Speak you Denglish? Common English mistakes of German speakers

My (inexhaustive) list of Denglish words

13 Jan 2017
(comments: 2)
Denglish idiom
"With him is not good cherries eating!" What on earth could this (mis)translated German idion mean?

If you regularly speak with Germans, be it for business reasons or during travel, you've probably stumbled upon your German counterpart using some pseudo-English vocabulary – a phenomenon called “Denglish”. Find out here what your business partner actually means when he says things like “Handy” or “Shooting”.

Obvious Denglish phrases vs. tricky ones

There are many obvious “Denglish” phrases – usually literal English translations of uniquely German sayings – that most people would flag, for example:

“All this was for the cat”

German: “Das war alles für die Katz

Meaning: “It was all in vain”

“With him is not good cherries eating”

German: “Mit ihm ist nicht gut Kirschen essen

Meaning: “He's not the sort of person to be messed with”

Far trickier for German native speakers are the many subtle “Denglish” words that can wiggle their way into their texts. To help you, who is dealing with German-speaking people via email, reports and social media posts in English, I have put together a list of “Denglish” words to look out for.

So here it is, my list of “Denglish” words, together with the correct English translation:


What Germans actually mean

Baby phone

Baby monitor




Cross-body bag or messenger bag


One-piece garment (or: a onesie)




Potato chips (and of course in the UK chips are French fries)


Comic strip or comic book


Film editor


Male model


Drive-through, drive-up


Classic songs (Golden Oldies), standards


Boom box


Home gym equipment


Table football or “foosball” (how’s that for tit-for-tat language mangling?)

Last, not least

Last, but not least



To mail someone

To send an e-mail to someone




Bullying, harassment


Halter top

Oldtimer (Youngtimer)

A vintage or classic car (a youngtimer is a modern classic)

Open Air

Open air (music) festival


Coming out – self-disclosure of one’s gay/lesbian orientation

Partner look

People who are dressed the same or similarly. Nearest equivalent would be “you look like twins”


Facial mask or body scrub


An online post

Public viewing

Public screening.


Photo shoot

Soft ice

Soft serve ice cream



Street worker

Social worker


(Show) host, emcee/MC




Power walking


If a hotel in Germany offers "wellness", it means they have a spa or spa treatment available.


Are you about to publish a German text that either needs to be translated or has been translated and needs final proofreading by a native German speaker?

Or are you working on an important English text that is about to be published and you’re worried parts may sound like “Denglish” to native English speakers?

Feel free to contact me. I offer new clients a 15% discount on their first translation or proofreading order. Just remember to mention the discount code “0117” in your email to me.

Get a free, no-obligation quote


And if you know of a typical “Denglish” word that’s not in my list, fill me in – drop me a line in the comment section!

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Comment by V. Y. |

Couple of words I've heard that are not strictly speaking Denglish: All rounder, and know-how. They're not entirely falsely used like "handy", just overused. While "all rounder" does exist in English meaning someone who's skilled at many things, such usage is rare. What Germans mean by "all rounder" is what we normally call a gopher. "Know-how" also exists in English and although it is sometimes used, I've heard it used 100 times more often by German speakers than native English speakers. It's a bit too cutesy for most people's taste; most of the time we prefer simple, concrete words such as "knowledge" or "skills". It also doesn't express anything more than the German words Kenntnisse or Fähigkeit.

Comment by David Rainey |

Most of the European country people are not good in English communication with a proper understanding of the word with their accent. So this blog is very helpful for a German speaker who wants to learn English. Thanks for sharing with us.

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