False friends in the German language

False friends in the German language German Language Coach

Germans are loyal and trustworthy folks. However, some false friends in the German language may confuse the English speaker or his mind.

If the German finance minister says that 2 Billionen Euros are sufficient to bail out Greece, then he’s got his figures right because he means two trillion. A billion in German is a trillion in English.

Being told in German that taking Gift is to be avoided shouldn’t be surprising, not because Germans have ulterior motives, but because Gift in German means poison in English.

The word Star in German means starling or cataract; the German equivalent for star is Stern.

Winken is to blink and not to wink, der Akt is not the deed but nude artwork. After is not after, but means rectum. Bald is not bald, but means soon.

False friends work both ways. Consider the following:

der Romanthe novel the romander Römer
der Qualmthe smokethe qualmdas Bedenken
die Provisionthe feethe provisiondie Vorsorge
der Mistthe dungthe mistder Dunst
das Krautthe herbthe krautder Deutsche
der Lackthe lacquerthe lackder Mangel

Confused? Refresh your German with one of our German courses!

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