Common English-German Cognates

These German words will look familiar to English speakers

woman reading book
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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 English-German Cognates

accent Akzent

affair Affäre

alone allein

apple  Apfel

athlete Athlet

B English-German Cognates

baby Baby

banana  Banane

battery Batterie

blue blau

book  Buch

C English-German Cognates

cat  Katze

check (as in banking)  Scheck

coffee Kaffee

cow  Kuh

crown Krone

D English-German Cognates

dance Tanz

defect Defekt

diamond Diamant

doctor Doktor

drink trinken

E English-German Cognates

effective effectiv

elbow Ellenbogen

energy  Energie

espresso  Espresso

exact exakt

F English-German Cognates

fabulous fabulös

false falsch

fever Fieber

foot Fuß

friend Freund/ Freundin

G English-German Cognates

garden  Garten

glass  Glas

grandfather  Großvater

grey grau

guest  Gast

H English-German Cognates

hair  Haar

hammer. hämmern

head  Haupt*

holy  heilig

hotel  Hotel

I English-German Cognates

ice Eis

immune  immun

influence  Einfluss

insect Insekt

intense/intensive  intensiv

J English-German Cognates

jazz  Jazz

jet (plane)  Jet 

jewel Juwel 

juggle jonglieren

justice Justiz 

K English-German Cognates

kangaroo Känguru

kayak Kajak

kettle Kessel

kitchen  Küche

knee  Knie

L English-German Cognates

ladder Leiter

laugh lachen

learn lernen

live  leben

love lieben

M English-German Cognates

machine Maschine

massive  massiv

milk  Milch

mother  Mutter

mouse Maus

N English-German Cognates

naked nackt 

negative negativ

new neu

nine neun

nut Nuss

O English-German Cognates

object Objekt

ocean Ozean

often oft

omelette Omelett

original Original

P English-German Cognates

pair, couple s Paar

panic e Panik

perfect perfekt 

prize  Preis

pure  pur

Q English-German Cognates

quality  Qualität

quartz  Quarz

quiche  Quiche 

quiz  Quiz

quote quotieren

R English-German Cognates

radio  Radio

recipe  Rezept

regular regulär

religious religös

romance Romanze

S English-German Cognates

sauce  Soße

school  Schule

season  Saison

seven sieben

son  Sohn

V English-German Cognates

vacuum  Vakuum

vehemence  Vehemenz

violin  Violine

vitamin  Vitamin

vulgar vulgär