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Denglisch is a term describing the increased use of anglicisms and pseudo-anglicisms in the German language. It is a portmanteau of the German words Deutsch (German) and Englisch. The term is first recorded from 1965.[1]

Mixed German, English and French in a German department store

The word has been adopted in English in an anglicized form as Denglish, recorded from 1996.[1]

Terminology edit

The term is particularly used by language purists in all German-speaking countries to refer to the increasingly strong influx of English or pseudo-English vocabulary (and other features of the language such as grammar and orthography) into German.[2] The standard German reference work Duden defines it as "a pejorative term for German with too many English expressions mixed in."[3]

Other sources use words with aggressive, hostile, or negative connotations to describe it such as "a persistent infiltration",[4] an "invasion", "onslaught", or "attack",[5][6] or that it is "corrupting the language"[7] or is an "infectious disease".[8]

The term itself is not a standard German word, but an informal portmanteau of Deutsch + English, and gives the same kind of impression in German, as the word Spanglish has in English: i.e., it is well-understood, but it is an informal word for which there is no common equivalent in standard language use.[citation needed]

Other slang terms in German which refer to the same phenomenon include: McDeutsch ("McGerman"), Dummdeutsch ("dumb German"), Dönerdeutsch (kebab German).[8]: 308 

In English there are numerous colloquial portmanteau words. One set is based on the word Deutsch. These include (chronologically) Deutschlisch (first recorded in 1970), Deutlish (1977), Deutschlish (1979) and Dinglish (1990).[9] Another set of terms is based on the word German. These include (chronologically) Germenglish (first recorded 1936), Germanglish (1967), Gerglish (1968), Germish (1972), Germlish (1974), Genglish (1977), Ginglish (1989), Germinglish (1996), and Gernglish (1996).[10]

Criticism edit

Some influence of English on German is expected as part of normal language contact. The term Denglisch refers to abundant or excessive use of anglicisms or pseudo-anglicisms in German.

The introduction of English buzzwords peaked during the 1990s and the early 2000s. Since then, the ubiquity of the practice has made it much less fashionable or prestigious, and several commentators have argued against it. Zeit Online (whose title is itself an example of the prevalence of anglicisms in German IT terminology) criticized the ubiquitous use of English in a 2007 article.[3] Although the article acknowledged the risks of excessive linguistic purism, it condemned the fashion of labeling information desks at train stations, formerly simply known as Auskunft, with the anglicism Service Point. The choice of the pseudo-anglicism Brain up! by then-minister for education Edelgard Bulmahn as a campaign slogan in 2004 was highlighted as an extreme case by Die Zeit.[11] Frankfurter Allgemeine satirized this choice at the time of its introduction,[12] and later wrote that even the English-speaking sphere was mocking "German linguistic submissiveness".[13]

Forms of influence edit

Words and expressions labeled as Denglisch can come from various sources, including loanwords, calques, anglicisms, pseudo-anglicisms, or adoption of non-native grammar, syntax, or spelling.

Loanwords edit

German vocabulary has numerous cases of English loanwords now fully "naturalized" as German words, including full inflection. English had only very limited influence on German before the mid-19th century. Such loanwords as there are mostly concern nautical vocabulary, loaned into Low German (e.g. tank, ultimately from Indo-Aryan; Tanker (tanker (ship)) is early 20th century).

In the 19th century, it was still more common to use loan translation for the vocabulary of industrialisation (Dampfmaschine for "steam engine", Pferdestärke for "horse power", etc.). To some extent, this continued in the early 20th century: Wolkenkratzer for "skyscraper", Kaugummi for "chewing gum", Flutlicht for "flood light", Fernsehen for "television".

English loanwords became more common in the early 20th century. A notable example from this period is Test (ultimately from Old French test "earthen pot"). Test was compatible both with German phonology and orthography so its nature as a loan is not evident.

Early loanwords (19th to early 20th century) often describe garments or foodstuffs: Jumper (19th century), Curry (19th century loan from English, ultimately from Tamil), Pyjama (early 20th century loan from English pyjamas, ultimately from Urdu), Trenchcoat (1920s). Other loanwords are boykottieren "to boycott" (1890s) and Star.

Direct influence of English, especially via US pop culture, became far more pronounced after the end of World War II, with allied-occupied Germany and later by association with 1960s to 1970s US counterculture: Jeep, Quiz, Show, Western, Rock, Hippie, Groupie.

The newest and most prolific wave of anglicisms arose after 1989 with the end of the Cold War and the surge of the "Anglo-Saxon" smack of economic liberalism in continental Europe and the associated business jargon ("CEO" became extremely fashionable in German, replacing traditional terms such as Direktor, Geschäftsführer, Vorsitzender during the 1990s). At the same time, the rapid development of information technology pushed many technical terms from that field into everyday language.

Many of the more recent loans have developed in the spoken language and are still clearly felt to be English words, so their English orthography is retained in written communication, which leads to awkward spellings combining German morphemes with English word stems, as in gebootet ("booted up" of a computer) or gecrasht or gecrashed ("crashed", of a computer), downgeloadet, gedownloadet or gedownloaded ("downloaded"). They also retain English phonology in many cases, including phonemes that do not exist in Standard German (such as the /eɪ/ in "update").

Pseudo-anglicisms edit

A pseudo-anglicism is a word in another language that is formed from English elements and may appear to be English, but is not used by native English speakers.[14][15][16]

Pseudo anglicism Meaning Remarks
Basecap[17] baseball cap
Fotoshooting[18] photo shoot
Handy[19] mobile phone
Showmaster[20] TV-show host/emcee
trampen[21] hitchhiking
Youngtimer an old, but not yet vintage or classic car derived from the German Oldtimer, meaning vintage or classic car (or aircraft),[22] itself derived from the more general (non-car-specific) English oldtimer.[23]

Adoption of grammar or idioms edit

Another form of Denglisch consists of calques of popular English expressions which replace German words and idioms. Common examples are:

  • Was passierte in 2005? (What happened in 2005?)
    Formally: Was passierte 2005? or Was passierte im Jahre 2005?

Although this is considered incorrect by many native speakers as it violates German grammar, it can be found even in German newspapers.[24]

  • Das macht Sinn. (That makes sense.)
    Formally: Das ergibt Sinn.; Das hat Sinn., or Das ist sinnvoll.[25][26][27]
  • Willkommen zu [unserem Videochannel], properly Willkommen bei ... (although it has been pointed out that combination of "willkommen" with the preposition zu can also be found in German classics).[28]

Orthography edit

Another phenomenon is the usage of the possessive construction 's (generally used in English but also correct in German in sundry cases), often called Deppenapostroph or Idiotenapostroph ("Idiot's apostrophe" or "Idiot's inverted comma") instead of the traditional German constructions. For example, a Denglisch speaker might write Wikipedia's Gestaltung ("Wikipedia's design") instead of either Wikipedias Gestaltung or die Gestaltung der Wikipedia. Less often, it is used incorrectly to mark a plural s (Greengrocers' apostrophe); pluralizing with an apostrophe is correct in Dutch, not in German or English.

Handy's, Dessou's,

or for adverbial expressions, such as

montag's (instead of montags, cf. English [on] Mondays).

The apostrophe is also frequently confused with other characters, with stand-alone acute or grave accents being used in its stead.[29]

Denglisch may combine words according to English rules by writing them in succession. According to the Standard German grammar and spelling rules, that is incorrect.

Reparatur Annahme instead of Reparaturannahme

The first spelling, with two separate words, makes no logical or grammatical connection between the words but simply juxtaposes them. The second combines them into one word, an Annahme (in this case a place where something is received) for Reparaturen (repairs). That is often called Deppenleerstelle, or Deppenleerzeichen which means idiot's space, incorrectly separating parts of a compound word.

Non-translation edit

Many words are taken over as is from English, with little or no change in spelling even if it doesn't fit the German orthographic system. One German source laments the presence of Denglisch as an "infectious disease" of "raging anglicitis" in the German language, which manifests as a kind of "hybrid communications medium". It gives as examples the words events, economy, performance, entertainment, or electronic cash[a] appearing in German.[8]

Some major companies such as Deutsche Bank now conduct much of their business in English, while several departments of the major German telephone company Deutsche Telekom were known as "T-Home" (formerly "T-Com"), "T-Mobile", "T-Online", and "T-Systems".

Reinventing titles for English-language films dubbed into German was once a common practice so, for example, Paul Landres's 1958 Western Man from God's Country became Männer, die in Stiefeln sterben (i.e. Men Who Die with Their Boots on.), while Raoul Walsh's 1941 film They Died with Their Boots On became Sein letztes Kommando (His Last Command) or Der Held des Westens (The Hero of the West). Most current American film titles are no longer translated into German, (Ice Age) although they still often receive German appendages like Prometheus – Dunkle Zeichen (Prometheus – Dark Signs) or include puns not present in the original title, such as Clerks – Die Ladenhüter for Clerks – The Shelf-Warmers. Menus of many global fast food chains also usually go partly or completely untranslated: "Double Whopper (formally: Doppel-Whopper) mit leckerem Bacon und Cheddar Cheese."

Advertising language edit

Advertising agencies in German-speaking countries have such a need for skills in English that they want ads for new employees to contain plain English such as "Join us".[30] KFC Germany's recruitment slogan is "I Am for Real", and its website shows very heavy use of English coupled with nonstandard German.[31]

German commercials or, more often, written advertisements are likely to use many English terms:

Mit Jamba! können Sie Klingeltöne, Logos und Spiele direkt aufs Handy downloaden.
Wählen Sie aus Tausenden coolen Sounds, aktuellen Games und hippen Logos.

The verb "downloaden" is alleged to have been coined by Microsoft, as there is a native, common German word ("herunterladen"). Microsoft Windows Update uses the phrase "Downloaden Sie die neuesten Updates" ("Download the latest updates") instead of the standard "Laden Sie die neuesten Aktualisierungen herunter". The latest interface guidelines suggest that the term "herunterladen" should be used again because many users complained. However, Aktualisierungen (unlike herunterladen) would not be idiomatic German in this usage or would at least have to be explained as Softwareaktualisierungen or Programmaktualisierungen, the former involving the new Anglicism "Software".

The use of ("Handy") has its roots in a commercial name, too. It is related to the handheld Walkie-talkie, a commercial name for the two-way radio transceiver to be transported in a bag, later in hands and so called ("Handie-talkie"). A correct translation could be ("Handsprechfunkgerät"). Germans used to cite the word ("Handy") as an example of Denglisch.

Advertising in the field of personal hygiene tends to use much English:

Double Action Waschgel
Vitalisierendes Peeling
Energy Creme Q10
Oil Control Gel Creme
Oil Control Waschgel
[brand name] Visibly Clear Anti-Mitesser Peeling
Ariel Sproodles

The same applies to detergents:

Color Waschmittel instead of Buntwaschmittel or Farbwaschmittel
[brand name] Megaperls
[brand name] Oxy-Action

Larger national and international companies based in Germany also use English to describe their services. The television broadcaster ProSieben uses the slogan "We love to entertain you" while Zurich Financial Services advertise with the slogan "Because change happens". The fastest trains run by the German state-owned railway system Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) are named "IC" and "ICE", abbreviations of "Inter City" and "Inter City Express", while information booths are named ServicePoints, first-class waiting areas are referred to as Lounges,[32] and words like Kundendienst (customer service) and Fahrkarte (ticket) are quickly losing out to their respective English counterparts. As an official stance against this rampant use of Denglisch, the Deutsche Bahn in June 2013 issued a directive and glossary of 2200 Anglicisms that should be replaced by their German counterparts.[33]

Sometimes such neologisms also use CamelCase, as in the Deutsche Telekom's newest rates called "Fulltime", "Freetime", "Call Plus" and "Call Time" offering additionally such features as "CountrySelect". They do not even refrain from offering services at certain 'Callshops', using both languages by building a German-style compound, capitalizing it and using two English words in a new context. It has become common for travel agencies to offer "last minute" bookings or manufacturers to adopt "just in time"; perhaps driven by international commerce and economic interests.

The phrase "Test it" is increasingly common as an English phrase idiosyncratic to German, meaning roughly "Try it out". That is thought to have originated with advertising copy for West cigarettes, exhorting consumers to "Test The West".

In popular culture edit

  • The popular German a cappella group Wise Guys produced a song on their Radio album called "Denglisch", a tongue-in-cheek look at the use of English words in German language. In the song, the lyrics start out mostly German with only a few English words creeping in: "Oh, Herr, bitte gib mir meine Sprache zurück!" (O Lord, please give me my language back!). It progresses to most of the lyrics being English: "O Lord, please gib mir meine Language back". The tune is a parody of My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean.
  • In 1985, the famous German poetic songwriter Reinhard Mey recorded "Mey English Song" as a parody on the increasingly frequent playing of English songs on the radio, although the fans "only understand 'railway station'" (literal translation of the German idiom "verstehe nur Bahnhof"; "cannot understand a thing"). In the song, he states, his producer told him, "Well, what do we now for record sell?", urging Mey to sing in English.
  • In an episode of the web series Will It Blend? Tom puts a German-English/English-German CD dictionary into his blender. After he finishes blending the dictionary, he says, "Denglish smoke! Don't breathe this!"[34]
  • The book I like you – und du? (ISBN 978-3499203237) features frequent code-switching between English and German.
  • The songs of Austrian singer Falco, while primarily sung in German, would often include lines or choruses sung in English. This casual mixing of languages became a signature of the artist.
  • The punk rock band Goldfinger from Los Angeles produced a cover of "99 Luftballons" by Nena for their 2000 album Stomping Ground in which the fourth verse is in German.[35] They also included a "Germish version" of their song Spokesman as a bonus track on their 2002 album Open Your Eyes, containing a mostly German second verse.[36]
  • The American Civil War song "I'm Going to Fight Mit Sigel" is sung in English, interspersed with German words, from the point of view of a German-American soldier fighting under General Franz Sigel.[37]

See also edit

Notes edit


  1. ^ Instead of already existing German words Ereignisse, Wirtschaft, Leistung, Unterhaltung, Zahlung per Chip-Karte respectively.


  1. ^ a b Lambert, James. 2018. A multitude of 'lishes': The nomenclature of hybridity. English World-wide, 39(1): 23. DOI: 10.1075/eww.38.3.04lam
  2. ^ War of words | World news |
  3. ^ a b Sönke Krügers Warum Denglisch Sprachmüll ist – Nachrichten Vermischtes Welt Online, 19 November 2007
  4. ^ Maxwell, Kerry (14 August 2006). "Definition of Denglish, BuzzWord from Macmillan Dictionary". Macmillan Dictionary. Springer Nature Ltd. Retrieved 18 May 2019. This is the phenomenon of Denglish, a persistent infiltration of English words and expressions into the German language.
  5. ^ Deutsche Welle ( (13 May 2002). "Denglish Invades Germany". DW. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  6. ^ Langley, Edward. "Denglisch – The German language under attack?".
  7. ^ Morris, Harvey (26 June 2013). "Sprechen Sie Denglish?". NY Times. Retrieved 18 May 2019. (in English)
  8. ^ a b c Heuermann, Hartmut (2009). Mythos, Religion, Ideologie: kultur- und gesellschaftskritische Essays [Myth, Religion, Ideology: Cultural and Sociocritical Essays] (in German). Frankfurt: Peter Lang. p. 293. ISBN 978-3-631-58821-5. OCLC 317701743. Retrieved 20 May 2019. German suffers from a kind of infectious disease, a raging Anglicitis. A mishmash is emerging, a hybrid means of communication, popularly called Denglish. Everywhere you look it's overrunning our native vocabulary.
    Das deutsche leidet an einer Art Infektionskrankheit, an gassierender Anglizitis. Eine Mischsprache ist im Entstehen begriffen, ein zwitterhaftes Kommunikationsmittel, populär Denglisch genannt. Allenthalben überwuchert es unseren einheimischen Wortschatz.
  9. ^ Lambert, James. 2018. A multitude of 'lishes': The nomenclature of hybridity. English World-wide, 39(1): 22. DOI: 10.1075/eww.38.3.04lam
  10. ^ Lambert, James. 2018. A multitude of 'lishes': The nomenclature of hybridity. English World-wide, 39(1): 24-25. DOI: 10.1075/eww.38.3.04lam
  11. ^ Jessen, Jens (28 July 2007). "Deutsch: Die verkaufte Sprache". Die Zeit (in German). ISSN 0044-2070. Retrieved 6 September 2019. Welcher Teufel trieb eine deutsche Wissenschaftsministerin zu einer Kampagne mit dem Motto »Brain up«, was weder auf Deutsch noch auf Englisch Sinn ergibt?
  12. ^ Uphearen bitte! csl., Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 27 January 2004, Nr. 22 / p. 36.
  13. ^ Deutschland ist in der Sinnkrise, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30 September 2015 (in German)
  14. ^ Sicherl 1999, p. 14.
  15. ^ Duckworth 1977.
  16. ^ Onysko 2007, p. 52The term "pseudo-anglicism" describes the phenomenon that occurs when the RL["receptor language"; p.14] uses lexical elements of the SL["source language"; p.14] to create a neologism in the RL that is unknown in the SL. For the German language, Duckworth simply defines pseudo anglicisms as German neologisms derived from English language material.
  17. ^ Duden, Basecap
  18. ^ Duden, Fotoshooting
  19. ^ Duden, Handy
  20. ^ Duden, Showmaster
  21. ^ Duden, trampen
  22. ^ Duden, Youngtimer
  23. ^ Popular Mechanics. Hearst Magazines. September 1974.
  24. ^ SPIEGEL ONLINE, Hamburg, Germany (8 April 2008). "Ausgemustert: Fast jeder zweite Mann untauglich fr die Bundeswehr". SPIEGEL ONLINE.
  25. ^ Schmuki, Fabio (16 August 2016). "Wenn Sprache wandert: Sinn machen oder Sinn ergeben?" [When language shifts: 'Sinn machen' or 'Sinn ergeben'?]. Supertext-Magazin (in German). Supertext AG. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  26. ^ DER SPIEGEL (20 August 2003). "Stop making sense!". Spiegel Kultur (in German). Spiegel Gruppe. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  27. ^ Schulte, Jule (19 July 2019). "Macht Sinn? Von wegen! Diese sprachlichen Fehler nerven am meisten" ['Macht Sinn'? Like hell it does! These linguistic errors are the most annoying.]. Stern (in German). Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  28. ^ Willkommen zu ... bei ... an? Was stimmt denn nun?, Die Welt, 23 January 2012
  29. ^ Mann, Michael (23 January 2009). "Der Apostroph in der Diskussion: Ein Beitrag zur Debatte um ein umstrittenes Zeichen". University of Erlangen–Nuremberg. p. 4.
  30. ^ Wetzlarer Neue Zeitung 26 August 2006
  31. ^ "KFC". Archived from the original on 13 March 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  32. ^ "DB Lounge – Die 1. Klasse im Bahnhof". Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  33. ^ "No Denglisch: Willkommen to Linguistic Purity". The Economist. 29 June 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  34. ^ Blendtec. "Germany". willitblend.
  35. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Goldfinger – 99 Red Balloons". YouTube.
  36. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Goldfinger Spokesman (2nd verse in German)". YouTube.
  37. ^ "I'm going to fight mit Sigel. By John F. Poole and sung by H.W. Egan. Air: The girl I left behind me. H. De Marsan, Publisher, 54 Chatham Street, N. Y". Library of Congress.

Works cited edit

  • Duckworth, David (1977). Best, Werner; Kolb, Werner; Lauffer, Hartmut (eds.). Zur terminologischen Grundlage der Forschung auf dem Gebiet der englisch-deutschen Interferenz. Kritische Übersicht, und neue Vorschlag [The Terminological Basis of Research in the Field of English-German Interference. Critical Overview, and New Proposal.] (in German). Tübingen: Niemeyer. ISBN 9783484102859. OCLC 185584225. Neubildungen der deutschen Sprache mit Englischem Sprachmaterial.
  • Onysko, Alexander (2007). "4 Pseudo anglicisms and hybrid anglicisms". Anglicisms in German: Borrowing, Lexical Productivity, and Written Codeswitching. Linguistik: Impulse & Tendenzen, 23. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p. 52. ISBN 978-3-11-019946-8. OCLC 901310392.
  • Sicherl, Eva; Šabec, Nada; Gabrovšek, Dušan (1999). The English Element in Contemporary Standard Slovene: Phonological, Morphological and Semantic Aspects. Razprave Filozofske fakultete. Znanstveni inštitut Filozofske fakultete. p. 14. ISBN 978-86-7207-114-6. OCLC 442412304.

Further reading edit

  • "Germans are speaking Denglish – by borrowing words from us." (Passnotes No 3,401). The Guardian. 25 June 2013.
  • Peter Littger: "The Devil lies in the Detail. Lustiges und Lehrreiches über unsere Lieblingsfremdsprache" Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 2015, ISBN 978-3-46204-703-5.
  • Vasagar, Jeevan. "Deutsche Bahn aims to roll back use of English." The Telegraph. 24 June 2013.
  • Pidd, Helen. "Mind your language: German linguists oppose influx of English words." The Guardian. Monday 14 March 2011.

External links edit

  • Denglisch used for truck-driver humour
  • Opinion: Desperately Ditching Denglish, a November 2004 article from the Deutsche Welle website
  • Denglish definition and citation, from a February 2001 article on a "lexpionage" (lexical espionage) website
  • Gayle Tufts, a Berlin-based American performer whose comedy is often based on Denglish.
  • Denglish, at
  • Die Deutschen und ihr Englisch. The devil lies in the detail, an April 2015 article from the Der Tagesspiegel website
  • Der DEnglische Patient – A column by Peter Littger Archived 25 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine (Manager Magazin, 2016)