Often summed up by a sentence that begins with “Germans actually have a word for …”, the extensive vocabulary of the German language is legendary.
This is largely due to the German phenomenon of composite nouns, which creates single words that would be multiple words in other languages such as English.
Examples include Aufenthaltstitel (residence permit) and Unabhängigkeitserklärung (declaration of independence). The word “Waldeinsamkeit” literally translates to “forest loneliness”, a specific feeling that in most languages would require several words.
When you add Swiss German to the mix, you have a wide range of difficult or impossible words to translate.
Here are some of the best. Want more fun Swiss German words? So look
Did you wake up with crumbs in bed this morning? Or was there a mysterious plate by the kitchen sink when you went to make coffee?
Chances are, someone in the house has had a late night snack attack, or as it was called in Swiss German, a Bettmümpfeli.
Literally translated as ‘bedtime treats’, Bettmümpfeli is a hard word to say, but a feeling we all understand.
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The Swiss German word “Hundsverlocheti” literally means “dog burial”, but it has nothing to do with canine exhalation.
Instead, the term refers to an event that no one in their right mind would want to go to.
For example, you could tell someone who goes out at every party or is going on in town, no matter how “Du gosch a jede Hundesverlochti” it is.
It means something like “You will find any old reason to go out (even a dog’s funeral)”.
The Swiss work a lot: around 40 to 42 hours per week are on average for a full-time job in a Swiss company. But the positive side is that the Swiss generally do not take their work home.
That magical moment when the working day is over and you are free to go is known as ‘Feierabend’ (literally ‘celebration night’) and is pronounced something like Fürabet – depending, of course, in which part from Switzerland you are.
You could, for example, ask someone, “Wenn hesch fürabet? Which means “When do you get off (from work)?”
The word is also commonly used in High German.
READ MORE: Why every country should engage with the German Feierabend
What’s the best way to celebrate Feierabend? With a Feierabendbier, of course.
It’s safe to say that “Eiertütsche” isn’t the most useful word on this list, but it’s popular at certain times of the year because it’s seasonal.
Eiertütsche (or ‘Egg bumping) refers to a game in which animal products and sublimated warfare are combined into a brilliant whole. The fight involves banging hard boiled eggs against each other.
The owner of the egg with the hardest shell (the one that doesn’t break) is the winner. Anyone familiar with the British game of conkers where chestnuts are crushed against each other will understand the picture. Who knew Easter could be so fun?
READ MORE: Five of the most special Swiss Easter traditions
No Swiss German word list would be complete without an expletive containing a) a reference to an animal and b) a reference to a lower anatomical region.
In this case, the animal is a sheep (Schaf) and the part of the anatomy is the testes (from ‘Seckel’ meaning something like a sack or sack).
While the word might sound cute, it’s a strong insult that is akin to “wanker” or “asshole.” You were warned.
The word Chuchichäschtli topped a poll of local readers’ favorite Swiss German words in 2020.
This means that a kitchen cupboard or a small kitchen cupboard is almost impossible for foreigners – including High Germans – to be heard.
On Facebook, Jackie Amey said the word was “her father’s favorite.” “He was English and he learned to say it”.
READ MORE: Seven English words the German Swiss get deliciously mistaken for
Margaret Weber and Sharon Baur also chose the word as their favorite.
When spring finally arrives after Switzerland’s long, cold winter, it’s time to take the convertible out of the garage (preferably an “old”, as vintage cars are called in Switzerland) and opt for a “Blueschtfaehrtli” .
A combination of the words “flower” and “little promenade”, this difficult word refers to the Swiss tradition of going out to admire the technicolor flowers on the fruit trees.
Did you take a short drive (or walk) to see the flowers while you were in Switzerland? Photo by Jonas Zürcher on Unsplash
The Swiss equivalent of the bureaucrat warming the seats and pushing a pencil is the deliciously named “Bürogummi” or, which literally translates to “office eraser” or “office rubber band.”
The Germans had the Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall) and Donald Trump wanted to build a wall with Mexico but in Switzerland the cultural and linguistic divide between the French-speaking and German-speaking parts of the country is an invisible border known as Röstigraben after the Typical Swiss German potato dish rösti.
The direct translation: the ditch of the potato dish.
If you are interested in the Röstigraben, or just want to know which side you are on, check out the following link.
Röstigraben: What is Switzerland’s invisible linguistic and cultural barrier?
Cheib: Naughty, nasty
Güselchübel: Moving van, trash can or good friend (yeah, this one confuses us too).
Chrüsimüsi: Literally meaning “I need to be crucified”, it refers to a chaotic mess in which one can find oneself.
Trottel: Much like Löli (see above), he’s a clumsy or stupid person.