False Friend

What is a False Friend?

Before coming to Germany I had never heard of the expression “false friend” before. I soon learnt through my mistakes! There are some words in English which sound or look similar in German, but have a different meaning.  This can cause confusion, if not, on occasions embarrassment.

You can find a list of the most common ones in every English school book or check out the link: www.englisch-hilfen.de.

I once embarrassed myself at a party when a German friend told a joke about  a “Präservativ”.  I thought he was talking about “jam” (Konservierungsmittel) only to be told he was actually talking about condoms!! No wonder I didn’t get the joke!

Here are some False Friends to be aware of:

backside: das Hinterteil         die Rückseite: back

bodybagder Leichensack     die Bodybag : mono-strap backpack

chefder Küchenchef                der Chef: boss

gift das Geschenk                     das Gift: poison

If a German were sitting  in a restaurant and heard you say: “Did the boss give you a gift for your birthday?”,  he or she may be a little worried!


Kettle: “a container or device in which water is boiled, having a lid, a spout and handle”.

I recently received a high tech kettle as a birthday present. It’s great. I can now boil the water at the correct temperature for all my teas. No longer do I have to take the lid off the kettle to wait until I think it’s cooled to 80 degrees. White, yellow, green, black.. all tasting perfect.