April 16, 2019 | 0 comments

While English and German at a first glance might not seem similar at all, they actually share common linguistic origins. Here we are going to tell a brief history of the two languages, and highlight the most common words of germanic origin in modern English. This English VS German comparison should help German students feel more at ease when starting their English language course.

English VS German: German English Banner

English VS German: sibling languages with a common root

The common language which both English and German descend from is now known by the conventional term of West Germanic. West Germanic was itself a descendent of the Pregermanic language, which eventually branched into West Germanic, East Germanic and North Germanic.

East Germanic evolved into the Gothic language (with no modern language offspring), North Germanic evolved into Old Norse (from which modern Scandinavian languages come from), and West Germanic branched into Old English (from which modern English originated) and Common German (ancestor of Low and High German).

As a result, we can certainly say that English and German share a common linguistic root. In fact, according to language statistics around 26% of English words are of Germanic origin. Let’s have a look at the most common.

English VS German: 16 common English words of German descent
  • Blitz: literally meaning lighting in both English and German, it is more commonly employed to refer to a swift (military) attack.
  • Bagel: the name of this bread (albeit of Jewish Polish origins), derives for Middle High German böugel, although they are commonly referred to as bagels in both German and English.
  • Pretzel: the name of these delicious bread knots come directly from German Bretzel.
  • Cobalt: in both languages it denotes both the 27th element of the periodic table, and the bluish colour.
  • Delicatessen: often shortened into deli, it denotes a shop selling delicacies. In German, the corresponding word is Delikatessengeschäft.
  • Doppelgänger: also spelled doubleganger, it refers to either of two people whose physical traits resemble each other’s so much it almost looks unnatural.
  • Feast: party revellers should know that…fest comes from German (e.g., Oktoberfest).
  • Hinterland: this word denotes the backcountry (sparsely populated rural areas) in both languages.
  • Hamster: a cute little pet rodent, its name is of Germanic origin and it’s the same in both tongues.
  • Kindergarten: a not-so-common synonym for nursery, it literally means children’s garden in German.
  • Kraut: clearly of Germanic origin, it denotes a type of cabbage in both English and German.
  • Rucksack: a less common English word for backpack, in German it literally means back pack.
  • Noodle: the name of this kind of pasta comes from German Nudel.
  • Wunderkind: in both languages, it denotes a kid of extraordinary ability for her own age. Also referred to as child prodigy in English, the word literally means wonder child in German.
  • Zeppelin: the infamous large airship, named after its inventor, and mostly associated with the Nazi regime.
  • Schnauzer: the name of this breed of dogs, as the harsh sound suggests, obviously comes directly from German, in which it is also used to refer to a moustache.


We hope you enjoyed this introduction to the origins of the English and German language. If you are a native German speaker, you might now feel learning English is not going to be hard after all. However, it’s going to be easier with guidance from our our qualified teachers. At ESO we offer tailored classes to help you improve your conversational and writing skills, as well as exam preparation courses. So book your trial lesson now, you won’t be disappointed.

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