Transparent Language Blog

False False Friends in German Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in Archived Posts

Germans have a habit of stealing English slang and using it incorrectly. Is that a False Friend? Or something else entirely?

Germans are funny.

They are proud of their language and culture, but also proud of their ability to speak other languages – mostly English, and to a lesser but still significant degree, French. Quite the opposite to the French, Germans are perfectly willing to let their language be influenced by the rise of American English. They’ll often pepper a casual conversation with Englishisms like “no-go” or “easygoing” or, of course, “cool.”

But their imported slang doesn’t always hit the target, hence the above comic and the unusual list of False Friends.

Usually, a False Friend is a word that sounds the same as a word in another language, but actually means something different, often completely different or even the opposite. A classic example is in Spanish, where embarazada sure sounds a lot like “embarrassed,” but actually means “pregnant.” You can imagine the hijinks from there. And you could be forgiven for making that mistake – English and Spanish both share a large number of words with romance roots, so many words are the truest of friends.

But this list of False Friends is different. They’re backward. Instead of German words that sound like English words but have different meanings (bekommen is an example – it sounds like “to become,” but actually means “to receive”), they’re words that are stolen from English and then used incorrectly. They’re not False Friends…they’re True Enemies.

What about you? What incorrect imports does your language feature? What False Friends? What True Enemies?

Keep learning a language with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.


  1. Chuck Smith:

    I especially love American “Foosball” and German “Kicker”!

Leave a comment: