Can You Guess What These Long German Words Mean?



By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: lechatnoir/E+/GettyImages

About This Quiz

Like any language, German has grown and evolved over many generations.  From Old High German to Middle High German to Middle Low German and Standard German, it's changed a lot over time. You'd think those changes would be helpful in making the language more clear and concise, but that's not always the case.  In fact, some German words were clearly designed with the opposite idea in mind.

if you fancy yourself a bit of a linguist, or just someone who likes the challenge of stumbling over a 10-syllable word, maybe you have what it takes to nail this quiz. If you're not a native speaker, then it's definitely going to be a challenge.  How long can German words get?  Some have reached over 40 letters long. That could be a whole sentence in some languages.  Heck, even a paragraph.  Figuring out what a word like that means is going to take some skill and maybe even a little luck.  But if you think you have the skills to handle some of these zungenbrechers and get to the bottom of this German kuddelmuddel then take the quiz and prove it!

What on Earth does Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften mean?

Naturally, this is the plural of Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaft, which is an insurance company providing legal protection. Clearly, this is a valuable word for everyday conversations.


What's going on if you experience torschlusspanik?

Literally "gate-closing panic", torschlusspanik refers to panic-related to time running out to get things done.


No one wants to deal with Kummerspeck. What is it?

This translates as "grief bacon." It means you've gained some weight as a result of stress eating and it's probably a useful word in modern times.


If you're a doctor, you may have to know about Betäubungsmittelverschreibungsverordnung. What is it?

How this word came to be is anyone's guess, but betäubungsmittelverschreibungsverordnung refers to a regulation that deals with prescribing things like anesthetics or narcotics.


If you're buying steak, you may be concerned with Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. What is it?

Apparently, this word isn't used very much (surprise!) but it does refer to the laws surrounding cattle and beef labeling.


You're pretty new at your job if you're a Sozialversicherungsfachangestelltenauszubildender. What does it mean?

Sozialversicherungsfachangestelltenauszubildender refers to a trainee assistant social insurance or security broker. The word sounds much more exciting than the job.


There's a lot of repetition in Siebenhundertsiebenundsiebzigtausendsiebenhundertsiebenundsiebzig. What does it mean?

Believe it or not, in German you just write out the whole number as one so that, the bigger the number is, the longer the word. This one is 777,777.


Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft may not have ever referred to a real thing, even if the term is technically correct. What does it mean?

This word allegedly refers to the Association for Subordinate Officials of the Main Maintenance Building of the Danube Steam Shipping Electrical Services. It's only alleged because there's no proof such an association ever existed. This might just be an example of a word that "could" exist, even if what it refers to doesn't.


It's possible you have Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung right now. What is it?

Sometimes a long German word refers to basically an entire sentence full of ideas. This one is just car insurance.


Even if the word is intimidating, Freundschaftsbezeigungen is a good thing. What is it?

Sometimes you need to show your friends how much you care, and a freundschaftsbezeigungen is a demonstration or token to show that friendship.


You might have a Streichholzschächtelchen in your pocket. What is it?

How does a little box of matches turn into streichholzschächtelchen? That's either the power of fire or of German compound words.


What's happening if you're experiencing Fingerspitzengefühl?

The term "finger-tip feeling" isn't literal. It refers to an almost intuitive feeling or a kind of empathy with other people.


Frühjahrsmüdigkeit can really bring you down. What is it?

Basically, a way to refer to seasonal affective disorder, spring fatigue is a kind of weariness and depression that you feel as spring begins.


You've probably experienced Fremdschämen a lot. What is it?

Fremdschämen is a pretty useful word these days. Think of all the cringe-inducing videos you've seen online and the shame you felt on behalf of those people. That's fremdschämen at work.


No one ever wants to experience Verschlimmbessern, but it happens. What is it?

This term is fun in an awkward way because who hasn't experienced a time when they were trying to help out and then somehow made everything worse as a result?


No one should be proud to be a Schattenparker. What does it mean?

While the literal translation of this word is "shade parker," what it means is a wimp. A person who parks in the shade is weak and can't handle the real world. You don't want to be a schattenparker, even though it's usually a good idea to actually park in the shade.


Backpfeifengesicht is pretty aggressive. What does it mean?

This isn't the most polite thing in the world but apparently, some people just feel like they need to slap other people in the face and then they made a word to express that.


You might need help to deal with a kuddelmuddel. What is it?

This word is fun to say, even if what it refers to is not super fun. The word derives its meaning from "dirty linen" and means a jumble, hodgepodge or mess.


Drachenfutter only comes up when you do something wrong. What does it mean?

The literal translation is "dragon fodder" but what it actually refers to is a gift you give to your spouse or partner as a kind of apology. So you screwed up and got them this thing to try to make it better.


Everyone has some experience with Splitterfasernackt. What does it mean?

It's not too weird to have a single word to refer to being totally naked, even if it's a 5-syllable word that sounds kind of like a kitchen tool.


Sometimes Veröffentlichungsdatum is the kind of thing you need to know. What does it mean?

The publication date of a book is the kind of information you usually gloss over, so maybe that's why it's such a big word in German. It's hard to miss.


Einfühlungsvermögen is something everyone experiences now and then. What is it?

Empathy is a pretty commonplace feeling, so maybe it's surprising that the word for it is so hard to wrap your head around.


Sometimes you just want to be Mutterseelenallein. What does it mean?

The fun part of being all alone in German is that the word is so long you always have something big and bulky to keep you company.


One of the most popular German words that has found its way to English is Schadenfreude. What does it mean?

You're not technically supposed to take pleasure in someone else's pain, but every so often you see someone who you really don't like take a fall and you can't help but feel good about it.


Doppelgänger has become a very popular word in English. What does it mean?

A doppelgänger usually just means a twin or double of some kind though to be very technical, it should also be a supernatural or evil double. So if you see one, try to avoid it. Unless you actually have a twin.


Schreibtischtäter is an extremely dark term. What does it mean?

The term "desk murderer" sounds a little silly at first glance, but it's quite a disturbing concept. It refers to bureaucrats and state employees who sat at a desk and sanctioned the murder of many people.


If you're arguing with someone, you may have to bust out a Totschlagargument. What is it?

A killer argument is an argument killer. If you're in a heated debated with someone, you can bust out a totschlagargument and immediately shut the whole conversation down. It doesn't even need to be related to the topic at hand, just something so devastating that the other person has no comeback.


You should see the doctor if you have Nasennebenhöhlenentzündung. What is it?

You can almost see the relation between Nasennebenhöhlenentzündung and sinusitis with the beginning of the word "nasal" in there, but then it really takes a left turn.


Zusammenzuarbeiten is a word you might use if you and a friend are doing what?

It's always important to cooperate and work together, so maybe it's good that the Germans have such a complex word for doing just that.


Selbstverständlichkeit sounds a little philosophical. What does it mean?

It seems a little ironic that selbstverständlichkeit means something self-evident or an obvious fact when that meaning itself is far from obvious or self-evident.


You may want to call a Bezirksschornsteinfegermeister before Christmas, just in case. What does it mean?

Outside of Mary Poppins, there's probably not much need to talk about a head district chimney sweep, but if it ever comes up, there's a word for it.


What kind of person would you describe with the word Eigenbrötlerisch?

If you describe someone with the word eigenbrötlerisch, you're describing someone who definitely doesn't want a lot of company and spends a lot of time alone, like a recluse.


Feuchtfröhlich could be a word you use at a party. What does it mean?

Feuchtfröhlich is a very unique and unusual term. It does mean merry, happy or jolly, but it's very much related to that feeling being caused by drinking alcohol.


Streicheleinheit is a word that might apply if you have a pet. What does it mean?

In general, streicheleinheit means to pet or caress, but the literal translation is a unit of petting, so it's somehow supposed to be a measurement of the petting you do. Definitely a thing a cat would pay attention to.


Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursache is a bit of a joke word, and yet you can buy one. What is it?

If there's a point for an eierschalensollbruchstellenverursache, it's to help you crack an egg in such a way that the shell doesn't splinter everywhere. Do you need that? Well, that's up to you.


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