German Language Blog

German Car-Related Words Posted by on Apr 18, 2018 in Language

Guten Tag! Germany is world-famous for its cars, so it’s no wonder that there are several, quirky German words and phrases related to vehicles and driving in general. Today I’d like to introduce you to a few of these words and phrases!


Foto by johnas on under a CC license (CC by 2.0)

The first word is das Elefantenrennen. This literally translates to ‘elephant running’ and describes the situation when a big lorry tries to overtake another big lorry on the motorway, thus blocking both lanes so faster vehicles can’t overtake, and ultimately slowing down traffic. Do you know the feeling? The Germans find this so annoying that now, any Elefantenrennen that takes longer than 45 seconds is actually prohibited, and can land the overtaking driver a ticket!

The second driving-related German word is die Familienkutsche. A Kutsche is traditionally a carriage, such as one that would have been pulled by horses in the past. But a Familienkutsche isn’t some old-school method of transport – it’s the word used to describe those big, family cars or people carriers used by parents with several children.

Here is a phrase you can use. In English, if someone is a bit mad we say theyhave a screw loose’. The German equivalent to this phrase is ein Rad abhaben – ‘to have a wheel loose’! As abhaben in a separable verb, you would form it in the present tense like so:

Der hat ein Rad ab!
He’s mad/he’s got a screw loose!

There are two more words I wrote about previously, which are: der Schilderwald (a ‘forest of road signs’) and das Reißverschlusssystem (a ‘zip system’). You can read all about these words here!

Germany has always been associated with its cars. These words and phrases show you how colourfully Germans describe certain driving-related situations, and how driving-related words are used in everyday life, too. I hope you’ve found it interesting.

Bis bald!

Related driving/car vocabulary:

Traffic light – die Ampel
Motorway – die Autobahn
Traffic – der Verkehr
Accident – der Unfall
Car – das Auto
Accelerator – das Gaspedal
Brake – die Bremse
Clutch – die Kupplung
Engine – der Motor
Indicator – der Blinker
Hazard lights – die Warnblinkanlage
Windscreen wiper – der Scheibenwischer
Petrol – das Benzin
Driving license – der Führerschein

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and have been writing about German language and culture on this blog since 2014. I am also a fitness instructor & personal trainer.


  1. August:

    Well done! Short. To the point. Nice

  2. Shaik Ahmed Kabir:

    Iche Lebe Deutsche Land.

  3. Ruchi Kharat:

    Highly informative posts about the typical day-to-day German things that we don’t get acquainted with while learning German as a foreign language. Helped me a lot to enhance my German vocabulary. Thanks! 🙂