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The German Word ‘Gell’ Posted by on Oct 21, 2020 in Language

Guten Tag! In today’s post, I’m bringing you two German words that are the same, but have different meanings.

There are several words like this in German, the difference sometimes being their gender (der Taube – deaf person, and die Taube – pigeon, for example), or that the word ending changes when plural (die Mutter (mother) becomes die Mütter when plural, while die Mutter (screw nut) becomes die Muttern, for example). But in this case, the difference is a regional one.

The word in question today is the word gell.

Gell: Version one

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

The first way you might hear the word gell being used is from the German verb gellen – to yell/scream/cry out:

“Ein Schrei gellt durch die Nacht”
“A scream cries out in the night”

The conjugation of the verb gellen is as follows:

Ich gell(e) – I yell
Du gellst – You yell
Er/sie/es gellt – He/she/it yells
Wir gellen – We yell
Ihr gellt – You yell (plural)
Sie gellen – You yell (formal)
sie gellen – They yell

The word gell is also an adjective meaning ‘shrill’:

“Er hat eine gelle Stimme”
“He has a shrill voice”

Synonyms for gellen include schreien, kreischen, and heulen.

Gell: Version two

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The second ‘gell’ is totally different from the first. It is an interjection that means, ‘Right?’ or ‘Agree?’:

“Das war gut, gell?”
“That was good, right?”

When used like this, the word ‘gell’ is basically asking someone to affirm what has just been said. It’s similar to saying ‘Huh?’ in English, to get a person’s attention and encourage a response from them:

“Das war gut! Gell, Karin?”
“That was good! Huh, Karin?”

This particular usage of the word ‘gell’ is regional. You will hear it in Bavaria, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland, where it often gets shortened to ‘gei’ (pronounced ‘gay’) or ‘geh’ (like ‘meh’).

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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.


Comments:

  1. Patricia:

    I lived in Baden Württemberg years ago and I remember ‘gell’ being used there as well – I was in Lahr/Schwarzwald.

    • Constanze:

      @Patricia Interesting! Thanks for sharing, Patricia.