German-English CognatesSimilar words in German & English

German words that are similar to their English translation both in spelling & meaning are called cognates. Cognates are very useful for expanding your vocabulary. This post is all about German-English cognates.

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02.12.2023

If you are an English speaker (whether native or not) who is learning German, you are in luck. Since German and English are both Germanic languages, they share a lot of similarities in terms of vocabulary and grammar.

As a result, many German words look very similar to their English counterparts. These words are known as cognates, and they can be a valuable tool for language learners, especially for learners who are just getting started.

You can get quite a headstart by focusing on learning vocabulary effectively in the beginning (for example, by learning cognates, using frequency lists, studying modal verbs early on in your language-learning journey).

In this post, we will take a closer look at German-English cognates and how they can be used to improve your German language skills.

What are Cognates?

Cognates are words that have a common origin and share a similar meaning, and they can be either exact cognates or partial cognates.

Exact cognates are words that are spelled exactly the same and have the same meaning in both languages. Partial cognates, on the other hand, are words that are spelled slightly differently (in this case, a few letters might differ), but have a similar meaning in both languages.

German-English Cognates

There are many German-English cognates that can be found in everyday language. Here are just a few examples:

Exact Cognates (List)

Here is an example of German-English cognates, that are exact cognates: The words are exactly the same, making it super-easy for English speakers to memorize them:

theatre
student
hotel
computer
hand
camera
radio
museum

Partial Cognates (List)

Here is an example of German-English cognates, that are partial cognates, meaning that they are spelled slightly differently, but are still recognizably similar:

die Universit├Ąt
university
die Familie
family
die Musik
music
das Telefon
telephone
der Kaffee
coffee
das Schiff
ship

It's quite easy to deduce that das Telefon probably means telephone and that die Musik is the German words for music, right?

Benefits of Using Cognates

Cognates can be a valuable tool for language learners because they provide a familiar starting point for learning new vocabulary.

They can also help you to better understand written and spoken German. Sometimes, words are spelled very similarly, but the pronunciation in German is still a bit different. In those cases, beginners might struggle. But once you get used to the language, you will also recognize most of these cognates with ease.


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