Animal Names in German: A Little Game

What is it with German words being so… well… straightforward? German manages to take something, be it an object or a concept, and pretty much literally translate it into its own words so that speakers of German know what it is as soon as they read or hear the word. Some good examples, I’ve noticed, are several names for animals.

So, for this blog post, let’s play a little game, just to prove how simple German can actually be, despite its huge compound nouns it sometimes (well, often) likes to build. First, you will see the German word for an animal, along with its literal English translation. Then, after you’ve had a guess at what animal it actually is, the actual English word can be found if you scroll down a little more after the dots. It would be interesting to hear how many you get right!

The lack of pictures in this post may seem a bit dreary, but I didn’t want anybody to accidentally see any photos of the animals before having a go at guessing the German words.

There are eight in total. So let’s get started!

 

Nashorn

“nose horn”

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Rhino!

That’s right. Germans literally call rhinos “nose horns”. They saw the animal, saw it had a horn on its nose and… yeah, say what you see, I guess!


 

Stinktier

“stink animal”

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Skunk!

“Oh, look. There is an animal. It stinks. Ja, stink animal is its name!”


 

Flusspferd / Nilpferd

“river horse / Nile horse”

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Hippo!

This one may have been a little more difficult as it’s not exactly obvious, but, interestingly, the word ‘hippopotamus’ actually comes from Ancient Greek, if I’m not mistaken. ‘Hippo’ means horse, and ‘potamus’ means river. So we just stuck to the Latin version, which is from Ancient Greek, and the Germans translated it into their German.


 

Faultier

“lazy animal”

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Sloth!

Like the skunk above, this is perhaps a bit mean. Don’t judge a book by its cover! But, yeah, sloths are damn slow, so the Germans decided to call them lazy animals. It’s literal, that’s for sure!


 

Erdmännchen

“little earth man” (yes, really)

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Meerkat!

OK, there’s a good chance you perhaps didn’t get that one, but I had to bring it into this game because I absolutely love the name. If you think about it, in a weird way, it does kind of make sense (or maybe that’s just me trying to stick up for German in some of its rather weirder choice of words).


 

Nacktschnecke

“naked snail”

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Slug!

Yes, Germans literally call a slug a “naked snail” because, well, it literally is a snail without a shell, hence naked. Ha!


 

Tausendfüßler

“thousand foot-er” (more or less)

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Centipede!

Most likely an easier one, with you probably being aware of the fact that “centi” means a hundred (like in centimetre) and “pede” meaning feet (more or less at least). But it is interesting to see that we say they have a hundred feet, and Germans say a thousand feet.


 

Tintenfisch

“ink fish”

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Squid!

“It is a fish. It produces ink. We shall call it… ink fish!”


 

So, how did you do? Were there any you already knew? Any that you found odd or funny (little earth man… ha!)? I hope either way you enjoyed this little game and have learnt something new from it!

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