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The German Dish Labskaus Posted by on Jul 29, 2019 in Food, History, Intercultural, Language

Guten Tag! I’m coming at you today with a word you may not have realised is German in origin.

We’ve talked several times on the blog about English words that are actually German, including angst, wanderlust and rucksack, to name but a few. If you’re interested, there are posts on these here, here and here.

But sometimes there are words that take you by surprise, and this was one of those for me.

Today we are talking about the German word Labskaus, and its connection to a British-English word.


Labskaus is a traditional dish from northern Germany, especially popular in Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen. It consists of corned beef or other, salted meat, accompanied by potatoes and onions. There are variations on the dish (for example, some include an Eiegg rote Beete – beetroot, or Hering – herring) but this is its basic make-up. So, if you go to Norddeutschland (northern Germany) and see Labskaus on the menu, now you know what it is.

It is said that Labskaus was invented, and primarily eaten by, sailors and seamen in the 16th century, because all of the ingredients used were readily available and non-perishable.

The meaning of the word is not clear, but in Latvian the words ‘Labs kauss’ translate to ‘good bowl [of food]’, so it’s possible the German is a variation on that. The dish Labskaus is not exclusive to Germany; it is also found in parts of Scandinavia.

Labskaus. Image via Pixabay.

The English connection

Labskaus also made its way to England, UK – specifically to Liverpool, which is a British seaport. In English it became known as ‘scouse’. Not only is scouse the name of the dish, but it’s the name given to the people and dialect of Liverpool!

Labskaus → Lobscouse → Scouse

It never occurred to me why people from Liverpool might be called ‘scousers’ and the dialect be called ‘scouse’. How interesting to learn that the name comes from a plate of food eaten by German sailors many centuries ago.


Canned meat – das Dosenfleisch

Egg – das Ei

Beetroot – die rote Beete

Herring – der Hering

North Germany – Norddeutschland

Sailor/Seaman – der Seemann

Seaport – die Hafenstadt

perishable – verderblich

non-perishable – unverderblich

Scandinavia – das Skandinavien

Latvia – das Lettland


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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 love writing about German language and culture. I also work as a group fitness instructor.


  1. Michael DE Brown:

    Thanks for the explanation and its ties to Liverpool. Tinned goods did not come into existence until the nineteenth century not the 16th century. Mike Brown

    • Constanze:

      @Michael DE Brown Oh yes, you’re right! That must have happened later on. I have updated the post. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Joseph T Madawela:

    that was a very interesting blog and must try it some day, Thank you

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