Commonly Mistranslated Words

This glossary provides a brief overview of common problems when translating from German to English. The main reason is that, while a word of expression might look English, it has another use in English-speaking cultures.

German Correct English Problem Meaning
(Sitzungs-) Protokoll minutes protocol
Agenda diary (UK), daily planner (US) agenda = Traktanden
Beamer video projector beamer = BMW (US slang, negative)
Chef boss chief, chef = Häuptling, Koch
die verantwortliche / zuständige Person the person responsible the responsible person = die zuverlässige Person
engagiert involved, committed engaged = verlobt, besetzt
Erfahrung (have) experience experiences = Erlebnisse
eventuell may, might, possibly eventually = schliesslich, endlich
kontrollieren inspect, check control = beherrschen, die Kontrolle haben über
Menu daily special menu = Speisekarte
Möglichkeit opportunity, chance, option possibility *
Natel (cell/mobile) phone handy = nützlich
Prospekte brochures prospects = Aussichten
rentabel profitable, lucrative rentable = mietbar
SMS text message short message system
Termin appointment date = (romantische) Verabredung



* possibility = not used with the infinitive form to, but rather with of, that:


There was a small possibility that he would join our team.
We were most worried about the outside possibility of the project’s failure.