Common English-German Cognates

These German Words Will Look Familiar to English Speakers

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A cognate is a word that has the same root as a similar word in another language and looks and sounds similar. True cognates will have the same or similar definitions in both languages.

Since English has some Germanic roots, there are a fair number of English-German cognates. While the words may look slightly different due to the German alphabet, English speakers will probably be able to figure out what the words mean.

For instance, the German word Haus is a cognate of the English word "house." 

English also has roots in Latin just like Romance languages such as Spanish, French and Italian, which is why there are so many cognates between those languages and English (and each other). In all Romance languages, for instance, the word for "mother" is fairly recognizable: French is mère, and in Spanish and Italian both it's madre. Even the non-Romance German language follows this similarity; the German word for mother is Mutter.

It's worth noting that relying on cognates is not a foolproof way to learn another language. That's because there's a whole other category of similar-looking words in other closely-related languages that have different definitions. These are called false cognates. In German, one example would be bald, which means "soon," but to English speakers resembles the synonym for "hairless." 

But for the purposes of this article, we'll stick to the true cognates.

Here are some common words in English and German that look and sound the nearly the same with similar definitions, listed alphabetically. English words are listed first. 

A

accent - Akzent

affair - Affäre

alone - allein

apple - Apfel

athlete - Athlet

B

baby - Baby

banana - Banane

battery - Batterie

blue - blau

book - Buch

C

cat - Katze

check (as in banking) - Scheck

coffee - Kaffee

cow - Kuh

crown - Krone

D

dance - Tanz

defect - Defekt

diamond - Diamant

doctor - Doktor

drink - trinken

E

effective - effectiv

elbow - Ellenbogen

energy - Energie

espresso - Espresso

exact - exakt

F

fabulous - fabulös

false - falsch

fever - Fieber

foot - Fuß

friend - Freund/ Freundin

G

garden - Garten

glass - Glas

grandfather - Großvater

grey - grau

guest - Gast

H

hair - Haar

hammer - hämmern

head - Haupt*

holy - heilig

hotel - Hotel

I

ice - Eis

immune - immun

influence - Einfluss

insect - Insekt

intense/intensive - intensiv

J

jazz - Jazz

jet (plane) - Jet 

jewel - Juwel 

juggle - jonglieren

justice - Justiz 

K

kangaroo - Känguru

kayak - Kajak

kettle - Kessel

kitchen - Küche

knee - Knie

L

ladder - Leiter

laugh - lachen

learn - lernen

live - leben

love - lieben

M

machine - Maschine

massive - massiv

milk - Milch

mother - Mutter

mouse - Maus

N

naked - nackt 

negative - negativ

new - neu

nine - neun

nut - Nuss

O

object - Objekt

ocean - Ozean

often - oft

omelette - Omelett

original - Original

P

pair, couple - s Paar

panic - e Panik

perfect - perfekt 

prize - Preis

pure - pur

Q

quality - Qualität

quartz - Quarz

quiche - Quiche 

quiz - Quiz

quote - quotieren

R

radio - Radio

recipe - Rezept

regular - regulär

religious - religös

romance - Romanze

S

sauce - Soße

school - Schule

season - Saison

seven - sieben

son - Sohn

vacuum - Vakuum

vehemence - Vehemenz

violin - Violine

vitamin - Vitamin

vulgar - vulgär

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Flippo, Hyde. "Common English-German Cognates." ThoughtCo, Mar. 12, 2018, thoughtco.com/common-english-german-cognates-4077037. Flippo, Hyde. (2018, March 12). Common English-German Cognates. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/common-english-german-cognates-4077037 Flippo, Hyde. "Common English-German Cognates." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/common-english-german-cognates-4077037 (accessed May 21, 2018).