Even the least web-savvy of us encounter it on a more or less regular basis—probably mostly subconsciously.
Maybe you’re not the kind to toss about LOL’s willy-nilly (at least not since your eight-year-old nephew scornfully informed you that it didn’t stand for “lots of love”), but chances are you have occasion to send an email or text from time to time.
In fact, it’s more than likely you’ve absorbed a fair bit more slang from the English-speaking interwebz than you’re even aware. After all, we live our lives more and more online.
But rather than lament those countless hours lost to clearing the inbox, keeping your various social media channels up to date or clicking through trending memes, you might just want to consider the potential for your German learning progress.
Just consider German Internet slang to be a new communication tool that will take your reading and writing a step farther.
Where Can German Internet Slang Be Used?
Of course, all of us German learners—from newbies to Profis (experts)—have different levels of engagement with the weltweites Netz (world wide web) and this will influence your slang needs to some extent.
Interestingly, though, the farther you head into tech territory (beyond common usage like email and chat) the less specifically-German slang you tend to find, as it gives way to a largely English-derived lingo known as “leet speak.” The “leet” comes from “elite” and the descriptor began to be adopted by hackers and online gamers sometime in the 1980s, as a way of asserting their status online.
While there is some specifically German slang, the good news is that you can satisfy the basics more easily than you think.
And the following guide to German Internet slang is designed to do just that—we’re gonna end up boosting your German shorthand writing skills online before you can say CUL8R!
To get deeper into German slang, idioms and everyday language, as it’s used by native speakers, try FluentU.
With interactive captions that give instant definitions, pronunciations and additional usage examples, plus fun quizzes and multimedia flashcards, FluentU is a complete learning package. Check it out with the free trial, and soon you’ll be slinging German slang with ease.
Explore the German Interwebz: The A to Z Guide to German Internet Slang
A is for Abkürzung
Much like English, the majority of German Internet slang involves an Abkürzung (abbreviation) of a phrase or group of words, often formed from the first letters of each. Not exactly rocket science, but not a bad place to start!
B is for BD
BD stands for Bis dann (’til then), the German equivalent of CUL8R.
C is for Chatsprache
The general umbrella term for your online conversational activity in all shapes and forms—or, to put it simply, “chat lingo”!
D is for Denglisch (Denglish)
Like “leet speak,” German Chatsprache is littered with English as well as Deutsch, leading to the so-called Denglish combination. Sometimes it can’t hurt to trot out an English abbreviation (though it’s cheating, really!) like FTR (for the record) or RLY? (really?) and a few more you’ll find here.
E is for Emoticons
The universal language! 🙂 🙁 😀 and 😐 surely need no translation.
F is for FG
FG stands for freches Grinsen, fettes Grinsen or fieses Grinsen.
The last one is the sprachlich (linguistic) equivalent of :D.
G is for Geek
People in Germany use “geek” the same way we do. But did you know that this word has its roots in low German? Specifically, it comes from the word Geck, which was once used to denote a crazy person. The story goes that a “geek show,” traditionally staged by traveling circuses, would often involve such a person biting off the heads of live chickens.
Then in 1952 the word experienced a pivotal moment, appearing in Robert Heinlein’s short story “The Year of the Jackpot” to describe an eccentric technology-obsessed freak.
Around the 1980s another subtle shift occurred, and “geek” became the catch-all term to describe anyone with a penchant for technology-based pursuits and a fair dose of social awkwardness to boot. But as our communications have become ever more technology-based, and our lives increasingly lived in cyberspace, so too has the word “geek” taken on a certain social status—on and offline—and now is even worn as a badge of honor.
Somewhere along the way, geeks became der Hammer (cool)!
H is for HDF
HDF stands for Halt die/deine Fresse! (shut up!). Literally, this translates to something more like “shut your trap/gob/cake hole,” or whichever delightful colloquial term you so choose.
It’s a tad blunt, this one, so keep it for your near and dear ones (who will presumably know you’re just being affectionate) or else someone who really deserves it!
I is for ILD
Ich liebe dich (I love you).
J is for Jokes (Witze)
When you see a great joke, you may feel free to respond with the timeless English slang, LOL or LMAO (refer to D is for Denglish, above).
K is for…
kein Ding. This literally translates to “no thing,” but means “don’t worry” or “no problem.”
Keine Ahnung means “no idea,” as in “I have no idea.”
L is for LG
Liebe Grüße translates literally to “lovely greetings” but really means “best regards.”
This is an appropriate sign off for any email correspondence. Variations include Beste Grüße (best greetings) and Viele Grüße (many greetings), often abbreviated as BG and VG respectively.
M is for mMn
This is not a sound that means “sounds delicious” at all, but instead it stands for meiner Meinung nach (in my opinion). Kind of the Deutsch equivalent of IMHO: “in my humble opinion.”
N is for Netzjargon
This word almost makes complete sense in English, and means “Internet jargon,” something you’re fast becoming an expert in—fourteen down, twelve to go!
O is for OK
No doubt this one is self-explanatory, Germans use “OK” along with the rest of the world, though alles klar (literally, all clear) would be a more specifically German translation.
P is for PLZ
Bitte. Alright, so it’s “please.” We did mention the Denglish, right?
Q is for QK
Translating literally as “nonsense head,” Quatschkopf is generally used in a lighthearted, joking manner, to mean something like “birdbrain” or “bull artist,” in a case where someone has been, well, talking nonsense. Quatschen on the other hand, means “chatter” about all manner of things—not necessarily nonsensical ones!
R is for RL
Richtiges Leben (real life).
The stuff you don’t do in front of a screen.
S is for SfH
Schluss für Heute literally means “close for today” but actually means “that’s enough for today.”
Schluss machen is used fairly often to mean “finish up” or “call it quits” but can have a more serious meaning, signalling a break up—in the sense of a relationship.
T is for Tschau
So the Italians might have made it universal, but it’s good to know how the Germans spell it, on-screen and off, right?
U is for…
Not the courier company, and not a reference to something somewhere up above in your chat thread. In fact, it’s the German spelling for “oops.”
Less common, but also sometimes heard in richtiges Leben is nanu! or the charming Hoppala! (oops-a-daisy!)
um Antwort wird gebeten (an answer is requested).
You might be more familiar with the French version répondez s’il vous plaît, more commonly known as RSVP. I include it here so that you can recognize this mysterious code when encountered, for instance, at the end of an email invitation.
Note that there’s some debate amongst German etiquette circles as to whether you should actually use it yourself. Apparently it’s a relatively old-fashioned abbreviation and your guests—even German ones!—may not understand the meaning, and so fail to provide the required response. If in doubt, stick with RSVP!
V is for vlt / vllt
W is for…
wieder da (back again). Short for Ich bin wieder da (I’m back again).
X is for XOXO
Küsse und Umarmungen (kisses and hugs).
Y is for Y?
Note: Y? is pronounced like the English “Y” when used in this context.
Z is for Zugaben (extras)
Looking for more? There are of course more German Internet slang possibilities out there—this short guide is just a starting point.
If you have the chance to communicate with German friends or colleagues by email, text or chat messenger, take note of the abbreviations they use too.
Most importantly, get out there and try it for yourself! I hope this brief foray into the world of German Internet slang will inspire you to do so.
And One More Thing...
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