7 hilariously long German words
The Germans are well-known for having a soft spot for long words. Their language’s “Lego-like” grammatical structure allows the tacking together of an inordinate number of elements, so that it’s not unusual at all to be able to describe an ultra-specific concept with a single, ferociously long word in German.
It’s perfectly understandable, then, why American writer Mark Twain quipped, “These are not words; they are alphabetical processions.”
The longest German word
Germany’s most famous, Guinness-record-breaking, 63-letter word (Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragunsgesetz) was made obsolete in 2013, but here are some other hilariously long German words to tide you over. No 1 is officially recognised as the longest German word. Good luck trying to say these out loud.
1. Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung (36)
Officially recognised by the Duden - Germany’s pre-eminent dictionary - as the longest word in German, Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung is a 36-letter, tongue-tying way of describing a rather, mundane everyday concept: motor vehicle liability insurance. Even if you can’t pronounce it, don’t be caught without it!
2. Streichholzschächtelchen (24)
You’ll be relieved to hear that even native German speakers find this one hard to pronounce. That’s why videos of Germans and foreigners alike trying to pronounce “tschechisches Streichholzschächtelchen” (small, Czech matchboxes) have become something of a sensation on the internet. Practise it and use it to impress your German friends.
3. Arbeiterunfallverischerungsgesetz (33)
Granted, this probably won’t be a word you’ll use everyday. But it’s working quietly in the background to protect you while you’re at work! As part of Germany’s social security system, all employers are obliged to take out occupational accident insurance, which is governed by the occupational accident insurance law (Arbeiterunfallversicherungsgesetz). It insures all workers against injuries or illnesses incurred through their employment.
4. Freundschaftsbeziehungen (23)
This is probably what Mark Twain was referring to when he said, “Some German words are so long they have a perspective.” Freundschaftsbeziehungen means “friendship relationship” and is just a long way of saying “friendship."
5. Unabhängigkeitserklärungen (26)
This is another time-saving device wrapped up in a nigh-on-impossible-to-pronounce word! Why waste time saying “declarations of independence” when you could say “independencedeclarations”? Now why didn’t the American founding fathers think of that?
6. Nahrungsmittelunverträglichkeit (31)
Potentially very important for those of us with intolerances and intolerances! Formed of two words that are rather long in their own right (Nahrungsmittel and Unverträglichkeit), this 31-letter beastie simply means “food intolerance”. If you’ve got a nut allergy, you should probably learn how to pronounce it.
7. Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften (39)
Let’s end on a high. Coming in at a cool 39 letters, this word is the longest German word in everyday use, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Although not officially listed in the Duden, Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften - meaning insurance companies that provide legal protection - has apparently made its way into everyday speech. Maybe it’s not in the dictionary because no-one could be bothered to write it down…
Enough German words for you?
Okay, okay - enough. Our eyes hurt. Perhaps it’s time to sign up for that German course...