german kids playing football or soccer

Sports in German: 150+ Core Vocabulary Words

Football, handball, tennis, cycling, skiing, ice hockey—these are some of the most popular sports in German-speaking countries.

Do you know how to say them in German?

That’s what this guide is for! Read on for essential sports vocabulary, from names of common sports to conversational phrases that’ll help you talk about sports with German speakers.

After all, you never know when you can connect with someone who has the same hobby!     


Names of Sports in German

friends watching a german sport together

Just like in English, German also uses the word Sport. There are a lot of Sportarten  or types of sports in German, including ball sports, fitness activities and even mind sports, and we’ll cover the vocabulary for these below. Whatever your favorite sport is, you’ll likely find it here!

Popular Sports

kid playing soccer in germany

Football or soccer is undeniably the most popular sport ever in Germany. In fact, the country’s national team has won four world cups, and fans even travel in large numbers to both local and international games. Handball and motor racing have dedicated followings too.

der Fußball soccer
der Handball handball
der Basketball basketball
das Tennis tennis
das Golf golf
das Hockey hockey
das Eishockey ice hockey
das Skifahren skiing
der Radsport cycling (as a sport)
das Schwimmen swimming
der Rennsport motor racing
die Leichtathletik track and field

If you’re a football fan, check out this list of football-specific vocabulary:

Ball Sports

young women playing volleyball in germany

Ball sports are called Ballsportarten  in German. Aside from the ball sports below, Germany actually has a traditional ball sport called Faustball (fistball)—it’s a lot like volleyball, except you hit the ball with your fist. 

der Volleyball volleyball
das Tischtennis table tennis, ping-pong
das Rugby rugby
der American Football American football
das Cricket cricket
das Badminton badminton
das Squash squash
der Beachvolleyball beach volleyball

Water Sports

couple on a sailing boat in germany

For water sports, the German term is Wassersportarten . Germany, Austria and Switzerland all have plenty of rivers and lakes, with North Germany being well-known for its long coastlines.

das Segeln sailing
das Wasserskilaufen water skiing
das Surfen surfing
das Tauchen diving
das Kanufahren canoeing
das Kajakfahren kayaking
das Rudern rowing
das Windsurfen windsurfing
das Kitesurfen kitesurfing
der Wasserball water polo
das Stand-Up-Paddleln stand-up paddling

Fitness and Athletics

german woman jogging

Germans are fond of their fitness, from hiking and jogging to yoga and cycling. 

Most often, you’ll simply see the word Sport used to refer to exercise of this sort, whether that be in the gym or out jogging in the park. 

Luckily, many of these can be easier to remember because some of them are the same as in English.  

das Laufen running
das Joggen jogging
das Marathonlauf marathon running
das Turnen gymnastics
das Gewichtheben weightlifting
das Bodybuilding bodybuilding
das Wandern hiking
das Klettern climbing
das Yoga yoga
das Pilates pilates
das/der Triathlon triathlon
der Crossfit Crossfit

Martial Arts

two german men doing judo

Martial arts in German are called Kampfkünste  or Kampfsportarten.  Although they’re not from a German-speaking country, you’ll still find quite a lot of options in Germany for judo, karate and taekwondo, as well as boxing.

das Karate karate
das Judo judo
das Taekwondo taekwondo
das Aikido aikido
das Boxen boxing
das Kickboxen kickboxing
das Krav Maga Krav maga
das Jiu-Jitsu jiu-jitsu
das Muay Thai Muay thai
die Capoeira Capoeira
das Fechten fencing
das Ringen wrestling

Extreme Sports

man skydiving in germany

Germany, Austria and Switzerland all have diverse landscapes, so you’ll be able to try out extreme sports ( Extremsportarten in these countries. Skydiving is especially popular since there are several drop zones with breath-taking views over the countryside and the Alps.

das Fallschirmspringen skydiving
das Bungeejumping bungee jumping
das Base-Jumping base jumping
das Kitesurfen kitesurfing
das Freiklettern free climbing
das Downhill-Mountainbiken downhill mountain biking
das Drachenfliegen hang gliding
das Paragliding paragliding
das Snowboarding snowboarding
das Wildwasser-Rafting whitewater rafting
das Speedflying speed flying
der Parkour parkour
das Eisklettern ice climbing
das Skispringen ski jumping
das Rodeln bobsledding, luge

Other Sports 

two people playing chess in germany

We’re not yet done with our lists of sports! Germany holds a lot of dance festivals and competitions throughout the year, and there are hundreds of chess clubs across the country too.   

das Tanzen dancing
das Reiten horseback riding
der Skilanglauf cross-country skiing
das Schach chess
das Bogenschießen archery
die Eiskunstlauf figure skating
das Darts darts
das Kegeln bowling
das Billard billiards
das Poker poker
das Snooker snooker
der Kicker foosball
das Ultimate Frisbee ultimate frisbee

Verbs Used in Sports

contestants in a swimming competition in germany

When talking about German sports, you’ll definitely end up using verbs

treten to kick
spielen to play
springen to jump
werfen to throw
laufen to run
schwimmen to swim
schlagen to hit
aufschlagen to serve
fangen to catch
heben to lift
schießen to shoot
paddeln to paddle
rudern to row
dribbeln to dribble
klettern to climb

Sports Equipment in German

different types of sports equipment

A lot of sports equipment names in German are very direct and descriptive. For example, Handschuhe literally translates to “hand shoes” (gloves). After all, German is known for having unique compound words (sometimes with quirky meanings). 

der Ball ball
der Schläger racket or bat
das Paddel paddle
der Helm helmet
die Handschuhe gloves
das Netz net
die Schwimmbrille goggles
das Fahrrad bicycle
die Skier skis
das Snowboard snowboard
das Trikot jersey
die Laufschuhe running shoes
der Gewichthebergürtel weightlifting belt
die Yogamatte yoga mat

German Vocabulary for Sports Games

men watching a football game at home

When you’re watching a sports game in German, you’ll need very specific vocabulary. It also enhances the experience—once your favorite team scores a goal, you can celebrate by shouting “Tor!” along with the crowd or fellow fans.  

das Spiel game
die Mannschaft team
der Spieler / Spielerin player
gewinnen to win
verlieren to lose
der Trainer/die Trainerin coach
der Schiedsrichter/die Schiedsrichterin referee (male/female)
das Tor goal
der Punktestand score
das Unentschieden tie or draw
der Sieg victory
die Niederlage defeat
das Schwimmbad swimming pool
die Laufbahn track
die Spielzeit game time
die Halbzeit halftime
die Verlängerung overtime
die Auszeit time-out

Sports-Related Slang and Expressions

dart hitting the bull's eye

Even when the topic isn’t sports, you might still hear about them in conversations because they’re used in common expressions. Some of these even sound quite similar to their English counterparts:

ins Schwarze treffen to hit the bullseye (both literally and figuratively)
das Runde muss ins Eckige the ball must go into the square (used in soccer to mean scoring a goal)
eine Klatsche kriegen to get a thrashing (to lose by a large margin)
auf dem Holzweg sein to be on the wrong track (making a wrong assumption)
jemandem die Daumen drücken to keep one’s fingers crossed for someone
ein Eigentor schießen to score a goal against one's own team (can also mean to accidentally harm one’s own cause)
auf die Nase fallen to fall flat on one’s face (to fail)
am Ball bleiben to keep the ball rolling
Kopf an Kopf neck-and-neck (very close competition)
aus dem Rennen sein to be out of the race
die zweite Luft bekommen to catch one’s second wind (to gain new energy after becoming tired)

Talking About Sports in German

two german friends talking about sports

Sports can help you connect better with German speakers, whether you’re looking for an ice-breaker or you want to invite to a game. Check out these conversational phrases:

Spielst du Sport? Do you play sports/workout?
Mein Lieblingssport ist... My favorite sport is...
Ich spiele gerne... I like to play...
Welchen Sport treibst du? What sport do you play?
Ich bin ein Fan von... I am a fan of...
Ich gehe ins Fitnessstudio. I go to the gym.
Wer hat das Spiel gewonnen? Who won the game?
Hast du das letzte Spiel gesehen? Did you watch the last game?
Wir haben am Wochenende ein Spiel. We have a match this weekend.
Spielst du in einer Mannschaft? Do you play in a team?
Ich trainiere jeden Tag. I train every day.
Welche Mannschaft unterstützt du? Which team do you support?

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Example Conversation

Let’s put all of these sports vocabulary together into a German conversation:  

Lukas: Hey Anna, machst du Sport?
(Hey Anna, do you play any sports?)

Anna: “Klar, ich gehe oft schwimmen. Und du?”
(Sure, I often go swimming. What about you?)

Lukas: “Ich spiele Fußball in einem Verein, wir haben zweimal die Woche Training.”
(I play soccer at a club, we have training twice a week.)

Anna: Klingt super! Ich dachte immer, Fußball wäre nichts für mich, aber vielleicht sollte ich es doch versuchen. Wie lange spielst du schon?
(Sounds great! I always thought soccer wasn’t for me, but maybe I should try it. How long have you been playing?)

Lukas: “Seit ich klein war. Fußball ist meine Leidenschaft. Aber warum hast du dich für Schwimmen entschieden?”
(Since I was little. Soccer is my passion. But why did you choose swimming?)

Anna: Ich liebe Wasser und finde Schwimmen so entspannend. Es ist ein guter Ausgleich zu meinem Büro.
(I love water and swimming is so relaxing. It’s a good offset to my office job.)

Lukas: Verstehe ich. Übrigens, nächste Woche haben wir ein wichtiges Spiel. Hättest du Lust, vorbeizukommen und zuzuschauen??
(I understand. By the way, we have an important game next week. Fancy coming to watch?)

Anna: Gerne! Klingt lustig! Ich freue mich, dich spielen zu sehen!
(Sure, sounds fun! I’m looking forward to seeing you play!)

Sports in German Culture

As you can tell from this guide, sports are pretty common in Germany—plenty of people join sports clubs, and health and fitness are highly promoted. Aside from having a track record of achievements in sports, Germany hosts major sports events regularly, including world cups and international tournaments.

Some of the top sport events in Germany include:

  • FIFA World Cup — Germany has hosted this international football tournament twice and won the championship four times. 
  • DFB-Pokal — This is an annual German football competition, where teams from various leagues compete, including the Bundesliga. It’s known for its exciting matches and sometimes surprising victories by underdog teams.
  • Berlin Marathon — One of the world’s biggest marathons, the Berlin Marathon attracts runners from all over the globe. It’s known for having a flat, fast course that winds through the city. 

In Austria, another German-speaking country, you also have the Hahnenkamm Race, an alpine skiing event with one of the most challenging downhill courses in the world. Switzerland hosts the prestigious Wengen Lauberhorn Ski Race, which of the highlights of the World Cup skiing circuit. 


Whether you’re a German learner or staying in a German-speaking country, sports are going to come up eventually in conversation. 

This guide brings you up to speed with the basic German sports vocabulary. Try these out so you can talk about your favorite hobby or enjoy a game to the fullest in German!  

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