Boys' Foreign-Language Clothing Glossary: German

Figure 1.--HBC believes that this is a German boy photographed about 1910. The sailor suit or "Seemannklage" was one of the most popular outfits for German boys. Remember the Bleyle page. Germany was at the time building the Imperail German Navy, a pet project of Kaiser Wilhelm II, with which he hoped to rival the British Royal Navy.

We will archive foreign language terms here. We will use English language definitions, although we may try to add foreign language definitions in the future. At the least the alphabetical listing of foreign terms will help our non-English speakers navigate HBC and find the topics of interest. We also plan to use this page to follow foreign-language fashion terms which provide insights into fashion developments. Our German glossary will require some time to persue so it will be a while before we will be able to compile a substantial list. Many German clothing terms are destinct, but there are also more and more similarities with English. Most of this is the result of the increasing importance of American English. As Germany acquired many „fashion terms“ in the 17th-18th centuries from French, there are now a lot of „Denglish“ words and phrases from American English. You don´t by anymore a „Hemd“, you buy a „shirt“, just as an example in clothing. Trendy „youth speech“, computer jargon, and ads are (beside others) the main causes. A good example is „Handy“ for a „mobile phone“!

German Clothing Terms

Here are the German words associated with closing and fashion that we have noted. Hopefully our German readers will help us build and improve the list.

A-L entries

M-Z entries

German Language Trends

Modern German is (spoken and) written in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In the „official“ German reference up to about 1998, the „Duden“ (like the Oxford English Dictionary in Great Britain or the Webster in the U.S.), there are many notes about different spelling in Switzerland/Austria, even in the Southern part of Germany. In Switzerland there are also some small grammatical differences and a lot of gender specialities („das Tram“ instead of „die Tram“ in Germany´s German, „das Mami“ instead of „die Mami“, famous examples). In Austria (and some parts of Southern Germany) a famous example is „sodaß“ instead of „so daß“ – I hope that the „ß“ prints correctly in your computer, it is the „Eszet“ / „ss“ of German writing; Allow me a side remark: Switzerland does not use the „ß“ for long –).

Mainly since the late 1960s (the „Achtundsechziger“!) and also due to some separating activities (??) of the former DDR there are discussions and proposals for changing German writing (to make it easier for non-educated writers and worse for readers!). We have now officially since 1998 a new writing which should become the only allowed writing in 2005. Most schools have since 1998 taught it. There are very strong objections as the new writing looses a lot of expressing power (mainly in word separation where the separated words and the non-separated word give different meanings, when to write a „ß“, the use of comma, to give examples). Even lawers and judges are objecting, not only professional writers like famous contemporaries poets; some conservative world-known German newspapers like the „Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung FAZ“ or (in a lesser extent) the „Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ“ from Switzerland refuse to use the new writing; also large academic institutions). Following a decision of further big newspapers (e.g, the „Süddeutsche Zeitung“ and the boulevard newspaper „Bildzeitung“) and important publishers (August 2004), a strong discussion started again to drop the new writing in total. Switzerland and Austria officially co-operated and confirmed what was brought up by an international commission – after long inside and outside struggles.

Regional Accents

Germany like France and several other European countries are losing their destinctive regional accents. Regional accents areof course the product of isolated populations and people ho did not commonly mix within the wider population. Most people until modern transportation would be commonly born and grow up within a radius of two hundred miles. With our modern transportaion and communication sydtems this is no longer the case. The television has been a major factor here. A French reader who has lived in Austria has noted this phenomenon. In Germany and Austria people are losing their regional accents. He reports that "In the 1950s when I lived in in Austria, rural people spoke a dialect difficult to understand. It is today rarely spoken by young people."

Gothic Script

The same appears to have happened with Gothic writing. In the schools there is no longer any effort to teach Gothic writing. Modern children are unable to read and write it. A German reader reports that it not now being taught in the schools. Even his mother reports that she didn't have to learn it. Only a few people in Germany can now read it. The Sütterlin writing, that was invented by Ludwig Sütterlin (1865-1917) a teacher at the art museum of Berlin, is a calliographic handwriting (that means, a writing that is beautiful to look at, writing as an art). People had to write it from 1915 to 1941 in German as well as in Latin alphabet. A German reader tells us, "In primary school yes. In secondary school only in the German language classes, not in foreign languages or the sciences." We had thought that it was particularly popular with the NAZIs who promoted folk culture. Appaently the NAZIs decided to ban the use of Gothic script in 1941 when they found that people in occupied countries could not read their decrees. [Burke] Other sources are less convinced about this account. A Dutch reader writes, "I studied languages, especially German, and I belong to a nearly extinct generation that had learned the Gothic alphabet. I can read the printed and written script. You are right that the Germans under Hitler were encouraged to use German characters. That the German occupational administrators switched to Latin script in 1941 because the population (in our case the Dutch) could not read their decrees, is doubtful, since those ordinances were in Dutch right from the start. They never would have used Gothic script in Dutch. Besides the Dutch tried to ignore and sabotage the decrees as much as they could, whether they were in Dutch, German or whathaveyou." Today this writting form is no longer taught at school. Today only a few people can write or even read it. These people are either interested in it and taughtt it to themselves, or they had to learn it at school. Some additional details are available from Album1900.

German and English

The German language has had a major impact on the English language. The German invasions by Anglo-Saxons after the withdrawl of the Roman Legions made a major contribution in forming the English language. Many every day words used by common peeople like "Butter" are of German origins. Word expressing more sophisticated concepts are often of Latin/French origins. In more modern times, the German immigrants that played such an impotant role in building American introduce many words to American English, many of which have become used in England. German universities in the 19th century and until the NAZI takeover (1933) were among the most prestigious universities in the world. German academicians dominated many scientific fields and regularly dominated the Nobel awards, especially in scientific fields. (The NAZIs were interested in utilizing the German scientific capability because of its capacity to develop weapons, but German universities and the sciebtific establishment has never recovered from the NAZI era.) German universities had been especially influential among American academicians. Thus many German terms entered the English language as technical terms. I know that what I am presenting here has nothing to do with HBC , but since you are writing about so many different topics in your work, I was thinking that perhaps you could use this short list of German words which have been incorporated into American English. Of course Many English words have been adopted in German. For some reason the Germans do not find this as offensive as the French. A reader writes, "It amazes me how many English words are being used in German newspapers and magazines. One of the oddest words nowadays, that is also popular in people's conversations, is "kids" instead of "kinder", while Americans keep talking and writing about "kindergarten" and wunderkind". Here are just a few German words that are used in America: angst, doppelgänger. gemütlichkeit, "gesundheit !" kindergarten, poltergeist, schadenfreude, verboten, and wanderlust. Ther are also many yiddish words: mensch, nosh, and schlep(pen)." One area in which German words have not been much used is the clothing and fashion industry. Since World War II few German words have entered the English language.

Personal Experiences

A German reader has provided us a personal account about the use of Sütterlin letters in scientific work and teaching. "Still in the 1950s in natural sciences and engineering in German universities and research Sütterlin letters were used in mathematical formulas for entities with a time-variant character, e.g., for AC („alternate current“) voltage and current. I applied it during my studies in engineering and my doctoral thesis in the late 50s and early 60s. I don´t know when it changed, probably when writing with a computer came up because earlier in typewriting the letters had to be inserted manually."

On-line Dictionaries

HBC notes some excellent on-line German-English dictionaries that will assist readers en persusing clothings terms in greater detail.

Rechtschreibreform: Informationen zur Neuregelung der deutschen Rechtschreibung

German-English On-line Dictionary

The new English-German Dictionary

Englisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch

English-German dictionary: An Online Service--Informatik der Technischen Universität München. An excellent English-German dictionary

Pictoral Language Text Book

A HBC reader has provided us a pictorial dictionary for Germans learning French. The words are in French, but the clothing depicted are primarily German. The book is entitled, ??????? and was published in Leipzig in 1937. A German reader tells us, "I learnt French in school in 1950 with such a book, not only about clothing but general terms." Thus it gives a few of German fashions as well as school scenes. It does not, however, provide the German words for the pictures depicted, only the French terms. The costumes depicted though are German clothes of the mid-1930s. This is obvious on some pages such as the one on the Army. Our reader writes, "I've been reading through it. The book is very interesting in what they depict, not only fashion but school supplies, cars, amd much more." Hopefully HBC can provide the English and German equivalents as well as an assessment of the German clothes depicted.


Burke, Christopher. Paul Renner: The Art of Typography ( London: Hyphen Press, 1999), 223p. ISBN 1568981589


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Created: October 6, 2001
Last updated: 11:00 PM 2/11/2005