21 March, 2016

Hilariously Long German Words

One of the few things that most Americans seem to know about the German language is that the words can get really long. This is no myth; long German words can be found in a wide wariety of contexts. This is because German has a tendency to make compound words, i.e. to stick several words together to make a new word, whereas some other European languages like English and Spanish either leave compounds as separate words (i.e. "coffee table") or just create a new word for each thing. In everyday speech those long German words don't come along too frequently (although it does happen), but if you get into a specialized subject with lots of specific terminology it can get really fun. Here are just a few examples of long German words I've come across recently.

Regenschirmbeutelspender (24 letters)

Seen at a shopping center in Leipzig (see photo above).
What it means: dispenser for bags for your wet umbrella
Literal translation: Regen = rain, Schirm = shield, Beutel = bag, Spender = donor

The concept of a wet umbrella bag dispenser must be a German thing because I've never seen anything like this in the U.S. Although, to be fair, I'd also never seen this in Germany before either.

Lösungsmittelrückgewinnung (26 letters)

Seen in a PowerPoint presentation for one of my classes this semester.
What it means: the process of recovering a solvent from an extract
Literal translation: Lösung = solution, Mittel = material or means, Rückgewinnung = recovery (rück = prefix re-).

Übernachtungsmöglichkeiten (26 letters)

Seen in an email Maxim forwarded to me recently, was also mentioned in one of my previous blog posts.
What is means: the possibility of staying overnight, plural
Literal translation: Übernachtung = overnight stay, Möglichkeit = possibility, -en = plural ending

Weltgesundheitsorganisation (27 letters)

Also seen in a PowerPoint.
What is means: World Health Organization (this is already a literal translation so I won't break this one down)

Fachkommunikationswissenschaft (30 letters)

The name of one of my classes last semester.
What it means: Specialized communication studies
Literal translation: Fach = subject (sort of, doesn't translation well into English), Kommunikation = communication, Wissenschaft = science/studies

And the longest word I've come across in the last few months...

sprechakttheoretisch-kommunikationsanalytische (45 letters)

Just to prove this is a real word, here's a picture of the slide it was on

Seen in another PowerPoint for one of my classes.
What it means: this is actually two words combined into one. The first one, sprechakttheoretisch, means "relating to speech act theory." The second one, kommunikationsanalytisch, means "relating to communication analysis."
Literal translation: Sprechakt = speech act, theoretisch = theoretical, Kommunikation = communication, analytische = analytical

In addition to these, I've also seen Trinkwasseraufbereitung (preparation of drinking water, 23 letters), Diffusionstrennverfahren (separation method using diffusion across a membrane, 24 letters), Meerwasserentsalzung (sea water desalination, 20 letters) and Unterdruckverdampfungsstufe (stage of an evaporation process in a vacuum, 27 letters).

And finally, to put even these long words in perspective, the longest recognized word in the German language...


Pretty much everyone in Germany knows about this word, as far as I can tell.
Literal translation: Rind = beef, Fleisch = meat, Etikettierung = labeling, Überwachung = monitoring, Aufgaben = duties, Übertragung = transfer, Gesetz = law.

This 63-letter behemoth is (or rather, was) the name of a German law regarding the "delegation of monitoring beef labeling." While doing research I was saddened to find out that this word, although it is considered an "authentic" word because of its use in official government documents, is now no longer an official German word, according to this article from The Telegraph. The article does, however, propose several alternatives for the longest "real" German word, including Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung (36 letters), Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (39 letters) and, at a whopping 80 letters, Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft. Doesn't German look fun?!

All kidding aside, though, this is one of the things I really like about the German language because it allows you to create a word for almost anything. This ability is what gives us typically German words like Schadenfreude, which is actually just a combination of the words Schade (shame, as in "it's a shame") and Freude (joy).

Have you come across any other long German words that I've left out? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

No comments :

Post a Comment