A Germanic language of the Indo-European family. German morphology is a little more complex than in English, in that German has more case and gender inflection. The four cases in German (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive) are fewer than in case languages like Finnish, but the four cases require an English speaker to learn new systems of articles, pronouns, and suffixes. German word order follows a subject-verb-object (SVO) pattern.

Phonologically, English speakers have trouble with a few German phonemes (just like Germans have trouble pronouncing the English voiced dental fricative /þ/ -- the 'th' in 'the'). The German vowels ä, ö and ü are new to English speakers. The German 'r' is not quite like our palato-alveolar liquid /r/. Other sounds unusual to the English speaker are German 'ch' and 'z'.

German words can be very long, as the language has many very productive derivational morphemes. All nouns are capitalized in German. Once written in an elaborate script called Fraktur, German's Roman alphabet looks like that of English, with the addition of three vowels with umlauts and the scharfes S, written ß.

The German language has gone through several reforms, including a recent spelling reform in which some foreign words were "germanized" and the use of the ß was decreased (for example, dass not daß).

German is spoken much differently in Austria and in Switzerland than it is in Germany, and within Germany itself there are many dialects. In Berlin, for example, dative and accusative cases are often mixed up, and the hard 'g' in words like gut is pronounced like the 'j' in ja.

Male name. Equivalent to "Herman" in some southern european countries (e.g. Spain). The G is pronounced like a harsh H.


Though of course Webster1913 always does it so well, I'd like to add a little.

As we know, the Germans call themselves Deutsch, not Germans. Deutsch ultimately derives from the Old High German diot, which literally means "people"--the Deutsch are the People; it has the same origin as Teuton. This is similar to the Irish Tuath, a tribe or people, as seen in the name Tuatha de Dannans.

So why do we call them Germans? German comes from the Latin germ and nus, "of the same stock" that is, germen a bud or sprout. In other words, the Romans refered to "those northern tribes" as being of the same origin--Germani.

Due to the similarity of its phonetics, German contains a number of words that could be misinterpreted by the unwary English-speaker. Among those to look out for are:

   Word                   Meaning

ass (or aß)               ate
bog                       bent
Christ                    Christian
dang                      hired
dick                      fat, thick
Fahrt                     trip, journey
flog                      flew
floss (or floß)           flowed
Fuchs                     fox
Gang                      gear
grub                      dug
handfest                  solid, sturdy
Kraut                     weed
Lager                     store
Mist                      manure
munter                    lively, cheerful
Muschi                    pussy (feline or genital)
Rat                       advice
sechs (pronounced "sex")  six
Seide (" " "cider")       silk
wanken                    sway, stagger
wog                       weighed
(I'm aware "handfest" is not a word in English, but a creative imagination could make a muddle of it.)

Ger"man (?), a. [OE. german, germain, F. germain, fr. L. germanus full, own (said of brothers and sisters who have the same parents); akin to germen germ. Cf. Germ, Germane.]

Nearly related; closely akin.

Wert thou a leopard, thou wert german to the lion. Shak.

Brother german. See Brother german. -- Cousins german. See the Note under Cousin.


© Webster 1913.

Ger"man, n.; pl. Germans (#) [L. Germanus, prob. of Celtis origin.]


A native or one of the people of Germany.


The German language.

3. (a)

A round dance, often with a waltz movement, abounding in capriciosly involved figures.


A social party at which the german is danced.

High German, the Teutonic dialect of Upper or Southern Germany, -- comprising Old High German, used from the 8th to the 11th century; Middle H. G., from the 12th to the 15th century; and Modern or New H. G., the language of Luther's Bible version and of modern German literature. The dialects of Central Germany, the basis of the modern literary language, are often called Middle German, and the Southern German dialects Upper German; but High German is also used to cover both groups. -- Low German, the language of Northern Germany and the Netherlands, -- including Friesic; Anglo-Saxon or Saxon; Old Saxon; Dutch or Low Dutch, with its dialect, Flemish; and Plattdeutsch (called also Low German), spoken in many dialects.


© Webster 1913.

Ger"man, a. [L. Germanus. See German, n.]

Of or pertaining to Germany.

German Baptists. See Dunker. -- German bit, a wood-boring tool, having a long elliptical pod and a scew point. -- German carp Zool., the crucian carp. -- German millet Bot., a kind of millet (Setaria Italica, var.), whose seed is sometimes used for food. -- German paste, a prepared food for caged birds. -- German process Metal., the process of reducing copper ore in a blast furnace, after roasting, if necessary. Raymond. -- German sarsaparilla, a substitute for sarsaparilla extract. -- German sausage, a polony, or gut stuffed with meat partly cooked. -- German silver Chem., a silver-white alloy, hard and tough, but malleable and ductile, and quite permanent in the air. It contains nickel, copper, and zinc in varying proportions, and was originally made from old copper slag at Henneberg. A small amount of iron is sometimes added to make it whiter and harder. It is essentially identical with the Chinese alloy packfong. It was formerly much used for tableware, knife handles, frames, cases, bearings of machinery, etc., but is now largely superseded by other white alloys. -- German steel Metal., a metal made from bog iron ore in a forge, with charcoal for fuel. -- German text Typog., a character resembling modern German type, used in English printing for ornamental headings, etc., as in the words,

This line is German Text.

-- German tinder. See Amadou.


© Webster 1913.

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