There are many thousands of German words that are cognate to English words, in fact a sizeable fraction of native German and English vocabulary, although for various reasons much of it is not immediately obvious. Yet many of them are easy to correlate, since the German words follow the rules of High German consonant shift, which is a German phenomenon and makes English stay closer to the protogermanic language, from which both, English and German, derive. These rules are:

Rule English German Notes
engl. t → germ. s (after a vowel)waterWasser
engl. t → germ. z twozweiGerman "z" is pronounced "ts"
engl. c → germ. k coldkalt
engl. f → germ. v fullvoll
engl. p → germ. f (after a vowel)ripereif
engl. p → germ. pfpathPfad
engl. k → germ. ch (after a vowel) break brechen
engl. ch → germ. k chinKinn also: chest/Kiste, child/Kind
engl. gh → germ. ch (after a vowel) light Licht The now-silent gh marks places in English words which once had a sound much like Greek "chi". (Chaucer's English pronounced "light" very similarly to modern German Licht.)
engl. d → germ. tbedBett
engl. th → germ. dthreedrei
engl. th → germ. tfatherVater
engl. v → germ. bsilverSilber
engl. f → germ. bwifeWeib
engl. x → germ. chsfoxFuchscf k → ch, as above.
engl. y → germ. gyarnGarn
engl. y → germ. igwindywindig
engl. w → germ. bswallowSchwalbe
engl. w → germ. gfollowfolgen

Most of the words in the following table have almost the same meaning as in English.

German Meaning of German word English cognate Change
Aal eel eel
Abend eve, evening eve from Old E. æfen
acht eight eight ch → gh
an on on
Ärger anger anger
Arm arm arm
auf up, on up
aus out (of) out
backen bake bake
Bäcker baker baker
Bär bear bear
beginnen, begann, begonnen to begin, began, begun to begin, began, begun
Bein bone bone
betrunken drunken drunken
Bett bed bed
Bier beer beer
bitter bitter bitter
Blut blood blood
Boot boat boat
braun brown brown
Braut bride bride
brechen to break to break ch → k
breit broad broad
bringen, brachte, gebracht to bring, brought, brought bring, brought
Brot bread bread
Bruder brother brother
Brust breast breast
Brüten breeding breeding
Büchse box box
Butter butter butter
danken to thank thank initial d → th
dann then then initial d → th
das that (pronoun) that initial d → th
dass, daß that (conjunction) that initial d → th
Daumen thumb thumb initial d → th
dein your thine initial d → th
denken think to think initial d → th
denn than than initial d → th
dicht tight tight ch → gh
dick thick thick initial d → th
die the the initial d → th
dies this this initial d → th
diese these these initial d → th
Ding thing thing initial d → th
Distel thistle thistle initial d → th
doch still, yet though initial d → th; ch → gh
Dorn thorn thorn initial d → th
drei three three initial d → th
Drossel throttle throttle initial d → th
du you thou initial d → th
dünn thin thin initial d → th
durch through through initial d → th; ch → gh
Durst thirst thirst initial d → th
Erde Earth Earth
essen to eat, food to eat
fallen, fiel, gefallen to fall, fell, fallen to fall, fell, fallen
Faust fist fist
fechten, focht, gefochten to fence fight, fought, fought
Feile (tech) file file
Feld field field
Fett fat fat
finden, gefunden to find find, found
Finger finger finger
Fisch fish fish
Flucht flight (flee) flight ch → gh
Fracht freight freight ch → gh
Freund friend friend
Furcht fear fright ch → gh
Fuß foot foot
Futter fodder fodder
gähnen to yawn yawn initial g → y
Gans, Gänse goose goose, geese
Garn yarn yarn initial g → y
geben to give to give
gebrochen broken broken
geschwollen swollen swollen
Gold gold gold
Gott God God
Gras grass grass
grasig grassy grassy ig → y
grau gray gray, grey
grün green green
Grund ground ground
gut, besser, bestens good, better, the best good, better, the best
Haar hair hair
haben to have have b → v
Hagel hail hail
halb half half
halten to hold hold
Hammer hammer hammer
Hand hand hand
hängen to hang hang
-heit (suffix) -ity, -ness, -hood -hood
Harfe harp harp
hart hard hard
Haus house house
Hilfe, helfen help (noun), to help help, to help
heißen to be called hight (archaic)
hindern to hinder to hinder
hoch high high ch → gh
hören to hear hear
Hund dog, hound hound
Hunger hunger hunger
ist, war is, was is, was
kalt cold cold
Katze cat cat
Knie knee knee
Koch cook cook
Kohl kale kale
Kohle coal coal
kommen, kam, gekommen to come, came, come to come, came, come
König King King
Kork cork cork
Kuchen cake cake ch → k
kühl cool cool
Küste coast coast
Land land, country land
Laus, Läuse louse, lice louse, lice
lachen to laugh to laugh
leicht light (in weight) light ch → gh
Leiter leader leader
Licht light (noun) light ch → gh
machen to make to make ch → k
Macht might might ch → gh
machtig mighty mighty ch → gh; ig → y
Mann, Männer man, men man, men
Marke mark mark
Mast (agr) mast mast
Mast (naut) mast mast
Matte mat mat
Maus, Mäuse mouse, mice mouse, mice
mehr more more
Melker milker milker
Milch milk milk
Mitte mid mid
Mond moon moon
müssen to have to must
Mutter mother mother
Nacht night night ch → gh
Nachbar neighbor neighbor ch → gh
Nagel nail nail
Neffe nephew nephew
nichts nothing naught, nought ch → gh
Ofen oven oven
Papier paper paper
Pflicht duty plight ch → gh
Pilger pilgrim pilgrim
Polen Poland Poland
Pumpe pump pump
Raspel rasp rasp
Ratte rat rat
Rechnung reckoning reckoning
Recht right right ch → gh
Regen rain rain
Ring ring ring
Sand sand sand
Sau sow sow
sauer sour sour
schaben shave shave b → v
scharf sharp sharp f → p
scheinen to shine to shine
Schild shield shield
Schimmer shimmer shimmer
Schleim slime slime
Schwein swine swine
See sea sea
selten seldom seldom
Sichel sickle sickle
Schiff ship ship
Schmuggler smuggler smuggler
Schmerz smart, pain smart
Schnee snow snow
Schuh shoe shoe
Schuss shot shot
Schwein swine swine
schwimmen, schwamm, geschwommen to swim to swim, swam, swum
schwindeln to swindle to swindle
Sicht sight sight ch → gh
singen, sang, gesungen to sing, sang, sung to sing, sang, sung
sinken, sank, gesunken to sink, sank, sunk to sink, sank, sunk
Schwert sword sword
sehen to see to see
Seite side side
Silber silver silver b → v
Sohn son son
Sommer summer summer
Sonne sun sun
Speise food spice
Spinner spinner spinner
springen, sprang, gesprungen to jump, jumped, jumped to spring, sprang, sprung
Stahl steel steel
stehlen, stahl, gestohlen to steal to steal, stole, stolen
Stand stand stand
Stein stone stone
sterben to die to starve (old English steorfan = "to die")
stinken, stank, gestunken to stink to stink, stank, stunk
stranden to strand to strand
streben to strive to strive
Strecke stretch stretch
strecken to stretch to stretch
Sünde sin sin
Tag day day
Tisch table dish (both eating surfaces)
Tochter daughter daughter
Traum dream dream
treten, trat to tread tread, trod
unter under under
Vater father father
Vogel bird fowl
Waffe weapon weapon
wandern to wander to wander
Ware ware ware
warm warm warm
Warze wart wart
waschen to wash to wash
Wasser water water
Weib woman wife
Wein wine wine
weiß white white
weit wide wide
Welt world world
Werk work work
Wetter weather weather
Wicht creature wight ch → gh
wild wild wild
Wildnis wilderness wilderness
Wille will (noun) will
Wind wind (noun) wind
windig windy windy ig → y
wir, uns we, us we, us
Winter winter winter
Witz wit wit
Wolf wolf wolf
Wolle wool wool
Wunder wonder wonder
Wurm worm worm

Compound word cognates

German Cognate word parts Meaning
Abendstern evening + star evening star
Braunbär brown + bear brown bear
Brustbein breast + bone breastbone
Buchbinder book + binder bookbinder
Fingernagel finger + nail fingernail
wikt:Fußball:Fußball foot + ball football
Handball hand + ball handball
Hochland high + land highland
lichtdicht light + tight lighttight
Mittelfinger middle + finger middle finger
Mittelgewicht middle + weight middleweight
Mitternacht mid + night midnight
Mondlicht moon + light moonlight
Mondschein moon + shine moonshine
Nachtwache night + watch night watch
Ölfeld oil + field oilfield
Regenbogen rain + bow rainbow
Regentropfen rain + drop raindrop
Ringfinger ring + finger ring finger
Schnappschuss snap + shot snapshot
Schneefall snow + fall snowfall
Schneemann snow + man snowman
Schneesturm snow + storm snowstorm
schneeweiß snow + white snow-white
Schwertfisch sword + fish swordfish
Silberring silver + ring silver ring
Sonnenschein sun + shine sunshine
Sonntag sun + day Sunday
Vollmond full + moon full moon
Wasserfall water + fall waterfall
Wassertropfen water + drop waterdrop
Weißbrot white + bread white bread
weltweit world + wide worldwide
Winternacht winter + night winter night

When cognates have slightly different consonants, this is often[citation needed] due to the High German consonant shift. Vowels tend to be more unpredictable than consonants, and there are cases where the vowel(s) found in a German word in a non-standard dialect have a greater affinity with English than with standard German:

German English German dialect
allein alone allon (Hesse)
blasen blow blosa (Hesse)
heim home hom (Hesse)
nein no no (Hesse)
nicht not net (Hesse)
Stein stone Ston (Hesse)
Ofen oven Ova (Hesse)
Furz(vulg) fart Farz (Hesse)
schaben to shave schava (Hesse)
Silber silver Silver (Hesse)
speien to spout spauza (Hesse)
streben to strive streva (Hesse)
Einkommen income Inkomma (Palat.)
Feuer fire Feier (Palat.)
fühlen feel fihla (Palat.)
füllen fill filla (Palat.)
geben give geva (Palat.)
gehört heard ghärt (Palat.)
gesehen seen gsihn (Palat.)
gesucht sought gsucht (Palat.)
grün green grien (Palat.)
komm herein come in kumm rin (Palat.)
kühl chill kihl (Palat.)
Krüppel cripple Krippl (Palat.)
Läuse lice Lais (Palat.)
leuchten to light leichta (Palat.)
Mäuse mice Mais (Palat.)
Müller miller Miller (Palat.)
Regen rain Reen (Palat.)
Silber silver Silver (Palat.)

There are cognates whose meanings in either language have changed through the centuries. It is sometimes difficult for both English and German speakers to discern the relationship. On the other hand, once the definitions are made clear, then the logical relation becomes obvious. Sometimes the generality or specificity of word pairs may be opposite in the two languages.

German Meaning of German word English cognate Comment
antworten to answer an-word the cognate prefix German 'ant' is equal to Old English 'and-'〈"against"〉(→an). 'wort'=word, 'swer'=swear, so the suffix isn't cognate.
Baum tree beam Both derive from West Germanic *baumoz meaning "tree". It is the English one which, in Anglo-Saxon and Old English, has radically changed its meaning several times. (The original meaning is retained in the English terms for some trees, such as hornbeam.)
bekommen to get to become
Beutel bag bottle
Blume flower bloom
Dogge mastiff dog
Dach roof thatch
Draht wire thread
drehen to turn to throw cf. to throw (make) a pot by turning it on a wheel
düster dusky dusty
ernten to harvest to earn
fahren to drive to fare O.E. faran "to journey, to make one's way", from P.Gmc. *faranan (cf. Goth. faran, Ger. fahren), from PIE *por- "going, passage"
fechten to fence (sport) to fight
Flasche bottle flask
Gasse lane gate
Gift poison gift the original meaning of Gift in German can still be seen in the German deflection Mitgift "dowry"
gleich equal like
gültig valid guilty
herüber over river
Hose pants hose
hüten beware,tend heed
kaufen to buy cheap, chapman
klein little clean
Knabe (formal) boy knave
Knecht servant knight
Koffer suitcase coffer
Lache pool lake
Lachs salmon lox
Luft air loft
Mut courage mood
nehmen to take numb sensation has been taken away; cf. German benommen, 'dazed'
Pflaster pavement plaster
Pflicht duty plight
Rad wheel road
raten to guess, to advise to read cf. riddle, akin to German Rätsel
reißen to tear to write cf. also ritzen in German - "to scratch" -, the old intensive form
Riegel bar rail
schmal narrow small
Schmerz pain smart The verb smart retains this meaning
schlecht bad slight Sense of Ger. cognate schlecht developed from "smooth, plain, simple" to "bad", and as it did it was replaced in the original senses by schlicht, a back-formation from schlichten "to smooth, to plane," a derivative of schlecht in the old sense. "Bad" refers to "bête" in French or to "bestia" in Latin
schlicht plain, simple slight
Schlüpfer underpants slipper
schmeicheln to flatter to smile
schmeißen to bash to smite
schütten to pour, to dump to shed
sich rächen to take revenge to wreak (havoc)
Sieg victory, win siege
spenden donate spend
stehen stand stay
stören perturb, bother stir
Stuhl chair stool
Tier animal deer
Tisch table dish, desk Latin discus
Vieh cattle fee from O.E. 'feoh' money, property, cattle
Wald forest wold cf. English placename "Cotswold(s)"
werden to become weird see wyrd
weich soft weak
Zaun fencing town
Zeit time tide the root is used in German Gezeiten as Tiden ('tides') and belongs to the old Saxon vocabulary in German

German and English also share many borrowings from other languages, especially Latin, French and Greek. Most of these words have the same meaning, while a few have subtle differences in meaning. As many of these words have been borrowed by numerous languages, not only German and English, they are called internationalisms in German linguistics. For reference, a good number of these borrowed words are of the neuter gender.

German Meaning of German word language of origin
Armee army French
Arrangement arrangement French
Chance opportunity French
Courage courage French
Disposition disposition Latin
Feuilleton feuilleton French
Futur future tense Latin
Boje buoy Dutch
Genre genre French
Mikroskop microscope Greek
Partei political party French
Position position Latin
positiv positive Latin
Prestige prestige French
Psychologie psychology Greek
Religion religion Latin
Restaurant restaurant French
Tabu taboo Tongan
Zigarre cigar Spanish
Zucker sugar Sanskrit, via Arabic


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