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German Halloween Vocabulary: 43 Freaky and Fun Words [With Audio Pronunciation]

When you think of Halloween, you probably think of candy corn, right?

But did you know that the Germans are linked to the popularization of Halloween’s signature candy?

Although Philadelphia candymaker George Renninger invented candy corn in the 1880s, a family from Germany established the Goelitz Confectionery Company, which manufactured the treat and turned it into a staple Halloween candy.

Here are 43 German Halloween vocabulary words and phrases to kick off your spooky celebrations.

Contents

1. Das Halloween  (Halloween)

Note that the origins of the word “Halloween” date back to the 8th century, when October 31st was called “All Hallows Eve,” which then morphed into “Hallow Evening” and, well… I think you get the picture. 

2. Buh  (Boo!)

The single most important word for any self-respecting Geist (ghost) to commit to memory and use with frequency during the Halloween season.

3. Der Friedhof (The cemetery)

No Halloween is considered fully realized without a visit to the local cemetery. While the hope in taking such a trip is that the Toten  (dead) stay dead and buried, scary movies have proven time and time again that Halloween is the perfect time of year for a Zombie  (zombie) invasion.

4. Das Geisterhaus (The haunted house)

An easy and important compound word to add to your Halloween vocabulary list. Geister (ghosts) is simply the plural form of Geist , and Haus (house) is one of those great cognates easily committed to memory.

5. Der Grabstein  (Tombstone)

Remember those Zombies we mentioned earlier? To remember this one, imagine that a Grabstein is what they’re knocking over and out of the way in their quest to get their hands on (grab) you!

6. Der Ghul  (The ghoul)

Another frightening addition to any and all Halloween experiences.

7. Die Fledermaus  (The bat)

A nocturnal Blutsauger  (bloodsucker).

8. Die Hexe  (The witch)

Four hundred years ago, the Germans were in the midst of witch hunt frenzy, which saw many men and women accused of casting Zaubersprüche (magic spells), riding around on a Besen (broom) and turning themselves into a schwarze Katze  (black cat).

9. Die Mumie  (The mummy)

Just like in English, it sounds a lot like “mommy,” but this is definitely not something you want kissing you goodnight at bedtime.

10. Der Dämon  (The demon)

This word dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks and represents the idea of a “divine being.” History, however, saw rise to the word being associated with all things evil, hence its place in the Halloween we now celebrate.

11. Der Schädel (The skull)

The skull and crossbones appear to have transcended Halloween. Designers across the globe have transformed this classic symbol into the latest “it” thing.

12. Das Skelett (The skeleton)

Going back to the ancient roots of “All Hallows Eve” and its remembrance of the dead, skeletons allow for an easy association with modern-day Halloween.

13. Die Spinne (The spider)

The verb spinnen means to spin. Spiders spin webs. How simple is that?

14. Der Vampir (The vampire)

Known to only come out at Nacht (night), suck your Blut (blood) and take shelter from the sunlight in a Sarg (coffin), the Vampir is the quintessential Halloween scare.

15. Die Vogelscheuche (The scarecrow)

The noun Vogel  means “bird” and the verb scheuchen means “to shoo”—exactly the intention of a scarecrow. 

16. Der Teufel (The devil)

The word Teufel mixes well with other words in the German language to express some form of outrage, concern or alarm. Teufel noch mal , for example, means “dammit.” Was zum Teufel  means “what the hell?” Pfui Teufel! is “ugh, disgusting!” 

17. Der Werwolf  (The werewolf)

“The Werewolf of Bedburg” is the story of Peter Stubbe, a German man accused of being a werewolf back in the 16th century. The tale is a disturbing one and the perfect addition to any Halloween party.

18. Das Kobold  (Goblin)

These ghastly creatures date back to the European Middle Ages, with tales of their deeds sprinkled throughout folkloric history. Mischievous in nature, they’re also said to have been bestowed with magisch  (magical) powers.

19. Der Kürbis (The pumpkin)

No Halloween is complete without lots of Kürbisse (pumpkins). Einritzen means “to carve,” and that’s exactly the first thing one does in order to make room inside for the Kerze (candle) that will ultimately transform your pumpkin into a functioning Kürbislaterne  (pumpkin lantern).

20. Der Jack O’Lantern / Der Halloweenkürbis (The jack o’lantern)

The name “jack o’lantern” and the practice of decorating candle-lit pumpkins derives from an Irish folktale and there isn’t a unique German word for it.

Der Halloweenkürbis literally just means “Halloween pumpkin.” There are actually a number of pumpkin-carving events in the German-speaking world, a popular one being the Kürbisfest in Retzer Land near Vienna.

21. Das Kostüm  / Die Verkleidung (The costume)

When it comes to German Halloween, they like to keep their dress-up on the scary side. With all these new scary vocabulary words you’ve learned, you should have no problem fitting right in.

22. Das Kostümfest (The costume party)

A staple of Halloween, costume parties have made their mark in German celebrations of the holiday. It’s also good to know that the Germans prefer to keep their attire fittingly scary for the occasion. If you’re going to attend one of their costume parties, you might want to switch out your Superman costume or cute animal suit for something truly frightening.

23. Die Süßigkeiten (The candy)

No Halloween is complete without indulging in one’s fair share of candy, and this is no different in Germany. With holidays such as Easter, St. Nikolaus Day and Christmas also being heavily celebrated with candy, plus the country’s general love of all things chocolate, Germans have managed to rank #3 in the world for overall candy consumption!

24. Der Streich (The prank)

Even though Germans go candy hunting door-to-door, little pranks such as tossing eggs at houses have also been known to happen in Germany during this time of year!

25. Die Gruselgeschichte (The scary story)

This word is a simple combination of the adjective gruselig  (creepy, horrifying) and die Geschichte  (story). Germany has its own tradition of eerie tales, so you’ll definitely want to hear some of them on Halloween night.

26. Der Albtraum / Der Alptraum (The nightmare)

Der Albtraum or Alptraum is a word derived from a combination of der Alb  (“elf”) and der Traum  (the dream), as it was once believed that nightmares were caused by an elf sitting on your chest.

The English word for nightmare actually has a German origin: der Nachtmahr , which is a combination of the words die Nacht  (night) and der Mahr  (which is essentially the same thing as der Alb). 

However, Nachtmahr is considered outdated these days. Alptraum is more commonly used nowadays to describe those frightful dreams that haunt your sleep.

27. Die Fratze (The grimace, ugly face)

No Halloween is complete without some horrific face-making. Die Fratze can mean your standard grimace or a grotesque face, either of which you’ll want to perfect for October 31st.

28. Der Aberglaube (The superstition)

Germany has its own fair share of superstitious beliefs, and some may sound quite familiar (the fortune of four-leaf clovers being one such example). Aberglaube is a combination of an antiquated aber , which essentially meant “after” or “against,” and the word der Glaube meaning “the belief.” Thus, Aberglaube loosely means “against belief,” and is understood in context to mean “against Christian belief.”

29. Der Horror (the horror)

Horror, as we know, goes really well with Halloween. This is also how you form the word for “horror movie” – der Horrorfilm

30. Frohes Halloween (Happy Halloween)

There isn’t a special German word for Halloween, so a simple Frohes Halloween is all that’s needed to wish someone a lovely, spooky day. You’ll also often just hear the English phrase used – Happy Halloween!

Froh by itself means “merry” and, in the correct gender case, can be tacked on to the beginning of a certain holiday for a celebratory greeting (for example, Frohe Weihnachten  for “Merry Christmas”).

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31. Süßes oder Saures! (Trick or treat!)

The German equivalent literally means “sweets or sours” and is what candy-craving German children chime at doorsteps on Halloween. One can also say Süßes, sonst gibt’s Saures  (Sweets, or there will be sours) to be slightly more menacing in their approach.

32. Vorsicht!  (Beware!)

A good word to know whether it’s Halloween or not, as it can also just serve as a general warning of “Watch out!” If you want to be more specific, you can say Vorsicht vor… (“Beware of…”).

33. Ruhe in Frieden (Rest in Peace)

Naturally, as with the English R.I.P., you’ll also find this phrase on gravestones, although not shortened as R.I.F. as you might think!

34. Spuken  (To haunt)

It’s not difficult to make an English connection with the word spuken. Just think “spooky.” Also note that a synonym for spuken is geistern (remember Geist = ghost)and translates to the concept of “walking around in a ghostly manner.”

35. Sich verkleiden  (To dress up)

You’ll want to wear your spooky best for a German costume party on Halloween. Remember that this verb is a reflexive one, so don’t forget to use the proper sich  form!

For example, if you’re going to a serious costume party that won’t take anyone slacking in their attire, you might hear:

Alle Gäste müssen sich verkleiden. (All guests have to dress up.)

36. Jemandem Streiche spielen  (To play tricks on someone)

Playing tricks will always be a staple of any Halloween, even in Germany. The usual suspects will likely be some particularly mischievous youths. Make sure you put the person you are playing tricks on in the dative case. 

37. Naschen (To eat sweets)

Naschen can just mean “to nibble,” but it’s commonly used in reference to sweets consumption. There’s even an idiom, gerne naschen that means “to have a sweet tooth.”

38. Verfolgen (To haunt)

Verfolgen can also just mean “to follow” in a non-Halloween context. The verb spuken has a similar meaning to verfolgen and is more associated with the spooky, otherworldly kind of stalking.

39. Spukhaft (Spooky, ghostly)

The spuk part of this word ( Der Spuk is a noun that means “haunting”) will be a pretty easy clue for English speakers as to what it means.

40. Übernatürlich  (Supernatural)

A word that just rolls off the tongue. The adjective is a combination of über  (above, super) and natürlich  (natural), just like its English translation!

41. Gruselig (Scary)

This is a word you’ll be tossing around all day on Halloween. Gruselig is an adjective that can encompass varying levels of scary and can be used to describe something as just “creepy” to flat-out “horrifying.”

42. Unheimlich (Eerie)

Depending on where you get the translation, unheimlich is also known to translate to words such as “creepy,” “sinister,” “weird” and “spooky.” So basically, you’re covering a lot of disturbing ground when you exercise your use of this word.

43. Schauerlich (Horrific, gruesome)

Der Schauer can have a few different meanings, including “thrill,” “shiver” and “chill.” When this is combined with the general suffix -lich (the English equivalent being “-ish”), you get an adjective to help you describe something truly spine-tingling or unearthly.

A Little Background on German Halloween

It’s believed that the origins of Halloween dates back 2,000 years ago to the Celts. Popular belief has it that this ancient tribe marked the end of harvesting season and the start of the new year (November 1st) with an elaborate festival on the evening of October 31st known as Samhain (pronounced Sow-en).

Samhain was also believed to be a time that the barrier between the world of the living and the dearly departed got a little fuzzy. As a consequence, spirits were said to roam freely among the living.

In an effort to appease their ghostly guests, the Celts offered up food, lit bonfires and donned scary masks in an attempt to blend in seamlessly with their otherworldly visitors.

The years since Samhain have seen a mix of cultures adopting and re-imagining its elements into their own beliefs. It’s thanks to the Irish and Scottish migrations to America that we celebrate the Halloween we know today. For generations, Halloween in the U.S. has involved kids in creepy costumes consuming copious amounts of candy.

But it might (or might not) surprise you to know that the Germans took up until the early 1990s to decide Halloween was a holiday worth celebrating.

Halloween is said to have been introduced to the German population due to the start of the Gulf War, which led to the cancellation of Germany’s beloved Carnival. Affected businesses looking to recoup their financial losses apparently banded together to debut Halloween, which in turn put the Germans in a festive, partying (and spending) mood.

Now, if and when you find yourself in Germany on October 31st and ready to get your Halloween on, it’s important to note that the Germans do things a little differently from Americans.

Costumes tend to lean heavily towards the scary side, therefore your princesses and pirates are best left for Carnival season.

In addition, the practice of going door-to-door on the hunt for candy is not as popular an activity in Germany and is typically relegated to the larger, more urban areas. And while stateside kids yell “trick-or-treat” when the neighbor’s door opens in their quest for candy, as mentioned above, German kids will respond with “Süßes oder Saures” / “Süßes, sonst gibt’s Saures”  (sweet or sour) instead.

Speaking of Süßes oder Saures,” perhaps you’re considering a stay in Germany during the Halloween season and are wondering what key words you’ll need to navigate your way.

Well, one promising point for the native English speakers among us is the amazing similarity between German and English when it comes to this key list of German Halloween vocabulary. The long history these two languages share makes learning these key words a snap and ensures a ghoulishly good time for all.

 

So that’s our list of 43 fun and essential vocabulary for a German Halloween—see if you can put it to good use this October 31st.

Frohes Halloween! (Happy Halloween!)

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