Core German Vocabulary

By optilingo

Learn common German words and vocabulary

Once you learn the alphabet, the next step is to move on and memorize a few key words. At this point, there are probably two groups of readers: those who agree that memorizing words is helpful and those who think it is a waste of time. No matter which category you fall into, you probably hate doing it. Learning a language is partly about memorization, but that is only a small fraction of what you need to do. This isn’t about dedicating hours and hours to memorization either, although you will have more memorization to do when you first get started. Pick 50 or so keywords based on what you need to know.

This section gives you some recommendations, but they are based on learning the basics of German. If you are going to need to learn business German or technical terms, you are going to require a more focused set of keywords too (they are not included in this guide though). If you need to know other types of words, select 35 or 40 from this list, and then look up 10 to 15 words that are more specific to what you need.

While German grammar tends to be one of the trickiest aspects of a language to master, new vocabulary is something that you will need to learn for the rest of your life. Consider how many words there are in English that you don’t know. Now apply that to the language you are interested in learning – you will never be through learning new words. However, that does not mean it isn’t well worth the effort and time.

To really learn a foreign language, you have to have enough vocabulary words to talk; after all, you can’t get by on just knowing how to structure the sentences. Fortunately, vocabulary is one of the easiest things to work into your day. Whether you use flashcards or an app, any time you have a few minutes of just standing around or waiting, you can work on getting the words into your head.

There are also a lot of different ways to learn vocabulary. Starting with basic reading books, even if they are for children, you can start to absorb a lot in a short amount of time. While you shouldn’t focus just on vocabulary, as you become comfortable with the grammar of your chosen language, you can start working new vocabulary words into your conversations. Over time, incorporating new words will be easier.

Why It’s Important

Learning vocabulary words is always pure memorization, but once you have learned the basics, you will find that there are many related words to the ones you already know. Also, once you know the basics, you can use context clues to understand the words in a sentence that you don’t know. Since you will be learning survival skills soon, memorize the words you can now. The survival phrases give you a way of seeing how the most common German words are used. This provides a fantastic introduction to the grammar.

Ultimately, fluency is not something that you can learn without a considerable amount of memorization. Even when using English, you probably only know about 15% of all the words in the language. This is, in large part, because many words are not actively used in daily communication, but that doesn’t mean that they are never used. Written language often includes more words that aren’t as common in the spoken version of that language.

Just as you can keep learning English over your entire life, you can spend time memorizing new German vocabulary words long after you have become fluent. The best words are typically ones that are less often used because they have more specific meanings. Long after you have become fluent, you should keep memorizing vocabulary.

Common Words

The following are more than200 words that will be incredibly useful to know. You can create flashcards for them, write them on a daily basis, or find an app that will help you practice them. Other basic words that you need (such as numbers and days of the week) are not covered here because they are included in the section just for numbers.

The words are divided into parts of speech to help you better remember their meanings. This should help you pick a few of each type so that you can memorize the ones you think you are most likely to need.



Part of Speech

alt old adjective
anz whole, all the adjective
deutsch German adjective
eigen own adjective
erste, -r, -s first adjective
genau exact adjective
gleich equal, same adjective
groß big, large, great adjective
gut good adjective
hoch high, tall adjective
jung young adjective
klein small, little adjective
kurz short adjective
lang long adjective
letzte, -r, -s last adjective
möglich possible adjective
neu new adjective
richtig right, correct adjective
spät late adjective
stark strong adjective
verschieden different, diverse adjective
weitere, -r, -s additional adjective
wichtig important adjective
wirklich real, true, natural adjective
besser better, preferably adjective, adverb
einfach easy, simple, plain; single, one-way; simply, just adjective, adverb
schön beautiful, lovely; good, great; nice; fine (adjective); well, beautifully; nicely; really (adverb) adjective, adverb
viel much, a lot adjective, indefinite pronoun
weiß white (adjective) adjective
genug enough adjectve, adverb
los loose, not attached, rid of advective
also so, therefore adverb
auch also, too, as well adverb
da there adverb
dabei there, here, then, so (adverb); since, as, given that (conjunction) adverb
dafür for this adverb
dann then, after that adverb
davon from that adverb
doch but, still adverb
dort there adverb
eben just now adverb
eigentlich actually adverb
erst first, only, not until adverb
gar at all adverb
heute today, nowadays adverb
hier here adverb
immer always adverb
jetzt now; yet adverb
mehr more adverb
natürlich naturally, of course adverb
nicht not adverb
nie never adverb
noch  still, yet adverb
nun, nu now adverb
nur only, merely, just; adverb
oben above, up there adverb
schon already adverb
sehr very adverb
so so, thus, this way, such adverb
vielleicht perhaps, maybe adverb
warum why adverb
weit widely, far adverb
wieder again adverb
zurück back, backwards adverb
ganz all, all the, every, everything, everybody, everyone adverb, adjective
gerade just adverb, adjective
aber again (adverb); but, though (conjunction) adverb, conjunction
damit with it, thereby; so that, in order that adverb, conjunction
wo where, somewhere; when adverb, conjunction
wie how (adverb); like, as (conjunction) adverb, conjunction
ja yes; really, definitely; of course (adverb); a yes (capitalized as a noun – Ja) adverb, noun
nein no; a no adverb, noun
mal times adverb
als than, when, as, while, as if conjunction
bevor before conjunction
beziehungsweise or, respectively conjunction
dass that conjunction
denn because conjunction
entweder…oder either…or conjunction
falls in case, if conjunction
indem while, by conjunction
nachdem after conjunction
ob whether conjunction
obwohl although conjunction
oder or conjunction
so dass so that conjunction
sobald as soon as conjunction
solange as long as conjunction
sondern but (rather) conjunction
sowie as well as conjunction
sowohl … und both conjunction
und and conjunction
weder  noch neither … nor conjunction
weil because conjunction
wenn if, when, whenever conjunction
zumal particularly, especially conjunction
diese this, these demonstrative pronoun
ein a, an indefinite article, cardinal number
andere other, different, next indefinite pronoun
kein no, not a, not an; indefinite pronoun
man one, they, you indefinite pronoun
nichts nothing indefinite pronoun
all all, all the, every, everything, everybody, everyone indefinite pronoun, adjective
etwas some, something, any (pronoun); somewhat, slightly, a little, a bit (adverb); something (capitalized as a noun – Etwas) indefinite pronoun, adverb, noun
ach oh! interjection
bitte please, you’re welcome, excuse me, please do, go ahead; request, plea (capitalized as a noun – die Bitte); to ask (inflection of the verb “bitten”) interjection, noun, verb
danke thank you!, thanks!; inflection of the verb “danken” interjection, verb
was what (interrogative); which (relative) interrogative pronoun, relative pronoun
wer who; the person who; somebody, someone interrogative pronoun, relative pronoun, indefinite pronoun
das Beispiel, -e example noun
das Ende, -n end noun
das Geld money noun
das Haus, -¨er house noun
das Jahr, -e year noun
das Kind, -er child noun
das Land, -¨er country, land noun
das Leben life noun
das Mädchen girl noun
das Mal, -e time (number of times) noun
das Problem, -e problem noun
das Prozent, -e percent noun
das Recht, -e right, law noun
der Abend evening, eve, night noun
der Fall, -¨e fall, case noun
der Freund friend noun
der Herr, -en man, gentleman, Mr. noun
der Junge, -n boy noun
der Mann, -¨er man noun
der Mensch, -en human being, man noun
der Tag, -e day noun
der/das Teil, -e part noun
die Angst fear, anxiety noun
die Arbeit, -en work, job noun
die Frage, -n question noun
die Frau, -en woman, wife, Mrs. noun
die Hand, -¨e hand noun
die Leute people noun
die Million (Mio.), -en million noun
die Stadt, -¨e city noun
die Welt, -en world noun
die Zeit time noun
du you (informal, singular) personal pronoun
er he, it personal pronoun
es it personal pronoun
euch you, yourselves (plural ) personal pronoun
ihm him, to him personal pronoun
ihn him, it personal pronoun
ihnen them, to them personal pronoun
mir me, to me personal pronoun
Sie you (polite, singular or plural) personal pronoun
sie she, it; they, you personal pronoun
wir we personal pronoun
ihr you, you all (plural, informal); her, to her ; her, its, their personal pronoun, possessive pronoun
dich you; yourself personal pronoun, reflexive pronoun
dir you, to you; yourself, to yourself personal pronoun, reflexive pronoun
uns us; ourselves personal pronoun, reflexive pronoun
mich me, myself personal pronoun, reflextive pronoun
ich I (not capitalized); ego (capitalized – Ich) personal pronoun; noun
deine your possessive pronoun
ihre hers, its, theirs possessive pronoun
Ihre yours (singular and plural) possessive pronoun
mein my possessive pronoun
am on, at, on the, at the preposition
an to, on, at, by, about, against preposition
auf on, onto, at preposition
aus out of, from preposition
bei by, near, with, at preposition
durch through, by means of preposition
für for preposition
gegen against preposition
gegenüber across from preposition
hinter behind, in back of preposition
im in the preposition
in in preposition
in in, within, at, pertaining to preposition
ins to the, into the preposition
mit with preposition
nach after, to, toward preposition
neben beside, next to preposition
ohne without preposition
seit since, for a period of time preposition
über above, over, about preposition
um around, at preposition
unter under preposition
von from, of preposition
vor in front of, before, ago preposition
während during preposition
wegen because of preposition
zu to, at preposition
zwischen between preposition
ab from, as of (preposition); off, away (adverb) preposition, adverb
bis to preposition, conjunction
sich oneself, itself, himself, herself, themselves reflexive pronoun
anrufen to call, phone verb
arbeiten to work verb
bleiben  to stay, remain verb
brauchen to need verb
bringen to bring verb
denken to think verb
dürfen may, to be allowed verb
finden to find verb
geben to give; to put; to deal; there is/are verb
gehen to go, walk; to leave; to work; to be in progress, last; to be going; to approach verb
glauben to believe verb
haben to have verb
heißen to be called verb
kommen to come verb
können can, to be able to verb
lassen to let, allow, have done verb
leben to live verb
liegen to lie, be lying verb
machen to make, do, prepare; to produce; to go; to put verb
müssen must, to have to verb
nehmen to take verb
sagen to say, tell verb
sehen to see, look; to take care of; to view, watch, observe; to notice verb
sein to be, to have, to exist, there is / it is verb
sollen should, ought to verb
stehen to stand verb
tun to do verb
wissen to know verb
wollen to want verb
werden to get, to become; will, to be going to; to be done (forms the passive voice) verb, auxiliary verb