As does every language, German contains some false friends — those words that look very similar to English but have a completely different meaning. As you read the following list of False Friends, you can see why you should treat any new German word with kid gloves, especially if it looks like an English word, until, that is, you find out for sure what it means in English.
False Friends – German (Deutsch) and English
✓ After (ahf-ter): If you want to avoid embarrassment, remember the meaning of this word. Its German meaning is anus and not after. The German word for after is nach (nahH) or nachdem (nahH-deym).
✓ aktuell (âk-tooh-êl): This word means up-to-date and current, not actual. The German translation for actual is tatsächlich (tât-sêH-liH).
✓ also (âl-zoh): This one means so, therefore, or thus; not also. The German word for also is auch (ouH).
✓ bald (bâlt): This word means soon and is not a description for someone with little or no hair. The German word for bald is kahl (kahl) or glatzköpfig (glâts-kerpf-iH).
✓ bekommen (be-kom-en): This verb is an important one to remember. It means to get and not to become. The German word for to become is werden (vêr-den).
✓ Boot (boht): This is a boat and not a boot, which is Stiefel (shteef-el) in German. A sailboat is called a Segelboot (zey-gêl-boht).
✓ brav (brahf): This word means well-behaved and not brave. The German word for brave is tapfer (tâp-fer).
✓ Brief (breef): This is a noun and means letter, not brief. The German translation for the English adjective brief is kurz (koorts), and, for the English noun, Auftrag (ouf-trahk) or Unterlagen (oon-ter-lah-gen).
✓ Chef (shêf): This is the German word for a person you take orders from, your boss or supervisor, not someone who’s in charge of the cooking. The German word for chef is Küchenchef (kueH-ên-shêf) or Chefkoch (shêf-koH). Otherwise, a plain cook is called a Koch (koH) in German.
✓ eventuell (ey-vên-tooh-êl): This one means possible or possibly, not eventual or eventually, both of which would be schließlich (shlees-liH) in German.
✓ fast (fâst): This is an adjective that means almost — not the speeds at which Formula One drivers race. The German word for fast is schnell (shnêl) or rasch (râsh).
✓ genial (gê-nee-ahl): This adjective describes an idea or person of genius and has nothing to do with genial. The German word for genial is heiter (hay-ter).
✓ Gift (gift [as in English]): The German meaning is poison, so when you’re giving your German-speaking host a present, you should say you have a Geschenk (gê-shênk), that is, unless you really are giving something like weed killer or a green mamba.
✓ Kind (kint): This is the German word for child. It has nothing to do with the English kind, which is nett (nêt) or liebenswürdig (lee-bens-vuerd-iH) in German.
✓ Komfort (kom-fohr): This word means amenity, for example, the amenities you expect in a five-star hotel, not comfort. The German verb meaning to comfort [someone] is trösten (trers-ten).
✓ kurios (koohr-ee-ohs): This word means strange, not curious. The German word for curious is neugierig (noy-geer-iH).
✓ Mist (mist [as in English]): Be careful not to misuse this word that actually means manure in German! It doesn’t describe heavy moisture resembling a fine rain, which is called Nebel (ney-bel) or Dunst (doonst).
✓ Most (most): This is the German word for unfermented fruit juice, and in southern German-speaking regions, a young fruit wine. The German word for the English most is das meiste (dâs mays-te); for example, die meisten Leute (die mays-ten loy-te) (most people).
✓ ordinär (or-di-nair): This word means vulgar rather than ordinary. The German word for ordinary is normal (nor-mahl) or gewöhnlich (ge-vern-liH).
✓ pathetisch (pâ-tey-tish): This one means overly emotional, not pathetic, which, in German, is jämmerlich (yêm-er-liH) or armselig (ârm-zey-liH).
✓ plump (ploomp): The German meaning is clumsy or tactless, not roundish, which in German is rundlich (roont-liH).
✓ Präservativ (prê-zêr-vah-teef): Another embarrassing moment can be avoided when you know that this word means condom in German. The German equivalent of preservative is Konservierungsmittel (kon-sêr-yeer-oongs-mit-el).
✓ Provision (proh-vi-zee-ohn): The meaning of this word is commission, not provision. The German word for provision is Vorsorge (fohr-zor-ge) or Versorgung (fêr-zohrg-oong).
✓ See (zey): This word means lake or sea. In German, the verb to see is sehen (zey-en).
✓ sensibel (zen-zee-bel): The meaning of this word is sensitive rather than sensible, which translates as vernünftig (fêr-nuenf-tiH).
✓ sympathisch (zerm-pah-tish): This word means likeable or congenial, not sympathetic. The German word for sympathetic is mitfühlend (mit-fuel-ent).
If you have any doubt or suggestions for us, or even if we missed some words (False Friends) to mention. Let us know by writing in a comment box. Thanks for reading and sharing with your friends.