronounced after the end of World War II, with the Allied occupation of Germany and later by association with 1960s to 1970s US counterculture: Jeep, Quiz, Show, Western, Rock ("rock music", homonymous with the German for "skirt, frock"), Hippie, Groupie.

The newest and most prolific wave of anglicisms arose after 1989 with the end of the Cold War and the surge of the "Anglo-Saxon" smack of economic liberalism in continental Europe and the associated business jargon ("CEO" became extremely fashionable in German, replacing traditional terms such as Direktor, Geschäftsführer, Vorsitzender during the 1990s). At the same time, the rapid development of information technology pushed many technical terms from that field into everyday language.

Many of the more recent loans have developed in the spoken language and are still clearly felt to be English words, so their English orthography is retained in written communication, which leads to awkward spellings combining German morphemes with English word stems, as in gebootet ("booted up" of a computer) or gecrasht or gecrashed ("crashed", of a computer), downgeloadet, gedownloadet or gedownloaded ("downloaded"). They also retain English phonology in many cases, including phonemes that do not exist in Standard German (such as the /eɪ/ in "update").


German pseudo-anglicisms are words that seem to be English, but are German creations and have a different meaning or no meaning in native English.

The following English words or expressions came to be used in an unfamiliar sense in German:

Beamer(digital) projector
(In English slang, a "Beamer" can mean a BMW car.)
City[7]city centre, downtown, central business district. Origin: The City (of London)
Handy[8]mobile phone or cell phone
Peeling[9]facial or body scrub
Fotoshooting[10]photo shoot
Nord StreamNorth Stream (Russian-German gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea)
Smoking[11]dinner suit, tuxedo. Origin: Smoking jacket
Sprayer[12]graffiti artist or tagger. Origin: verb sprayen "using a spray can"
Timer[13][14]personal organizer. Origin: the "pseudo-anglicistic" meaning was generalised
from the loan of timer in the existing sense of "device used to measure time intervals",
which also remains the primary sense in German.

Compounds: Some German pseudo-anglicisms are produced by compounding two existing correct anglicisms:

Bodybag[16]messenger bag (1990s, from a trademark)
Dressman[17]male model. In the current fashion industry, also called Models.
Happy End[18]happy ending; also found in Japanese (ハッピーエンド happī endo) where it is recognized as wasei-eigo
Ice Teaiced tea, loan-translation Eistee; "ice tea" used to be grammatically unacceptable in English, but it has since become current, and has been listed as a "new word" by OED in 2012.[19]
Public Viewingused for major sport events like the FIFA World Cup in which the games are shown to the public on huge screens in public places. The expression "public viewing" originally had a different meaning, e.g. an opportunity for the public to view a (usually embalmed) dead body in an open coffin for the last time during a "wake" or "visitation" in a funeral chapel. But apparently the new meaning is no longer limited to "Denglisch speaking countries" but is creeping into native English as well.
Showmaster[20]TV-show host/emcee
Streetworker[21]feminine Streetworkerin, a social worker who is actively engaged in lower-class neighbourhoods; from a pseudo-English noun "Streetwork", an anglicization of the existing German compound Straßenarbeit. In English, "streetworker" means "prostitute", but "street work" used to mean "construction work on a street", but the pseudo-English "street work" for "social work in the street" seems to be creeping back into English via terminology used by international NGOs.
Youngtimeranalogous formation from Oldtimer,[22] a vintage or classic car or aircraft. Use of "oldtimer" in this sense does (rarely or facetiously) occur in English.[23]

Adoption of English grammar or idioms

Another form of Denglisch consists of calques of popular English expressions which replace German words and idioms. Common examples are:

  • Was passierte in 2005? (What happened in 2005?)
    Formally: Was passierte 2005? or Was passierte im Jahre 2005?

Although this is considered incorrect by many native speakers as it violates German grammar, it can be found even in German newspapers.[24]

  • Das macht Sinn. (That makes sense.)
    Formally: Das ergibt Sinn.; Das hat Sinn., or Das ist sinnvoll.
  • Willkommen zu [unserem Videochannel], properly Willkommen bei ... (although it has been pointed out that combination of "willkommen" with the preposition zu can also be found in German classics).[25]


Another phenomenon is the usage of the possessive construction 's (generally used in English but also correct in German in sunder cases), often called Deppenapostroph or Idiotenapostroph ("Idiot's apostrophe" or "Idiot's inverted comma") instead of the traditional German constructions. For example, a Denglisch speaker might write Wikipedia's Gestaltung ("Wikipedia's design") instead of either Wikipedias Gestaltung or die Gestaltung der Wikipedia. Less often, it is used incorrectly to mark a plural (Greengrocers' apostrophe); cf a similar construction in Dutch:

Handy's, Dessou's,

or for adverbial expressions, such as

montag's (instead of montags, cf. English [on] Mondays).

Denglisch may combine words according to English rules by writing them in succession. According to the Standard German grammar and spelling rules, that is incorrect.

Reparatur Annahme instead of Reparaturannahme

The first spelling, with two separate words, makes no logical or grammatical connection between the words but simply juxtaposes them. The second combines them into one word, an Annahme (in this case a place where something is received) for Reparaturen (repairs). That is often called Deppenleerstelle, or Deppenleerzeichen which means idiot's space, incorrectly separating parts of a compound word.


Some major companies such as Deutsche Bank now conduct much of their business in English, while several departments of the major German telephone company Deutsche Telekom were known as "T-Home" (formerly "T-Com"), "T-Mobile", "T-Online", and "T-Systems".

Reinventing titles for English-language films dubbed into German was once a common practice so, for example, a title like Paul Landres's 1958 Western Man from God's Country would become Men Who Die with Their Boots on. Most current American film titles are no longer translated into German, (Ice Age) although they still often receive German appendages like Prometheus – Dunkle Zeichen (Prometheus – Dark Signs) or include puns not present in the original title, such as Clerks – Die Ladenhüter for Clerks – The Shelf-Warmers. Menus of many global fast food chains also usually go partly or completely untranslated: "Double Whopper (formally: Doppel-Whopper) mit leckerem Bacon und Cheddar Cheese."

Advertising language

Advertising agencies in German-speaking countries have such a need for skills in English that they want ads for new employees to contain plain English such as "Join us".[26] KFC Germany's recruitment slogan is "I Am for Real", and its website shows very heavy use of English coupled with nonstandard German.[27]

German commercials or, more often, written advertisements are likely to use many English terms:

Mit Jamba! können Sie Klingeltöne, Logos und Spiele direkt aufs Handy downloaden.
Wählen Sie aus Tausenden coolen Sounds, aktuellen Games und hippen Logos.

The verb "downloaden" is alleged to have been coined by Microsoft, as there is a native, common German word ("herunterladen"). Microsoft Windows Update uses the phrase "Downloaden Sie die neuesten Updates" ("Download the latest updates") instead of the standard "Laden Sie die neuesten Aktualisierungen herunter". The latest interface guidelines suggest that the term "herunterladen" should be used again because many users complained. However, Aktualisierungen (unlike herunterladen) would not be idiomatic German in this usage or would at least have to be explained as Softwareaktualisierungen or Programmaktualisierungen, the former involving the new Anglicism "Software".

The use of ("Handy") has its roots in a commercial name, too. It is related to the handheld Walkie-talkie, a commercial name for the two-way radio transceiver to be transported in a bag, later in hands and so called ("Handie-talkie"). A correct translation could be ("Handsprechfunkgerät"). Germans used to cite the word ("Handy") as an example of Denglisch.

Advertising in the field of personal hygiene tends to use much English:

Double Action Waschgel
Vitalisierendes Peeling
Energy Creme Q10
Oil Control Gel Creme
Oil Control Waschgel
Neutrogena Visibly Clear Anti-Mitesser Peeling
Ariel Sproodles

The same applies to detergents:

Color Waschmittel instead of Buntwaschmittel or Farbwaschmittel
[brand name] Megaperls
[brand name] Oxy-Action

Larger national and international companies based in Germany also use English to describe their services. The television broadcaster ProSieben uses the slogan "We love to entertain you" while Zurich Financial Services advertise with the slogan "Because change happens". The fastest trains run by the German state-owned railway system Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) are named "IC" and "ICE", abbreviations of "Inter City" and "Inter City Express", while information booths are named ServicePoints, first-class waiting areas are referred to as Lounges,[28] and words like Kundendienst (customer service) and Fahrkarte (ticket) are quickly losing out to their respective English counterparts. As an official stance against this rampant use of Denglisch, the Deutsche Bahn in June 2013 issued a directive and glossary of 2200 Anglicisms that should be replaced by their German counterparts.[29]

Sometimes such neologisms also use CamelCase, as in the Deutsche Telekom's newest rates called "Fulltime", "Freetime", "Call Plus" and "Call Time" offering additionally such features as "CountrySelect". They do not even refrain from offering services at certain 'Callshops', using both languages by building a German-style compound, capitalizing it and using two English words in a new context. It has become common for travel agencies to offer "last minute" bookings or manufacturers to adopt "just in time"; perhaps driven by international commerce and economic interests.

The phrase "Test it" is increasingly common as an English phrase idiosyncratic to German, meaning roughly "Try it out". That is thought to have originated with advertising copy for West cigarettes, exhorting consumers to "Test The West".

  • The popular German a cappella group Wise Guys produced a song on their Radio album called "Denglisch", a tongue-in-cheek look at the use of English words in German language. In the song, the lyrics start out mostly German with only a few English words creeping in: "Oh, Herr, bitte gib mir meine Sprache zurück!" (O Lord, please give me my language back!). It progresses to most of the lyrics being English: "O Lord, please gib mir meine Language back"
  • In 1985, the famous German poetic songwriter Reinhard Mey recorded "Mey English Song" as a parody on the increasingly frequent playing of English songs on the radio, although the fans "only understand 'railway station'" (literal translation of the German idiom "verstehe nur Bahnhof"; "cannot understand a thing"). In the song, he states, his producer told him, "Well, what do we now for record sell?", urging Mey to sing in English.
  • In an episode of the web series Will It Blend? Tom puts a German-English/English-German CD dictionary into his blender. After he finishes blending the dictionary, he says, "Denglish smoke! Don't breathe this!"[30]
  • The book I like you – und du? (ISBN 978-3499203237) features frequent code-switching between English and German.
  • The punk rock band Goldfinger from Los Angeles produced a cover of "99 Luftballons" by Nena for their 2000 album Stomping Ground in which the fourth verse is in German.[31] They also included a "Germish version" of their song Spokesman as a bonus track on their 2002 album Open Your Eyes, containing a mostly German second verse.[32]

See also


  1. War of words | World news |
  2. "Abwesenheitsnotiz Out of office".
  3. Sönke Krügers Warum Denglisch Sprachmüll ist – Nachrichten Vermischtes Welt Online] 19 November 2007
  4. Verkaufte Sprache: Das Deutsche wird zum Sanierungsfall Jens Jessen, 28 July 2007. "Welcher Teufel trieb eine deutsche Wissenschaftsministerin zu einer Kampagne mit dem Motto »Brain up«, was weder auf Deutsch noch auf Englisch Sinn ergibt?"
  5. Uphearen bitte! csl., Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 27 January 2004, Nr. 22 / p. 36.
  6. Deutschland ist in der Sinnkrise, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30 September 2015 (in German)
  7. Duden, City
  8. Duden, Handy
  9. Duden, Peeling
  10. Duden, Fotoshooting
  11. Duden, Smoking
  12. Duden, Sprayer
  13. German Wikipedia, Timer
  14. Wahrig Deutsches Wörterbuch, 7. edition 2005, page 1252
  15. Duden, Trampen
  16. Robbin D. Knapp. "Robb: Erfundene englische Woerter im Deutschen/Invented English words in German".
  17. Duden, Dressman
  18. Duden, Happy End
  19. "New words list December 2012". Oxford English Dictionary.
  20. Duden, Showmaster
  21. Duden, Streetworker
  22. Duden, Oldtimer (dead)
  23. Popular Mechanics.
  24. SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg, Germany (8 April 2008). "Ausgemustert: Fast jeder zweite Mann untauglich fr die Bundeswehr". SPIEGEL ONLINE.
  25. Willkommen zu ... bei ... an? Was stimmt denn nun?, Die Welt, 23 January 2012
  26. Wetzlarer Neue Zeitung 26 August 2006
  27. KFC
  28. "DB Lounge – Die 1. Klasse im Bahnhof". Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  29. "No Denglisch: Willkommen to Linguistic Purity". The Economist. 29 June 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  30. Blendtec. "Germany". willitblend.
  31. "Goldfinger - 99 Red Balloons". YouTube.
  32. "Goldfinger Spokesman (2nd verse in German)". YouTube.

Further reading

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