We’ve all been there.
You want to vent out all your feelings to your mother on the phone about the new coworker.
A string of incredibly descriptive words follow. “He’s just so…so %$#&!”
Germans have a pretty dull reputation around the world for being bland, humorless and dry. Yet scanning over seemingly endless lists of German personality words and descriptive adjectives reveals that there’s much more to be said about German stereotypes.
Once you start getting to know Germans or speaking the language, you’ll find that using colorful language is a part of the German way of life!
Just like anyone else, Germans can be humorous, energetic, artistic, motivated, serious, friendly and yes, even cheerful.
As multifaceted creatures, we humans need a gigantic range of words to describe each other. Just like with adverbs, adjectives used to represent people bring descriptions to life and give you a little bit more of a personality too.
What’s the Value of Describing Others?
A stereotype that many foreigners will swear by, however, is the widely shared opinion that Germans are incredibly difficult to befriend (at least compared to those from other cultures).
Unless you’re speaking exclusively in English, language barriers make the friendship process an even bigger challenge to face. Being able to describe people enables you to formulate your own opinions and as a result bond with like-minded individuals. Not too fond of Helen? Neither is Johannes. Meet your new best friend.
Additionally, using a diverse mix of words makes it possible to flatter or insult (try to be nice!). If you truly appreciate how helpful your classmate is, tell them! Nothing makes the heart grow fonder than a heartfelt compliment about someone’s character.
For beginners, learning German personality words is a powerful tool to practice sein (to be) conjugations and adjective endings.
With just a few commonly used descriptive words like froh (happy), gemein (mean), arrogant (arrogant) and witzig (funny), you’re already well on your way to creating meaningful sentences that extend beyond empty textbook examples like Hans ist ein Mann (Hans is a man). How many of you actually know a Hans?
Essentially, having power over a toolkit of German words to express yourself gives you more depth when speaking, even if you haven’t yet mastered advanced German conversation skills.
The Best Resources to Learn Descriptive German Personality Vocabulary
A simple Google search for German personality words will only get you limited results to stock up your vocabulary library.
As we all well know, the best way to absorb a new language is through immersion, out in the wild. Sitting in front of your computer or phone at home in a non-German-speaking country of course makes this a bit harder in practice, but there are ways around this.
Some expert ways to soak in colorful personalities include watching videos and reading opinionated pieces, such as magazines, novels and stories.
Learning adjective endings
Before diving right into the multiple-personality buffet, you ought to know a thing or two about adjective endings. As any German language learner can attest, once article endings come into the picture, German gets a whole lot messier.
Start practicing adjective endings with exercises on various German learning sites, such as Your Daily German or on Nthuleen. Depending on whether the person you’re describing is male or female, your article endings must change accordingly. After mastering endings, you’re ready to pop in any German personality word and get describing!
Say as the locals say with videos
Watching captioned videos can reveal more descriptive words to help express your views on your neighbors. Using various built-in learning tools, videos can be used for a lot more than just picking up stray words, but also for picking up on cultural norms.
One great place to learn German with videos is FluentU.
FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:
Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.
Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.
Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.
FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or practice anytime, anywhere on the mobile app for iOS and Android.
You can also search for captioned videos on YouTube, although the auto-generated captions can miss the mark. Try looking for critiques of your favorite celebrity or of a political figure to really see descriptive language at its best.
Get some reading practice while discovering new words
Written literature doesn’t always have to be from top-notch news sources like Die Zeit or Spiegel to be valuable. When it comes to learning new German personality words, you’re more likely to pick them out of opinionated articles, columns and magazines.
Wherever judgement is passed on people is a great place to start combing through. This way, you can also get a sense for the context when vocabulary words are used. The following are some well-known German publications with tons of material online to get you started:
- Brigitte: Brigitte is your staple women’s beauty and lifestyle magazine. Found online and at newsstands in the German-speaking world, you can read anything from fitness tips to your daily horoscope.
- Bento: Bento is a spin-off of Spiegel, one of Germany’s most reputed news sources, which targets the young internet crowd. This site tackles news stories and various topics of interest to the younger generations. To find some German personality words, check out the Meinung (opinion) section.
- Neon: Neon is a monthly magazine with both print copies and an online edition, geared toward the 20-year-old to 35-year-old crowd. Some topics include relationships, travel, psychology and fashion. In addition, this is a fantastic place full of opinionated columns!
- Bunte: Bunte will keep you up-to-date on the latest celebrity stories and royal drama. Read all about what the press has to say about these stars’ personalities in this tabloid-style magazine.
Use these resources either as a place to pinpoint new words to or try finding some of the words listed below in action!
50 German Personality Words That Prove Germans Aren’t Dull
Just a single word can pack a ton of meaning and reveal mountains about how people react in situations, go about their days and interact with others. You can use these words to describe your least favorite coworker, the love of your life or a lesser-known acquaintance.
The list below is organized into positive, neutral, negative and slang subsections so you can quickly pick out the perfect German personality word depending on your feelings.
Positive Begriffe (positive terms)
- Süß, niedlich (cute)
- Freundlich (friendly)
- Fleißig (hardworking)
- Witzig (witty, funny)
- Großzügig (generous)
- Klug (smart)
- Zuverlässig (dependable, trustworthy)
- Kreativ (creative)
- Ehrgeizig (ambitious)
- Geduldig (patient)
- Froh (happy)
- Behilflich (helpful)
- Aufrichtig (sincere)
- Begabt (talented)
- Selbstbewusst (confident)
Neutrale Adjektive (neutral adjectives)
- Gesprächig (talkative)
- Sportlich (athletic)
- Schüchtern (shy)
- Energisch (energetic)
- Ruhig (quiet, calm)
- Abenteuerlustig (adventurous)
- Abergläubisch (superstitious)
- Spontan (spontaneous)
- Selbständig (independent)
- Exzentrisch (eccentric)
- Eigenartig (unique)
- Realistisch (realistic)
- Introvertiert (introverted)
- Extrovertiert (extroverted)
- Künstlerisch (artistic)
Negative Beschreibungen (negative descriptions)
- Blöd, dumm, doof (stupid, dumb)
- Bescheuert, verrückt (nuts)
- Sauer (annoyed)
- Gierig (greedy)
- Gemein (mean)
- Deprimiert (depressed)
- Eitel (vain)
- Faul (lazy)
- Aggressiv (aggressive)
- Egoistisch (egotistical)
- Eifersüchtig (jealous)
- Arrogant (arrogant)
- Unfreundlich (unfriendly)
- Eingebildet (conceited)
- Angeberisch (show-off)
Slang words to use with your Kumpels (buddies)
German slang is a breed of its own, filled with inventive words mostly used by the young and trendy for only a few years at a time until it gets stale. Jugendsprache (youth language) is distinctly recognized as its own “sublanguage” in German.
In fact since 2008, the German language publisher Langenscheidt has awarded a single word annually with the honor of Jugendwort des Jahres (youth word of the year).
Here are just a few hip slang personality words that may get you in with the youngsters.
- Geil (awesome, wicked, sexy): Geil is an oldie, but a goodie, transcending years as a multifaceted slang word that looks like it’s here to stay. Pronounced gah-eel as one syllable, the word can be used to describe anything from a fantastic situation to a smoking hot vixen on the street. Word to the wise: This word originally means “sexually aroused,” so caution is advised when using it in questionable contexts.
- Assi (antisocial, not sociable): As a shortening of Asozial (antisocial), Assi can mean someone who is unfriendly, socially awkward, avoids interactions or is simply a person everyone has agreed to dislike. It can also mean that they’re really in with the wrong crowd, and that their antisocial behavior stretches to lengths such as vandalism and dealing drugs. It’s important to listen to the context; the concept may seem a bit high school but it could also be a warning.
- Der Waschlappen/feigling (wimp, sissy): Waschlappen and Feigling don’t need much of an explanation. Be light with your accusations, however. If someone doesn’t want to skydive off an airplane, it’s no occasion to call them a Feigling!
- Der Streber (overachiever, nerd): The Streber is a bit more difficult to directly translate to English, and it exists most commonly in the faraway high school universe, for the most part. This person is incredibly smart, a bookworm and teacher’s pet. But unlike the quiet, humble nerd, the Streber announces his accomplishments for the world to know. The verb form streben means “to strive,” hence the title bestowed on the one who strives to be perfect in all academic disciplines.
- Der Klugscheißer/Besserwisser (know-it-all): In a simple segue we land on the know-it-all, who announces tidbits and facts for the betterment of those unfortunate enough to be listening. This word is best reserved for all the wise guys in your acquaintance.
Just remember that slang words should be reserved for informal situations with friends or family, and tend to sound a bit harsher than the normal German descriptive personality word.
To stay on everyone’s safe side, it’s best to stick with positive or neutral adjectives that carry pleasant connotations.
The last thing you want in any new language is to offend others!
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