German words expats should know: Geil

German words expats should know: Geil

If you were ever in need of a word to make yourself sound like a native German speaker (and down with the kids at the same time), it’s got to be “geil”. This ubiquitous little word can be a source of confusion to expats, so let’s break it down a bit. 

Geil meaning

Look geil up in the dictionary, and you’ll probably find the following definition: 

  1. Randy, horny, lecherous
  2. Rich, fertile, luxuriant

Before you ask - no - Germany is not chock full of people lusting after each other and inanimate objects. While this was without doubt the original meaning of the word, nowadays geil is used as much more of a compliment. 

Saying geil in German: Cool, great and awesome all in one

That’s because, over time - and in this case at least since the 1970s - the meaning of geil has shifted from something naughty to something quite commonplace. And we’re not talking about a societal opening-up about sexual desires, but simply that geil has come to mean nothing more or less than “great”, “cool” or “awesome”. 

So a film can be geil, a plate of food can be geil, a cute girl or boy can be geil, and even a tall glass of beer can be geil. It can also be used on its own to simply express a happy response to something. We’re going to the cinema this evening? Geil

The only German word for cool you’ll ever need

Indeed, the word has so thoroughly entered common usage that it has nowadays even spawned a whole selection of superlative offshoots as people combine it with other adverbs to express just how fantastic something is: “über geil”, “total geil”, “verdammt geil”, “mega geil”, “echt geil” and “super geil” are just a few. The latter was once even used in an advert for the German supermarket EDEKA. 

Video: YouTube / Viral Video

Incidentally, never be tempted to use geil in reference to yourself, as in “Ich bin geil”. Far from saying you’re awesome, you’re actually telling everyone you have some lustful urges you can’t contain, and you will be relentlessly mocked, most likely by a whole room of giggling Germans. You have been warned.

Sehr geil: How to be cool in German

So, there you have it - in Germany, everything is sehr geil. Now go and describe everything but yourself as cool, great, awesome and more. Geil!   



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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